The automotive world has historically tended to laud either the two-wheeled or the four-wheeled. Big trucks get overlooked, despite being feats of engineering; and the three-wheeled… Well, let’s just say that three-wheeled motorcycles and strictly for men with greying pony-tails and cap-sleeve heavy metal t-shirts. And that the Reliant Robin has always been a figure of fun.
But, with the auto world in a state of serious flux, everything seems up for grabs. A few years ago Morgan launched its three-wheeler vehicle – and that’s three wheels in the sense of two at the front and one at the back – with a Harley Davidson engine, Mazda transmission and promising, as the company put it, to put “the fun” back into driving. The British TV show ‘Top Gear’ named it its ‘Not-A-Car of the Year’. And now comes something altogether sleeker and shinier, as being on three wheels somehow tends to suggest: the Vanderhall Venice Speedster, which starts delivery at the end of the year.
So the Speedster is perhaps best described as retro-futuristic – with its vintage silver body and brown upholstery, it’s a bit like stepping into the cockpit of a bi-plane. And, indeed, it has the same three-wheel undercarriage configuration as one. In fact, once you’ve got over the missing wheel – as car nuts might see it – the Speedster is extremely pleasing to the eye.
It’s a neat ride too – low and open to the road (with a snap-on tonneau cover for when it’s raining), with a small windshield, it gives a visceral drive even at slower speeds. But with a six speed transmission, and a 1.4L turbo engine from General Motors, it’s quite capable of fast ones: 0 to 60mph in under four seconds. There’s real proprietary design here too: Vanderhall’s patented tab and slot aluminium monocoque chassis is all its own, and ensures that weight is minimal and handling pin-sharp. So, yes, as Morgan promised ‘fun’ is the word here, especially for the base price of US$27,000.
Seeing as it fits only one, this is a three-wheel machine built for the pleasures of driving – not for chatting, or commuting, or getting the kids to school. It’s just you and the 400 watt stereo and the road. It’s headspace with an engine. It’s an alternative wheeled experience, even if it’s just on three wheels. Don’t knock the idea – it may well be the future.