Thursday, August 02, 2007

At least it won't fall over
When I was a kid, we used to travel to Chicago from time to time to see the circus or go to a White Sox game. One of the strongest memories of these trips were the Chicago p.d. riding around 35th street on Servi-cars. I always wondered if I went up and asked one the officers if they would reach down in the big fiberglass compartment in the back and hand me an orange push-up or chocolate and nut covered ice cream cone. I'm sure the C.P.D wasn't in the buisiness of selling frozen treats but I always liked those Servi-Cars. The Motor Company had probably stopped building Servi-Cars when I was a kid in the 80's but I'm glad to have witnessed those cool old three wheelers. Last night while riding the new 'Zook home from work, I saw a pair of headlights coming toward me about a foot off the ground. As it came closer I realized this was no normal car. Not a motorcycle either. What I saw was a T-Rex. No, I wasn't hallucinating, it was a three-wheeled vehicle that drives like a car with an inline four sport-bike motor. When it went past, I saw it had a pair of bike mufflers straddling a big, low profile car tire. I can only imagine if you had one of those things on a track it would be more fun than a car and not quite as much fun as a bike. Like the go-karts you rode as a kid but with big giant balls and really good brakes.

The idea of a three wheeled vehicle has been around for along time and has never really fit into the car or bike category. Some are decidedly more car-like and a few are actually bikes that have been modified but the vast majority that catch your eye are just weird. We all remember the fiberglass bodied, air-cooled VW powered trikes of the 70's. I will see one or two of these in a summer. One actually went past my house this weekend. It was lovely in all it's purple bass boat metalflake splendor. These can still be purchased. I'm not sure why exactly...

You can get various kits that turn standard bikes into trikes or just purchase one outright. You have; Motor Trike, The Trike Shop, TRIKEtec, Champion, and I'm sure there are others. You also have sidecars. Sort of a trike by default. They aren't really trying to be a trike but have become one out of sheer practical necessity. My Dad built a sidecar rig when I was a kid. It was the 80's and full custom. He started out with a KZ900 and built something right out of a MadMax movie. It had a hand made aluminum tank and seat with a big square headlight. We took a vacation in that thing, he and I, and I have some very fond memories of that trip. The bike still sits in his barn but the hack was sold years ago. Pity. I don't have a pic at the house but It I can round one up you bet you'll see it here. Excuse me, I seemed to have gone on a nostalgic digression. Back to sidecars. You don't see too many sidehacks on the road but the Ural seems to be making some inroads. I rode monkey in one of those as well, on a test ride. Great fun. Sidecar racing is awesome to watch. It's really quite a shame it never caught on here in the States. I don't know how popular it is now, but at one time it was huge in Europe. They do it in the dirt over there as well.
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Sidecar Motocross

Sidecar Speedway

Sidecar Roadracing
The three-wheeled car has been around for a long time, too. Probably the one that sticks out in my mind the most is the Morgan Sports. Two wheels in the front and a transverse mounted V-twin. Put on your waxed cotton jacket and tweed hat and off for a jaunt in the British countryside. Over in the land of pets and thinkers you had the tiny Messerchmitt. Actually, there were quite a few European mini-cars that were three wheeled. Some fine examples can be seen over at the Microcar Museum. These days there have been quite a few manufacturers getting into the three-wheeled arena. The T-rex is not the only manufacturer of the modern trikey car type thingy (if I may speak technically). Volkswagen has the GX3, Mercedes had the Life-Jet concept, Aprilia had the Magnet (which never left the computer model stage), and you can run down and buy a Can-Am Spyder if you've got some extra cash laying around. There are a couple of new three wheelers on the market that actually seem more bike than trike but with a decidedly scooter flair. The Piaggio MP3 - you'll never have to worry about washing out the front end on this baby.

And since Piaggio has bought everything in Europe, Gilera has one also.

In my opinion, they took the goofiest looking scooter and made it look super-bad in this picture. (I'm just sayin')
So there are plenty of three wheelers out there and I never even got into the obvious three wheeled ATV's that so many of us ran our feet over with as youngsters. I think they deserve a mention but they are fairly obvious. If you're not familiar with them, this is all you need to know; the Honda 250R was crazy fast, and could be made to be even faster with just a little work. I don't talk about too many things being dangerous but the nature of them gave a false sense of security. That being said the 250R was dangerous. I rode a hopped-up 250R one time and when I swatted the thumb throttle (yeah, I know) the thing shot straight up and started powersliding sideways at the same time. No thanks Joe, I'll stick to two wheels thank you. So there you have it folks, three wheelers old and new, conventional and just plain weird.
boat trike


Der_General said...

When I was a kid, a friend of our family had one of the VW-powered trikes, complete with the bass-boat metalflake paint job (emerald green) and "Bush Whacker" airbrushed across the back. He eventually sold it and bought a brand-new Electra Glide Classic, which got rear-ended several times. The Bush Whacker sure was ugly, but at least it stood out! He eventually painted the Electra Glide fire-engine red and installed taillight modulators...

Surly said...

If you have the bass-boat fiberglass you might as well have a name for her too. I love green metalflake.