Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cars That Should 

Never Have Been Made 

6th Edition

1945 - 71 Velorex

If you have small children, please 
cover their eyes...

In earlier posts, we've explored what politburo party leaders owned, like the awesome Tatra 603

Tatra 603

We've looked at what the common people of East Germany drove with the quirky Trabant P50

Trabant P50

We also looked at what was offered to the average Russian people - the amazingly cheap and tough little Zaporozhets ZAZ 965. Lucky bastards.

ZAZ 965

But those were cars for the rich elitists.

Now we are going to see what you bought when you had no damn money...

Hello, poor person. Let's go for a ride.

The Velorex cost about a quarter of the price of regular car, and if you recall from my article on the Zaporozhets - the average Russian car was designed specifically to be equal to 1,000 bottles of vodka.

So the Velorex is about 250 bottles, give or take. I am going to tell you up front that I'm not making fun of this car. 

It's a great example of what a couple of brothers could do in extremely difficult times. 

I'm also going to tell you that this three-wheel two-seater has an incredible following. As of 1996, two-thirds of all Velorex's built were still on the road.

Two Czech brothers - Frantisek and Mojmir Stransky - started off in the late 30s with a tiny bicycle shop and a vision for an affordable car. 

1938 Morgan

They were inspired by the Morgan three-wheeler, a popular British racer at the time.

By 1943, the Stransky brothers had a prototype, and two years later several examples were ready to sell. 

The first ten Velorex three-wheelers were tube-framed, covered in stretched leather rather than sheet metal, and powered by either a PAL 300 or Jawa 250 motorcycle engine. 

Either version puts out about 6 horsepower. Yes, you read that right.

The windows are plexi-glass and don't roll down, the floor is plywood and thankfully the leather was switched out for a type of vinyl called Igilit. 

Top speed for any model was about 35 mph. There is one here in Florida, and the owner said the Velorex would do 45 mph down a hill. He also said to never do 45 mph down a hill in a Velorex.

Post-war Czechoslovakia was a difficult place to live, and it was even harder for a business owner. Stalin's communist regime was taking over everything, and the Velorex plant was moved to Solnice in 1951. 

More workers were put on and started to produce about 40 cars a month. 

In 1954, Frantisek Stransky died testing a new prototype, and Mojmir was forced out his own business after refusing to join the Czech Communist Party.

The Velorex plant grew, however, and by 1959, workers were building 120 cars a month. Velorex production would continue on until 1971, and the model was upgraded with a parallel twin Jawa 350. 

Best of all, though? All of the cars were aimed at the handicapped market. My guess is that most crippled people in Russia are on a very low fixed income at that time, and this car suited their budget. 

I just wish they'd picked another color of looks like. Well, you know.


Joy Osmanski, as my readers know, chimes in to offer her expert opinion on car design. 

Joy is an Academy Award-winning actress and the the current CEO of Isuzu. 

Her thoughts matter very much.....

Joy had this to say about the Velorex: " that a turd with wheels?"

Gee, thanks Joy. Way to stay professional.

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