The National MicroCar Rally

Britain's biggest Microcar event

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The National MicroCar Rally - Britain's biggest Microcar event

What's a "MicroCar"?

A special, loveable, small sort of car!

Beyond that, opinions vary! There’s no formal definition, but nowadays we usually take it that a microcar should have no more than 3 cylinders, be under 700cc, and be designed for economy motoring. Or something like that ...

2004 Smart Roadster

A 2004 Smart Roadster

Smart Roadster By Brian Snelson / CC By 2.0

Microcars have been around throughout motoring history. More than a motorbike, but somehow not quite a "full" car, early models were called "cyclecars".

The 1919 Busy Bee, a home-made cyclecar.

The 1919 Busy Bee, a home-made cyclecar.

They reached their heyday, in Britain and Europe, after the Second World War, when steel supplies were difficult, lots of people wanted cars but couldn’t afford the usual models, and difficult fuel supplies meant that economy was more important than size and performance.

Some microcars had four wheels, but many were three-wheelers – in the UK, three-wheelers were cheaper to tax, and most could be driven on a motorbike licence. Having only three wheels also makes a car lighter and simplifies the suspension (just as a 3-legged stool doesn’t rock, a 3-wheel car can always have all its wheels touching the ground, without stressing the chassis). It’s also much easier to attach a chain drive to just one wheel!

Keeping the car small, but making the inside big, gave some microcars a rather "pumped up" look. With their clear plastic canopy windows, these became the famous "bubble cars".

1959 Isetta 300 bubble car

A 1959 Isetta 300 bubble car

The NMCR features mainly classic microcars, from before the war through to the 1960s – but microcars are still made. Licensing and tax laws mean that there’s still a market (especially in France and Italy) for these hardworking little vehicles.

Microcar or not?

There's a huge range of microcars. Most of them "obviously" fall into the category, but others are surprising...

1898 Beeston Motette

1898 Beeston Motette

Well, it's "micro" - but is it a car? Apparently so - they also made a "tricycle" model and this is the "car" version!

1934 Brochure illustration of the Raleigh Safety Seven

1934 Raleigh Safety Seven

Looks just like a "normal" car, but with fewer wheels. And beautifully made, with several still running very well indeed.

A 1970 Fiat 500

1970 Fiat 500

Another design so well executed that it's easy to forget it's a micro.

1963 Peel P50

Peel P50

Well yes - just how "micro" do you want?

Smart City Coupé

Smart City Coupé

Introduced 1997. The original models meet the "micro" definition, but some would say they're "just too sophisticated".