Three Wheel Car: Our 3VG DIY Car Leans Toward the Future

This fuel-efficient three wheel car leans into corners like a motorcycle and is nearly as exciting to drive. Meet the 3VG — someday there may be many single-seater cars that look similar.

| September/October 1983

  • three wheel car - tandem seating
    Tandem seating was used to reduce frontal area, and thus wind resistance.
  • three wheel car - car and cheetahs
    The correlation between the 3VG's cambering feature and the agility of these East African cheetahs isn't as farfetched as it may seem: To negotiate sudden corners at high speeds, both maintain stability by leaning into the turn, thus moving their centers of mass away from the point of ground contact and relying on gravity to counter centrifugal force.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff and George and Lory Frame (Cheetah photo)
  • three wheen car - cruising with top on
    The canopy of our three wheel car can be left open or shut to suit the driver's fancy.
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • three wheel car - cornering
    The 3VG is particularly at home on curves.

  • three wheel car - tandem seating
  • three wheel car - car and cheetahs
  • three wheen car - cruising with top on
  • three wheel car - cornering

It doesn't take a trained eye to see our three wheel car is anything but ordinary. As a matter of fact, it took an investment of over three years of design and fabrication work to develop this functional prototype. The vehicle allows its creators — MOTHER EARTH NEWS founder John Shuttleworth and members of our research crew — to actually put into practice a number of concepts that had previously been seen only on paper (if anywhere).

In Hey, Take a Look at Our Three-Wheeled Car we gave readers a brief preview of our project car, which was then undergoing some initial testing. In that article, we pointed out that [1] the American public is experiencing a metamorphosis in its approach to personal transportation, and [2] our vehicle fills a niche that didn't even exist until the car was actually built!

If that's difficult to understand, consider the following: Despite the fact that petroleum prices seem to have stabilized for the present and big cars are still very much a part of our highway scene, the trend is undeniably toward smaller, lighter, more functional automobiles even if they're often "disguised" as traditional sedans. And, given that "new" direction, it's not inconceivable that micro-minis — cars even smaller than today's subcompacts — might soon become common on American thoroughfares just as they've been on the crowded streets of Europe and the Orient for years.

The reasons for this shift toward smallness are varied, but the price of fuel and the increase in traffic density aren't the only factors. Studies indicate that some 80% of all passenger car trips involve the driver alone, and that about three-quarters of the time auto travel is concerned with distances of less than ten miles. In addition, families are generally smaller today than they were in the past, and there are more singles in the population now than at any previous time.

Furthermore, coupled with such factors are indications that consumers are becoming enthusiastic about sporty cars once again. (The appearance on the market of two-seaters, convertibles, and fuel-efficient, high-performance sports cars is one sign that this is so.)

The Question is Why

These trends provide some of our reasons for thinking that there may soon be a market for a cambering (or leaning) car. The simplest way to explain our prototype is probably to acknowledge that it's a unique hybrid of motorcycle and automobile. And, whether you're a cycle rider or not, you can appreciate that a two-wheeler offers an exciting ride at a cost that's easy to live with! But when it's raining cats and dogs, even the most adventurous soul might trade saddlebags for a cozy cockpit.

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