Minimalist transportation

I am now officially an Old Fart, having turned 70 recently. In this interesting lifetime (which watched WW2, Korean war, Viet Nam, civil rights, etc) I have owned at least 22 cars, some strange, some average. The list includes 3 MGs (one a 1953TD, and 2 Midgets one of which I auto crossed for a few years); 2 Morris Minors (one a convertible with a balanced & bored Sprite engine); a 1957 VW bought new for $1695(!); at least 5 Hondae; a 1949 Willys Jeep 2 wheel drive wagon into which I plopped a 283 vette engine; and a Vespa which I drove 365 days a year, including 5 below temp and 6 inches of snow. Of all these wheels, my favorite was probably my 1960 Morris Minor 1000, with a 1995 Civic hatchback a close second. In the Morris on a wet day I could circle the Wonderland Revere Massachusetts rotary (Boston people may know this one) with steering wheel almost full opposite lock, steering only with my gas pedal. In the Civic as recently as a few years ago I literally blew off a BMW on Storrow drive Cambridge, starting with the light at Jerry’s landing all the way to the Central Square exit- the Bimmer driver when he exited there turned with a great smile and gave my a thumbs up! In both the Morris and the Civic I averaged 30mpg though they were beaten mercilessly.

At present my wife drives a 2002 Camry 6 cyl and I a 1999 loaded Solara 6 cyl. The Solara is the cushiest car I have owned, but with gas prices going up I want to get a more economical car for myself and keep the Camry for family and vacation use. If I had my druthers and all practical considerations aside I would have as my personal ride a Lotus Super Seven with a pushrod engine with 2 SU carbs. However, what I am looking for is a minimalist ride that is useable year round that gets best gas mileage and is fun to drive. The Morris would be great if one could be found at a reasonable price (it should cost what I can sell my Solara for; another Civic hatchback might suit, but I am hoping for something less civilized (?). Morgan three wheelers come to mind, but a bit less practical. Remember the King Midget? The Crosley? Nash Metropolitan? Citroen 2CV? Fiat 500? Anything out there you can suggest for someone with my automotive proclivities and lack of good sense?

Triumph Spitfire? If you can ride a Vespa in the winter, you can drive a Spitfire. They have heaters, sort of. You could drift a Spitfire around the rotary in the snow.

A friend of mine has a Bugeye Sprite, and I can’t think of anything more minimalist than that.

You can still by a Seven, you know. Caterham makes several versions, and others make reasonably good replicas.

My favorite car from the past is the Sunbeam Imp. 875 cc rear-mounted aluminum OHC 4 with all of 40-odd horsepower. Fantastic gas mileage and an absolute blast to drive. With its flip-up rear window it was even semi-practical and a decent hauler. Whenever I see one for sale, which is not very often, I’m tempted to buy it.

If you want something more modern, I like the little Hyundai Accent hatchback, or maybe the Toyota Yaris. They get good mileage and are modern-day reliable.

2009 Chevrolet Cobalt XFE; good for 37 mpg. Go all you want and enough iron around you for crash protection. I intend to get one next year. They drive very well, the manual trans shifts well and the clutch is well behaved too. They finally have it all together.

I’m not far from being your age, although I haven’t owned very exciting automobiles. My first suggestion for the person who has owned (almost) everything in the automotive line would be a Citicar. This car was completely powered with rechargeable batteries and came along about the first energy crunch in the 1970’s. If you get one equipped with the propane heater, you could drive it year round. It is sporty–you have to be a real sport to see if you can make your destination without the batteries going dead. The King Midget might also meet your needs. I remember reading an article in a 1953 or 1954 Popular Mechanics or Popular Science about a person making a cross country trip in a King Midget. Another rare vehicle is the 3 wheel Davis. Tom McCahill thought these were great.

If you don’t want to be quite as exotic, how about a Henry J or Allstate made by Kaiser?

My God! I do remember the Citroen 2CV. I lived in belgium for about three years and those things are like cockroaches in europe. The frame was alleged to be made of two oak beams and the suspension was designed to keep the four wheels vertical while the body leaned. We used to refer to them, affectionately of course, as “douche bags”, a play on the french pronounciation of “deux cylindre”

Given your "automotive proclivities, may I suggest a Yugo?

[b] My favorite car from the past is the Sunbeam Imp. 875 cc rear-mounted aluminum OHC 4 with all of 40-odd horsepower. Fantastic gas mileage and an absolute blast to drive. With its flip-up rear window it was even semi-practical and a decent hauler. Whenever I see one for sale, which is not very often, I'm tempted to buy it. 


I have a 1965.  It was a great car.  I put about 180,000 on it before selling it and the next Monday the guy I sold it to come up to me and thanked me, he had fallen asleep at the wheel on the freeway and hit a parked Impala on the side of the exit ramp.  He ended up with a few bruises from the seat belt and a small cut on his head.  

Those rubber block CV joints were great engineering.

If you want some free time for golf, tarvel and bingo, buy a Hyundai Accent; cheap to buy, fuel, and maintain. If you want something more sporty , but still reliable, buy a Mazda Miata, a bullet-proof little car; what the MG should have been!

If you want to spend all your time fiddling with the vehicle, buy any of the group suggested by other posters.

I have some retired friends, and they fall into 2 categories; those who want a car to be available without fuss, and those whose retirement hobby has become working with cars. Take your pick what you wanr to be.

Or perhaps a 3 cylinder Geo convertible?

With that eclectic lot, you need an 83-88 Toyota Tercel 4wd wagon. The SR-5 would be the obvious choice for you. A visit here and I think you will be hooked.

Caterham 7 with a Pinto engine. Yes, a Pinto engine.

how much and would i drive it in winter?

Where can I get King Midget or Davis?