The Peel Car Turns 50

Sep 11, 2014 by


Long before the Prius or the Smart Car, a small company on the Isle of Man was producing the Peel car, a three-wheeled, energy efficient microcar. 

In the early 1960’s, the Peel Engineering company began making the Peel car, with fiberglass construction—a pioneering use of that material— at a facility near Peel Harbor on the Isle of Man (IOM).  The P50, the first model of the Peel car, rolled out in 1964 , was produced for just a few years, but it is still highly popular with collectors and car fans around the world.

 


Designed as a city car, the Peel car P50 was advertised as capable of seating “one adult and a shopping bag”.  The vehicle’s only door was on its left side, and equipment included a single windscreen wiper and one headlight. The available colors were Daytona White, Dragon Red, Capri Blue and Sunshine Yellow.  The 1963 model retailed for £199 when new (about £1,400 in 2010, or $2,200 USD).

50 of them were produced, and only 27 of them are known to be still in existence.

 

 

The Peel Trident featured a clear bubble top, red or pale blue paint and either two seats or one seat with a detachable shopping basket.   This Peel car was marketed as a “shopping car” and said to get 83 MPG.  Approximately 82 Tridents were produced between 1964 and 1966.  TIME magazine has the Peel Trident on its list of the 50 Worst Cars of All Time, noting

“The Trident is a good example of why all those futuristic bubbletop cars of GM’s Motorama period would never work: The sun would cook you alive under the Plexiglas. We in the car business call the phenomenon “solar gain.” You have to love the heroic name: Trident! More like Doofus on the half-shell.”

 

Peel car peel trident

1965 Peel Trident, the two seater Peel Car

 

IOM was once ruled by Vikings and has a unique blend of Celtic and Viking culture, place names and government structure.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that the next Peel car to be made had a Viking name.

The Peel Viking Sport, which was soon renamed the Peel Viking Minisport, debuted in 1966.   About 22 examples are thought to have been built before production ended in 1970, and only seven are believed to still exist.

 

1964 Peel Car Peel Viking

1964 Peel Viking, a Peel car worthy of Emma Peel

 

2014 is the 50th anniversary of the intro of the Peel cars and IOM held a big celebration last month.

The Peels to Peel Festival was organized by Peel car owners and enthusiasts in partnership with The Manx Transport Museum:

 

The IOM post office joined in by issuing a special limited edition stamp depicting the micromini cars.

 

peel car anniversary stamp

Commemorative stamp set issued in honor of the Peel car’s 50th anniversary

 

The Peel P50 was and still is street-legal in the UK, as well as the US, surprisingly.  The Manx Peel car still holds the record for world’s smallest production car.

The original company has been out of business for years, but an English company (also called Peel Engineering) began producing replicas in 2011.  That’s right, you can now CUSTOM order your own Peel car–with prices starting at $21,530. Take a look at this little purple number designed for Cadbury’s Joyville campaign:

 

FYI: the ORIGINAL Peel cars, depending on condition, can command prices of $100,000 and more at auctions.

Too hefty a sum for such a tiny car? Maybe, or perhaps paying that much for a Peel car is just a worthy amount for a rare piece of Manx heritage.

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