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The small car with the big reputation
Peel's best known car, the P50, is recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as the smallest road-legal car ever produced.
Manufacturer - Peel Engineering Company
Peel Engineering Ltd was established in the 1950's and was best known for the production of the P50 and Trident motorcars.
The Peel 50
The P50 still holds the record for being the smallest production car in the world.
At the peak of production Peel Engineering employed 40 people.
The company started off engineering fibreglass motorcycle fairings before moving into motor parts and boat hulls.
The P50 was designed and built by Cyril Cannell and Henry Kissack, and launched at the 1962 Earls Court Motorcycle show.
The car with its welded tubular steel chassis was the first to be manufactured on the island.
A Zweiral Union single cylinder 49 cc engine powered the vehicle and the car had a three speed forward gearbox.
How many cars can do this!
To reverse you would have to get out and turn the car yourself with a chrome handle on the rear. Its lightweight fibreglass body made it light enough for this to be an easy task.
The P50 had the maximum speed of 40 MPH and was capable of 100 MPG.
As the car is a three-wheeler, has an engine under 1000 cc and weighs less than 8 cwt, it is technically classed as a motorcycle, so no speedometer was fitted.
The overall dimensions are, 4’4” long, 3’3” wide and 3’10” high. In 1963 the car retailed at £199.00 compared to around £250 for a good motorbike. With only 100 coming off the production line, they are worth a lot more today.
The P50 was available in Daytona White, Dragon Red, Capri Blue and Sunshine Yellow.
What a line up
Current owners tell of a number of variations to each individual vehicle, emphasising the hand built nature of the production line.
P50s were sent to all parts of the world, including America.
On its American test run the Bureau of Transportation Inspector rolled the car down an embankment, but as he escaped without a scratch, he passed the car as suitable for use immediately.
The P50 shone in a variety of tests including a 15 mile road test in London, where it completed the route a full 30 minutes ahead of a saloon car of the day.
A recent Top Gear episode showed how the car is just as effective today.
On the Steam Packet
In 1965 the P50 was developed a stage further with the arrival of the Trident.
The Trident with its distinctive bubble canopy was produced in four variations, single-seater, and two-seater, automatic and electric.
To this day the Trident is still one of the most distinctive cars ever to take to the roads and proved very popular with young couples.
Only two P50s remain on the island, one is privately owned and the second is on display at The Peel Transport Museum.
In 2004 The Peel Transport Museum became aware of a 1962 P50 being sold in Cheshire.
With generous help from The Manx Heritage Foundation, The Public Lottery Trustees, a great deal of fundraising and several anonymous donations they managed to raise the £10,500 needed to bring it home.
The P50, back in Peel
It has been lovingly restored to its former glory and can be viewed in Peel.
last updated: 20/03/2008 at 15:23
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