Peel Trident

As far as weird cars go, the Peel Trident is one of the best-known. For good reason: it looks like something from the Jetsons, only grounded and a bit more cute than even the cartoon could muster. 

A few years ago, I drove the Peel P50—on camera—at the Lane Motor Museum, which is not only one of the world's smallest production cars but the successor to the Trident. Both are in limited production even now, with electric versions taking over where dreadful small-displacement scooter engines once ruled.

The engine in the one I was in must have given me some sort of ill effects, as later that evening I enjoyed a massive migraine and nausea. Those of you in the U.S. have no idea how confusing it is for a visitor to walk into a Rite Aid or whatever and be confronted with a wall of pain medication. I go for the one that appears both modest and effective, as if it matters.

Anyway, the Trident is more practical. With a hinged top, it does away with the P50's comically tiny door. With a second seat, you're able to carry a passenger…which no doubt will feel either twins-in-womb-like or orgy-like, depending on the outside humidity level. 

For Peel, the Isle of Man was the ideal breeding ground for these cheap "shopping" cars. Now, as we get closer to widespread semi and fully-autonomous driving, having smaller autonomous cars makes a lot of sense: we'd be able to dramatically increase the efficiency of road networks if single occupant vehicles were as compact as either Peel. Back in the '60s, they were an efficient way to pop into town.

The modern version is sold in both gasoline and electric, with a quoted top speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). Named as one of the worst cars of all time by Dan Neil, who am I to argue with someone who made a reference to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in his opine on the car?

There's an artful quality to the car, especially with the canopy open. It's like, "Where's the engine? How does it work? Where do the people go?" as the Trident has slowly become a mysterious, fragile, adult toy from a different era. My favourite is the all-electric prototype from 1966, because the factory finally saw fit to add a second rear wheel—somehow making it look even more hilarious.

If you ever get the chance to drive a Peel, take it: you'll spend months afterward trying to figure out how the car even made production, when so many "superior" designs fail before launch.