Volugrafo 46 'Bimbo'

I can hear the sad trombone now as you open your email—"What's that…I've never heard of that car make before!" And you hurriedly opened up this latest message and…

"Is that even a car?"

By our standards, probably not, but I saw it when researching something else and figured it'd be nice to remember a time when new things were being tried by car designers. Sure, you're probably right in thinking that engineer Claudio Belmondo was probably less a car designer than his better-known peers, and that the 46 'Bimbo' is not exactly a car.

I should mention now—before you stop reading—that Belmondo was also somewhat of a racing driver. (It looks kinda like an Alfa Romeo Mille Miglia car that shrunk in the wash, eh?)

That said, with a World War hangover and material shortages to contend with, it's an interesting example of a cheap, austere car that doesn't look all that bad. First, its name: bimbo is the Italian word for "baby". There's only one seat, and given its simple tube frame construction (with lightweight aluminum bodywork) it was more a personal runabout than grand tourer—the perfect vehicle for a trip into town for some bread, wine, and cheese.

Built for just two years, few were sold. As we know, cars in post-war Europe were much larger and more substantive than the Bimbo and vehicles similar to it—three wheelers, especially, sadly didn't do all that well.

I quite like the Bimbo because it has nothing to hide: you can probably add up the number of screws used in its construction over just a few minutes. There are four tires, two headlights, and one tail light—the chrome square to hold a rear license plate is its single largest styling cue…if you could call it that. Some models were given a lattice of what looks like unpainted aluminum in order to give the appearance of a grille…or that of Spiderman's next whip.

Mechanically, are you ready? It weighed 125 kg (275 lbs.), had a single-cylinder 125-cc engine with 5 horsepower, and a 3-speed manual transmission. Steering worked via chain, there were no doors, and apparently it had four pedals (in no particular order): brake, clutch, accelerator, and ignition.

Get this: the sports model had a second identical engine installed ahead of the right rear wheel, opposite the normally left-mounted engine. Ten horsepower in this package would be…excellent.

Only 60 were made over two years. Apparently—miraculously—two still survive; both are in museums. And now I really want to see them race.