There are a few trikes that we owe a lot to. One of them is the Messerschmitt KR200. One of the early micro cars designed just after WWII when the attitude of saving was high, it blazed the trail for cars that were built to transport two people and keep the costs as low as possible. I have said it before but it needs to be said until people start acting on it. We need to stop driving two-ton cars around to transport one or two people. 3-Wheeler Trikes are the answer.
Professor Willy Messerschmitt started the Messerschmitt aircraft company in 1923. Messerschmitt produced German fighter planes such as the popular ME109 fighter during World War II. . After WWII came to a close, the company was not allowed to manufacture anything to do with warplanes or aircraft so they switched to manufacturing automobile parts, as well as some other things like sewing machines.
Designs for the Messerschmitt automobiles began as early as 1953 by Fritz Fend. The Messerschmitt three-wheeled KR175 Kabinenroller (English translation is “cabin scooter”) was the original Messerschmitt vehicle. Powered by a one-cylinder, two-stroke engine that displaced 175cc and produced 9.5 horsepower. The rear mounted engine powered the single rear wheel and mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. The cars were suspended by a rubber torsilastic suspension and braking was handled by four-wheel mechanical drum brakes.The KR175 did not have reverse and had to be pick-up or pushed in order to go backwards.
Steering was by a handlebar-type system. The interior cockpit had room for two adults or one adult driving and two children, though seating was in tandem with the passenger sitting behind the driver.
All in all, they sold over 10,000 examples.
In 1955 the KR200 was born. A perfect example of a 3-Wheeler Trike. Taking the same basic frame as the KR175, the KR200 sported an improved canopy design and updated bodywork that included wheel cutouts in the front fenders. Hydraulic shock absorbers were now found at all three wheels, the tire sizes were enlarged to 4.00x8 and the rear suspension and engine mountings were revamped. Unlike the KR175, the KR200 had a reverse gear (the engine could be spun the opposite way to go backwards) and a self-starter. Retailing around $1724.71, or DM 2,500, the KR200 was met with immediate fanfare. Nearly 12,000 models were constructed in its first year alone. Amazingly light, the KR200 had a maximum speed of around 56 mph and a claimed power output of only 10 hp.
When 1956 rolled around and Messerschmitt was once again allowed to manufacture aircrafts, they lost their interest in Fend's microcars. The German company sold the Regensburg works to Fend who partnered with Valentin Knott, brake and hub supplier, with the end result being Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH Regensburg (FMR). The new company continued to produce the KR200 along with Fend's other vehicles.
The spunky little KR200 had a narrow little body that became a microcar trademark and the transparent acrylic bubble canopy taken from the aircrafts they had manufactured. One had to enter the car via a canopy door hinged on the right side of the vehicle. For most vehicles except the Roadster, the door included all the windows and the frame in which it was set, and extended from the right side of the monocoque tub to the left. The canopy was fixed in place on the Sport Roadster model and only a tonneau cover was in place of a top or any windows at all. A larger curved glass windshield that formed A-pillars with the side window frames on the KR200 was a much more simplified version from the previous KR175. This made the bubble much more compact, easier and less expensive to produce.
The KR200 featured an electric windshield wiper, which was an upgrade from the manual KR175 one. Tandem seating was used in the narrow body of the KR200, which allowed the body to 'taper like an aircraft fuselage', within a practical length. The microcar had an mpg around 87. The KR200 featured capable handling thanks to the tandem seating and centralized mass of the car with the longitudinal axis, low weight, and low center of gravity and wheel placement. The tandem seating also made an export version to left-hand drive countries unnecessary.
Similar to flying an aircraft, the controls inside the KR200 were all operated by pushing instead of turning. The steering bar provided a very direct response best suited to small, measured inputs thanks to its connection directly to the track rods of the front wheels. Putting the car in neutral no matter what gear it had been in before when actuated, the gearshift lever had a secondary lever on it. Transmission would have to be shifted back to first before the car would be able to move from a direct stop. The KR200 featured a full set of pedals that included brake, clutch and accelerator unlike its predecessor the KR175. Using cables the brake pedal still operated mechanical brakes.
Messerschmitt prepared a KR200 to break the 24-hour speed record in 1955 for three-wheeled vehicles under 15.3 cu in. to prove the durability under the hood of the microcar. Tested mercilessly for 25,000 kilometers, the prototype broke 22 international speed records in its class, including the 24-hour speed record (which is set at 64 mph).
Today there is a small niche for the microcar lover, and fan could pay upwards of $20,000 for a well-maintained 'Schmitt'. Aftermarket reproduction marks are made for the KR200 and include reproduction bubble tops constructed from car-safe polymethyl methacrylate.
Personally I love it. I love the bubble top. I love the tandem seating and I love that is built for just two people. I would really like to see this reproduced again with modern running gear. That would be a blast. Tell me what you think. Cheers.