I’ve had a few really nice daily drivers in my time. I had a 1991 Honda NSX which is one of my favorites. A BMW 535i with a couple of sweet modifications to make it hum and a Jaguar XJS12 for the power and prestige. BUT none of them compare to a 3-wheeler trike for the “Fun To Dollar Ratio”. Let’s see why.
The biggest problem with normal cars is the fact that they are just, um, normal. I mean once you have driven a Mercedes then you have driven, arguably, the best four door saloon there is. Once you have owned a BMW sports sedan, then most other cars will have problems measuring up to the perfect balance of comfort, prestige and driving ability.
Once you have sped your way to work in a Honda NSX then sports cars are pretty much done with. Did you know that until Honda built the NSX, the Italian designers had kept telling us that, “You can not have a straight ahead seating position (head, shoulders, hips, knees and feet all in a straight line) in a sports car. You must be satisfied with twisting your lower body inwards to the centre of the car as the wheel arches are in the way and it can not be changed.”
Then Honda made the NSX and every sports car after that has had a straight ahead seating position. Amazing how easy it is to do the impossible when someone has just done it.
Now I am obviously exaggerating a little here as there is definitely personal preference involved in these decisions and an Audi or a Lexus or a Rolls Royce may wish to argue their rights to what is the best car in their respective categories. BUT THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME. And for the most part, they drive the same and feel the same. The problem is we are building 2 ton cars to carry one or two people for more than 87% of the time we are on the road. It's a waste of resources and it locks you into a box that weighs two tons.
Where are the cars that take you back to what driving was all about? Where are the cars that make you WANT to go for a drive, right now, for any reason? "Hey honey, you relax, I'll take Junior to football!" Just because driving will be so much fun. Well I can tell you, they are around and in my opinion the 3-Wheeler Trike is the answer to the problem we have had for so long. The best part is they don’t cost you the earth to buy one, or to run one.
Power To Weight Ratio = Fun To Dollar Ratio
In short, power to weight ratio combined with a natural balance is all you need to be amazed in a car. Now I am talking about the Reverse Trike (Tadpole Trike) here. The Delta Trike configuration (one wheel forward and two wheels back) has several issues with balance and braking that make it much harder to bring into high performance as the balance is the opposite that of the Tadpole Trike.
The Tadpole trike though, brings cornering, acceleration and braking up to a super-car level for the cost of a basic sedan. When you look at the Polaris Slingshot and compare the statistics to a Lamborghini Diablo, you get stats of the Diablo in the Polaris for a 10th of the cost.
[Polaris Slingshot Trike]
Trikes are lighter because they are built for one person or at max, three. Normally though today, we see them being built as one or two seaters. Being so light means we can use a smaller amount of horsepower to get the vehicle moving and that smaller engine means significant savings in both the cost of build and running the vehicle.
Where trikes have done particularly well is when they incorporate a motorcycle engine into the design. This gives us an F1 type motor in a small package for a small cost. For example, a Suzuki Hayabusa motorbike is for sale in Australia with 20,000 km on the clock for only $8,500 AUD or you can get just the engine on ebay for around $4,000 AUD.
[Malone STF1 Trike - 0-100kmh in 4.5 seconds with Yamaha ZR1 = 175 hp]
[Tanom Invader Trike - Suzuki Hayabusa 1300 engine = 180 hp]
This engine gives you 180 bhp for a total TRIKE weight of 500kg. That’s 2.7kg per Hp or a better power to weight ratio than a Lamborghini Diablo. Even compared that to a more reasonable sports car the 911 Porsche which costs $250,000 AUD and has 4 kg per HP the trike wins by an enormous margin in the "fun to dollar ratio."
But What About Prestige?
Now I will just take a breath here and cover off the one glaring omission in this theory of mine.
The Lamborghini Diablo has prestige (as does a Porsche 911) that a trike will never have. If the only thing you want from a car is to impress people with your ability to own such a car and therefore cloak yourself in the image that you are wealthy and successful, then yes, the Lamborghini Murcielago is the better choice.
But if you want the next best thing, which is appreciation for taste, pride of ownership, quality of workmanship and stunning performance combined with the fact that EVERY person will stop and ask you about your car as you drive around, then a trike is for you.
When I see the quality coming out of the Morgan Factory in England or Vanderhall in the US, I have little worry that the car won’t measure up to close inspection. Most people see a car like a high end Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini and they just think, “What a waste of money!” And I think that now too. The main thing you are paying for is the brand, not the engineering.
[Morgan 3-Wheeler Trike]
[Vanderhall Edison Trike]
One of my most enlightening nights was racing a friend of mine in Melbourne oh so many years ago. He had borrowed his friends MGF and I was driving my NSX. My NSX was worth around $120,000 and the MGF around $40,000. It was so late it was dead still with hardly a car around, so we ended up in this impromptu race and low and behold, he beat me. Not by much, but he beat me. He was a better driver and so could wring out of the MGF every last ounce of power and handling and get it onto the road. Whereas, it became clear to me, I was a hack driving a wonderful car, that could not get the wonderfulness of the car to come out. I had wasted my money.
Spend Less Dollars And Have More Fun
So my point here is simple, spend less money and have more fun. Even a Trike like the Morgan which only has 82 hp in a smallish twin engine is magnificently fun to drive. It has the ability to put a smile on your face every time you get into it. It is the way in which people give you the attention we all desire but it is a healthy, “What is that?” attention, rather than, “Oh he has a lot of money”. Watch the video below to see why Morgan's are so respected and so much fun.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to build a trike that is just a piece of crap. No. I want to follow in Morgan and Vanderhall’s footsteps and bring out something that handles beautifully, looks amazing, has the creature comforts I need, offers solid prestige and doesn’t cost as much as a small house. I want value for money and lots of power and handeling. I also want people to look at my car and say, "Wow, that's cool."
A pleasure car should be just that. A car that gives you pleasure. It should not hurt to buy it. It should not hurt to drive it and it should retain it’s value because of its rarity. Most of all, it should have a high fun to dollar ratio.
Good luck in your search. Cheers.
Hello, I am Jonathan, a lover of vehicles that spark the imagination, make your blood boil and take you to a place where time stops and the moment is everything. Hence my love of trikes.