This Two-Seater Microcar Makes Car2Go Look Like a Limo Service

Is it a car or a scooter...or a death trap?

By Marty Patail October 5, 2015 Published in the Design Annual: Fall 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

When this two-seater microcar rolled off of Messerschmitt’s factory line in 1953, the design was perfect for a recovering postwar Germany. Less car and more enclosed scooter—or kabinenroller in German, with handlebars instead of a steering wheel and motorcycle gear shifts—the vehicles were inexpensive, efficient, and easy to make. (And at the time, three-wheeled cars were also taxed less than four-wheeled ones.) Local mechanic Mark Hatten (who owns 25 microcars) restored this particular model by hand—the “crown jewel” of his collection—by scavenging, 3-D printing, and custom-building parts. According to Hatten, even with the increasing popularity of Smart cars and Mini Coopers, the Messerschmitt version would never pass muster with today’s most basic safety or emissions inspections. “These cars don’t even have seat belts,” he says, though they can go up to 70 miles per hour on a flat, open highway. “I don’t want to say that they’re death traps. They just fulfilled a need back in the day.”

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