Micro Cars

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Micro Cars

Exhibition Type
Temporary Exhibition
22 Aug 2015
— 28 Feb 2016

Throughout the history of the automotive industry, there has always been a fascination with producing small vehicles.

Bubblecars, Microcars, Microcoches, Microcotxes, Motocars or Voiturettes are some of the international designations that Microcars have taken on. Their appearance coincided with periods between wars and in times of recession.

During World War II, factories like Peugeot came under German rule and were forced to produce only parts for the military versions of Volkswagen. At the same time, smaller builders were authorized to produce electric vehicles.

The scarcity of resources and the crises of the 20s and 50s, which shook the world, heightened the need for mobility, independence and freedom and led to the emergence of several small car manufacturers. The microcars were developed across Europe through projects with a more or less experimental nature—especially in Germany and France.

In the post-war period, most of these vehicles used surplus material or ones with minor manufacturing defects from the assembly lines of the aeronautical and armament industry. In addition to the outflow of stocks, jobs continued to be safeguarded in order to re-launch the economy and recover industrial production for companies that survived the war. Locomotion was provided by small engines supplied by motorcycle manufacturers.

These small cars became a great lever in the economic resurgence because of the intelligent ways in which scarce materials had been adapted to serve an economically fragile market—ensuring necessary mobility.

Although times of crisis are traditionally conducive to the emergence of economic vehicles, the giants of the global automotive industry were not unaware of the potential in this niche market. They developed projects resulting in successful models such as the BMW Isetta, Fiat Topolino and Fiat 500, as well as the NSU Prinz. Other brands also achieve market recognition, such as Fuldamobil, Gogomobile, Heinkel, Lloyd, Messerschmitt, PTV and Vespa. Much rarer were the Velorex, Scootacar, Trident, De Rovin, Solyto, Brütsch Moppeta, Mochet, Peel and a dozen others only recognizable today by microcar enthusiasts.

Microcars were sparse in luxury and performance since they did not have the characteristics most valued by collectors over the years. Adding to that their low commercial value, a large number were scrapped at the end of their useful lives. Interestingly, however, those same conditions means that today microcars are some of the rarest cars worldwide.

A microcar was produced in Portugal during the early 1980s, the SADO 550. This vehicle, almost unknown, was the first Portuguese series production car.

Automotive history recognises these microcar projects that formed part of the post-war economic recovery in Europe and contributing to the freedom of a large number of citizens.