Three-wheeled vehicles have been around since the beginning of automotive history. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen from 1885 is a three-wheeler, generally believed to be the first real automobile. Designs have come and gone through the decades since, but three special automakers are building unique offerings that shouldn’t be ignored.
These are essentially motorcycle convertible hybrids. Unlike the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the single wheel has moved to the back, which gives better handling and stability. They are all open to the air, which adds to the visceral feel of speed and movement that you’d experience on a motorcycle.
All are two-seaters, side-by-side, with close quarters and scant storage — which is also similar to their two-wheeled inspirations. But what they lack in room, they make up for in fun! (Laws vary by region, so check with your local government on what license is needed to operate them.)
Created in 1910 by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan, the Morgan Motor Company is a family-owned British car company. They are the oldest continually operating vehicle manufacturer in England.
They built 3-wheelers from the start, and like most cyclecars — as they were called — were classified as motorcycles. This gave them a tax break, as well as the benefit that these vehicles enjoy today: less weight.
Current production models of the Morgan 3-Wheeler are built with a 1,983 cc V twin from S&S, a Mazda 5-speed gearbox, and weigh in at approximately 525 kg (1157 lbs.) — giving them an impressive power to weight ratio. With rear-wheel drive and tall, narrow tires, there’s plenty of traction for the power, and the low center of gravity means you won’t roll if you get too aggressive in the turns.
The new models have been redesigned from the ground up and fully modernized, although with features that might be considered spartan if it were on any other vehicle.
Looking like a biplane whose propeller and wings have fallen off, the styling of the new models is very throwback — or has perhaps just changed very little. The motor’s iconic V twin design is dramatically exposed up front, between the wide-set headlights, suspension, and two front wheels. Options include various hand-picked, vintage-inspired details such as a luggage rack, leather bonnet strap, and even custom-branded clothing and luggage.
Morgan is also offering an all-electric version of the 3-Wheeler.
For a more futuristic design, Campagna Motors, based in Quebec, Canada offers two styles of three-wheeled fun. There’s the V13R, with a snub nose, and the T-Rex with more aggressive styling that comes in 3 models: 16S, 16SP, and the Special Edition.
The V13R is fully open with a short windscreen in front and double seat bars in back. It uses a Harley-Davidson liquid-cooled Revolution V-Twin, which lends it that distinctive Harley sound. A belt drive on the V13R means less maintenance and no chain noise.
The T-Rex models have a partially enclosed cockpit, with roll bars in front and back. They have a BMW inline 6 cylinder that puts out 160 horsepower to its sequential six-speed — again, very much like a motorcycle. The T-Rex models are rear-wheel, chain drive.
They have modern instrumentation, dash, and controls, and the inside feels like a two-seater convertible with handling to match. Outside, there are dual cargo carriers like a motorcycle. And while there is some coverage on the T-Rex models, expect to get wet if it’s raining. These are built for fun (in the sun), but, like on a motorcycle, there’s no such thing as bad weather — only bad clothing.
Starting price is 53,999 USD for base V13R up to 66,999 USD for base Special Edition T-Rex. Many options are available.
Vanderhall Motor Works, Inc. in Provo, Utah offers two models of three-wheeled fun: Venice and Laguna. Similar to the models from Campagna, they are thoroughly modern takes on the concept. They even have front-wheel drive, traction control and ABS.
Both models have a 1.4 L 4 cylinder GM motor with turbo and a 6-speed automatic transmission. They are open to the air, with a short windscreen and dual seat bars. There is an optional carbon fiber capshade available for moderate protection, but it does not create a full enclosure. There are available heated seats and even air-conditioning if it’s hot and you’re stuck in traffic.
The Laguna is the premium sport model with larger wheels, and more options, including cruise control, adjustable suspension, paddle shifter, and even stability control.
Both models are comfortable, responsive, and all around fun to drive. Price for the Venice starts at 29,950 USD, and 58,850 USD for the Laguna.