True automotive oddities are hard to come by around Shanghai. There are lots of very nice and exciting modern cars, but never anything old and strange and out-of-the-ordinary. I was therefore excited the other day when, while taking a stroll at lunch time, I came across this three-wheeled gem!
Approaching from the rear, I thought that it was a simple Chevrolet Matiz, or the near-identical Chinese copy, the Geely QQ. A rather goofy looking car, it is nonetheless a fairly common sight on the roads, especially in the city where I work west of Shanghai. What I saw quickly was that this was neither a Matiz or a QQ, but instead a small 3-wheeled copy of those models! The front fenders didn't even have wheel cut-outs, so I was pretty sure it wasn't some homemade construction. A single centre front wheel was tucked up under the engine compartment, and a tiny exhaust pipe poked out the back. It didn't take much imagination to understand that this was basically a three-wheeled scooter (very common in the area as small taxis and delivery tricycles) with a 7/8 scale car body bolted on top.
Several Chinese manufacturers appear to have modified these cars into 3-wheeled versions of the original 4-wheeled models. Vehicles with 3-wheels are not considered 'cars', and are therefore more simple and affordable to register and operate. These models combine the closed, relatively modern cabins of today's cars with the less stringent emissions, safety and legal concerns of scooters and tricycles, so the appeal is obvious. Apparently some models were even fully electric (again, like most scooters and trikes in China), but this one was clearly gas-powered, as evidenced by its scooter-sized exhaust pipe.
My daily commute includes a quick jaunt by taxi from the train station to work and back in the evening. As easy and affordable as it is to grab a taxi here, I can't help but picture myself behind the wheel of one of these goofy toys, dodging traffic as I wind my way down the busy streets. I think I'll keep my eyes peeled for one for sale; I can only imagine the look on my coworker's faces if I were to pull into work in one of these!
Welcome! My name is Paul, and I am an old-fashioned, low-pressure, low-buck car fan with lots of automotive stories to tell!