Written by Cody Sapp
Automobile sizes have fluctuated since the beginning of the motoring era. Some due to government regulations, others for affordability and fuel mileage, while a few just want to be different. While most enthusiasts are concerned with horsepower, others enjoy the uniqueness of the drive and the conversation that arises over their miniature mode of transportation. Whether you love’em or hate’em, small vehicles have made a big impact in the automobile industry. Here are five of DriveShare’s smallest cars with big personality.
Running on two cylinders
Released in the fall of 1972, the Fiat 126 replaced the beloved 500 as the company’s new global platform. With cost in mind, the choice of three gas sipping, rear-mounted two-cylinder engines and a slightly larger cabin made the 126 a hit. This example is fitted with the 650-cc straight-two, and though it’s not a large displacement by any means, the car only weighs about 1,300 lbs. and the four-speed transmission makes it a joy to drive. Though there were five assembly plants throughout Europe, the Polish plant, producing the Polski Fiat 126 until 2000, was the most successful. Over 4.6 million were built in its 28 years of production and many survived due to their fan base in Australia, Poland and Cuba where it was once one of the best-selling cars. While quite rare to spot one in the U.S. this is your chance get behind the wheel.
The Morris Minor is a compact vehicle that withstood the test of time. Production began in 1948 and it was built for over 20 years. This British Green Minor is an exceptional example of the tourer body style and is outfitted with leather interior and a convertible top. The Series III was respectfully called the Minor 1000 due to its nearly 1000-cc straight-four Austin engine which was also appeared in the Mini. The success of the Minor 1000 resulted in almost 850,000 being built, and over 1.5 million were built within the first two series, which made the Morris Minor the first British car to sell over a million units. That explains why this car is often called “Britain’s Beetle”.
Crosley’s are uncommon enough to see out and about, but to see a Crosley 18-Wheeler, well that’s a whole other ball game. This truck was originally commissioned in the mid 50s to help promote the Pinto Trucking Service and was used for this purpose for nearly 30 years. It’s powered by a 153ci four-cylinder out of a Chevy II and is paired with a three-speed manual Muncie transmission. Many years after it was originally decommissioned, this pint-sized semi received countless hours of work. The new owner was able to refurbish the vehicle and custom trailer, leaving behind some patina to give this small truck some big character.
Compact yet spacious
A lesser known model from the Austin brand is the Austin America. It was badged under six different automotive brands and produced in 14 countries, and is certainly what one would consider a global platform. Purchased brand new in the U.S. in 1970, this original example has no more than 30,000 miles on the 1275cc inline-four, and it’s sporting a 4-speed automatic transmission. Though compact, the cabin is quite spacious, even bearing a rear bench seat. Your ride will be quite enjoyable thanks to the Hydrolastic suspension, used exclusively by British Motor Corp. Whether cruising downtown or navigating a curving strip of road, you won’t want to hand the keys back.
A blast from the past, the Nissan Figaro combines the best traits from a combination of iconic and long-forgotten micro cars. For instance, it takes influence from the Fiat 500, Vespa 400, and the Gutbrod Superior, to name a few. The uniqueness of this ride is through the roof. From its retractable soft top to its vintage styling, the Nissan Figaro is sure to turn heads regardless of your location. Being built for only one year in 1991, they were exclusive to the Japanese market, and all 20,073 examples feature right-hand-drive and are powered by a modest 1.0-L four-cylinder turbo mated to a three-speed automatic transmission. The interior is loaded with the comforts of a modern car such as soft leather, air conditioning, and a CD player, while the exterior presents a retro look. It’s the perfect ride to take to the beach or for a leisurely weekend cruise.