The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum is the world’s largest collection of small cars. I’m kind of hoping that there’s a museum laying claim to be the smallest collection of large cars, but that’s something for another day. The sad news is, Bruce Weiner is calling time on the museum and is about to put the entire collection for auction.
For Bruce, the thrill was in the chase. Speaking to Hemmings Daily, Bruce admitted that being the custodian for all these cars is the part he didn’t like. So the entire collection of memorabilia, literature, models and cars will be sold off, undoubtedly ending up scattered around the world. In many ways it’s sad to see a collection broken up, but you have to hope that the little cars will be given a new lease of life. A chance to smell the roses once again.
Microcars were born out of necessity following the end of World War II. As if the shortages of food, raw materials and cash weren’t enough, people also needed mobilisation. Engineers, many of whom worked in the aircraft industry, got to work on developing a series of tiny cars. For a brief period, the microcar became a symbol of people pulling together for the greater good. They got the world moving but were soon forgotten once people’s confidence and wealth returned again.
You can’t help but smile when you see a microcar. They look so positive, so cheery. Seeing the collection in its entirety looks like a casting for Cars or Cars 2. Little characters with their own personality and charm. How can anyone resist?
Bruce Weiner certainly couldn’t, which is why he set about amassing the world’s biggest collection of microcars. The Microcar Museum was born in 1997 and has since welcomed 35,000 visitors a year to its home in Madison, Georgia. Not bad for a town with a population of just 5,000.
Sadly PetrolBlog won’t be at the auction next month, but we have spent far too much time looking through the lots. The original plan was to pick one or two of the most PetrolBlog cars in the auction, but we ended up selecting ten. And then some more. So sit back and enjoy PetrolBlog’s Microcar Museum highlights.
Ah, the Smart Crossblade – perfect for America’s West Coast but a little out of place in Weston-super-Mare. It had no windscreen, no doors and no roof. In comparison the Renault Twizy is positively conventional.
Originally shown as a concept car at the 2001 Geneva Motor Show, the Crossblade actually went into a limited run production of 2,000 vehicles. Robbie Williams famously bought number 0008 after allegedly missing out on 0007. Mr Williams is clearly a fan of wind in your hair and flies in your teeth motoring.
It cost £16,000, stripped away the practicality of the ForTwo it was based on, didn’t handle all that well, presented a terrible ride and wasn’t especially quick. But it was waterproof (it had drain holes in the floor) and had a huge amount of novelty value. I’d love a go, but my money would be on a Smart Roadster Brabus.
“The smallest production car ever built” and famously driven by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear, putting him at the perfect height to comment on Fiona Bruce’s bottom. It was built by the Peel Engineering Company on the Isle of Man and originally presented at the 1961 Cycle and Motorcycle Show.
It famously did without a reverse gear, but then it weighed little more than a box of matches, meaning it could easily be turned around. Its 4.5hp 49cc engine could also deliver 100mpg – a car well ahead of its time. Having been treated to a full restoration by the museum, this has to be one of the best P50s in existence.
I’ll cut to the chase, I lovely this Goggomobile purely because of its Krispy Kreme livery. I don’t care that 3,665 were made or that it was powered by a 14hp 2-stroke engine. I don’t even give a damn about its 9ft 6.5-inch length. I just want to buy this thing and park it in my living room. It’s perfect.
I prefer the Australian name for the N600 – the Honda Scamp. It just seems to suit the cheeky little kei car. The N600 was based on the N360 and designed to target the European market, where buyers demanded more space and pace. Its tiny 589cc engine would develop just 36hp, but a low weight of around 500kg meant that progress was rather brisk.
This particular N600 was formerly owned by Honda and was for many years on show at the company’s distribution centre in the US. You have to wonder how many times its actually been used on the road.
Just how good does this Bond Bug look? There’s something about seeing a car in another country on British plates? Remember the TVR Tuscan in Swordfish? This Bug was restored in England in the 1990s and subsequently shipped out to the Microcar Museum. I want a British buyer to snap it up and bring it home.
No, not that Fiat Multipla, the original Fiat Multipla. It was based on the Fiat 600 and could seat six people in relative comfort on a footprint just 50cm longer than the original Mini Cooper. Clearly a rear-engined water-cooled layout wouldn’t lend itself to a conventional square back-with-tailgate layout, so Fiat had to do some neat packaging work. The driver was moved forward over the front wheels, with two large side doors making up for the loss of a tailgate.
Multipla translates as ‘All Service’ – the combination of family motoring and business use. I love it, especially in the West Coast two-tone paint job. Spot on.
What a combination – designed by Ghia and built by Karmann. The Type 34 is incredibly rare in the US as it was never officially offered for sale. I particularly like this one as, aside from a recent repaint, it looks otherwise original. Check out the bodywork on the inside. It’s not mint, which therefore means you won’t mind using it everyday. Perfect.
I’m drawn to this car for two reasons. Firstly the name is utterly brilliant. It sounds like a name that would be given to a car in a children’s cartoon. I can imagine Tom chasing Jerry at the wheel of his Farm-O-Road.
Then there’s the look of it – like the result of intimate liaisons between a Land Rover and a Jeep Wrangler. I never knew it existed, so was surprised to read that 600 were produced – available with power takeoffs, ploughs, harrows, cultivators, mowers and even snow skis. What a brilliantly bizarre thing. I want one.
You’d have to wonder what a TR6 is doing in collection of Microcars, but then you discover that Bruce Weiner himself has owned 40 of them in his lifetime. Some of these have had less than 100 miles on the clock. This particular example has just one previous owner and has travelled a mere 6,712 miles. If it makes it back to Britain, it could cause a bit of a stir at a Triumph concours event this summer.
It’s called a Deluxe Adult Sport Car, has brake and accelerator pedals marked with ‘Stop’ and ‘Go’ and it has a Briggs & Stratton 8.5hp engine. For these reasons alone it’s worthy of a place on PetrolBlog.
Look, it’s almost affordable. I’ve always fancied owning a Sinclair C5, although flying to the US to buy one could be seen as a little silly.
As a child I was obsessed with the ‘Volkswagen Porsche’. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that it seemed to be two cars in one. A car with two forenames – at least that’s what my brain thought.
This is probably the standout car of the auction for me. It looks so perfect, so elegant and so well-proportioned. With just 43,615 miles on a clock and a blemish-free Malaga Red paintwork, it’s hard to argue with the auctioneers claim that it could be the best 914 in existence. It also has every service bill from new. Where do we sign?
Bruce Weiner’s first car was a Datsun 240Z. Yep, you read that right – Bruce Weiner’s first car was a bleeding 240Z. He’s therefore a legend.
The fact that he went out and bought another 240Z to pay hommage to his first car means that Bruce Weiner is one of us. And to think I’m still looking for a Daihatsu Charade XTE. It’s not quite the same, is it?
The final car on the list, but only because we have to stop somewhere.
The King Midget Trainer grabs a place purely because of its name. Oh and it also looks like my Kettcar go-kart from childhood. Sadly my Kettcar didn’t have a 300cc 4-cylinder engine like the Trainer. Neither did it have an automatic clutch with reverse gear. This thing looks kind of fun although given the price, sourcing a Kettcar from eBay might be a better option.
If you get a chance, take a look through the wonderful RM Auctions 823-page auction catalogue. Not only does it feature all the cars and memorabilia not listed here, but the photography is wonderful and the history lesson is well worth a read. You can view the auction catalogue here.
Alternatively, should you be lucky enough to attend the auction itself, it’s taking place on the 15th and 16th February in Madison, Georgia. I’ve spoken to customs in the UK and the good news is, many of the cars can be brought back as hand luggage. Win!
All images © Darin Schnabel 2012 and courtesy of RM Auctions.