Open mic

Open mic: What’s the least powerful classic you have ever owned and/or driven?

Looking back, we’ve owned and driven more underpowered econoboxes than sports cars. The 24-horsepower 1978 Citroën 2CV 4 that we featured last week was our daily driver for about a year and we never managed to get it past 55 mph (90 km/h). We’ve spent thousands of miles behind the wheel of a Renault 4 with a four-cylinder engine that makes about 30 horsepower and we’ve meandered around the island of Sicily in a friend’s 18-horsepower Fiat 500.

Another underpowered classic that stands out is a worn-out 1971 Fiat 850 Spider (pictured below) that we purchased in southern Utah in 2007. The 903cc made 51 ponies when it was new but it was a fairly tired and it refused to get the car past 55 or so mph. We nonetheless drove the 850 all the way across Utah, largely on back roads in order to avoid high speeds and terrifying encounters with lifted late-model pickups cruising at 80 on I-15.

How about you, what’s the least powerful car you have ever owned and/or driven?

36 thoughts on “Open mic: What’s the least powerful classic you have ever owned and/or driven?

  1. 1972 Suzuki LJ20: 28 hp, 359cc, water-cooled, two-stroke, 4-wheel-drive SUV. The manufacturer claims a top speed of 50 mph and fuel economy of 50 mpg.

  2. My wifes 109″, weighs 1700Kg, has 33″ tyres and has the 1957 design 2.25 diesel which in theory had 62hp. A recent dyno test however showed just 26hp at the rear wheels. Still seems to drive very well though, very nippy in town and can happily cruise all day at 50-56mph on open roads and on flat motorways will get to 70mph (eventually) 🙂

      • LOL, my local dyno tester reckons that the factory bhp figure was achieved by removing the water pump, fan belt, alternator, air filter, exhaust and running the engine on very thin oil meaning the most it would achieve in production state at the flywheel would by something like 50hp. My dyno reading was at the wheels so took into account transmission losses which due to the archaic 4WD design was estimated to be around 20% loss. As the engine has ‘as new’ compression and has been largely rebuilt, starts first flick, runs perfectly and returns 27mpg around town and 33mpg on the motorway it was not deemed to be any fault with the engine itself. The remaining missing horses are believed to be due to the 33″ mud tyres. We will be going back later this year for another dyno test but this time we’ll fit smaller tyres to see how much of a difference they make. 🙂

  3. I guess my ’60 Saab 93f, 3 cylinder, 38 HP, 750 cc, 1750 lb. beauty that I drove my last year in college in ’69. Unfortunately drum brakes all around left something to be desired and I couldn’t prevent hitting the real wheels of a tractor trailer that cut across the highway on it’s way to a diner on my side of the road. Totalled! I exited unscathed. I have since purchased another exactly the same, save for the color, that awaits quietly in line as one of my next restoration projects. This one will get the 850 GT triple carb motor with oil injection and possibly front disc brakes.

  4. That would be “rear” wheels and yes they were real …. and huge from my vantage point behind the steering wheel of my Saab.

    • I loved that car. As you can imagine 850 Spiders are few and far between in Utah, I spent over a year browsing the classifieds before finding this one (and a 850 Bertone Racer parts car). It was beat to hell but I used it regularly in the summer of 2007.

      It didn’t have a soft top for a while. One day I took the hard top off and went to get groceries or something and it started to rain.. yikes. I turned around and headed back home, and about five minutes later the wiper motor died, ha.

      I sold it because I had too many projects – ’78 Beta, ’62 Beetle, ’66 GTV, etc. I saw it in the classifieds about a year later, the guy who bought it had tried to convert it into an electric vehicle so he tossed out the engine and cut up the front trunk to fit like two dozen 12-volt batteries. He was selling it because he couldn’t get it sorted, I have no idea what happened to it. Weighed in, most likely.

  5. An orange Zastava 750 (a licensed Fiat in Yugoslavia) was my first car. To me at that age it seemed so underpowered I once snapped the gas cable by pressing the accelerator pedal so hard. Then to limp home I fixed the carb butterfly half open and accelerated and braked using the ignition key 🙂

      • Only a kilometer or so 🙂 Didn’t get far from the house yet and I turned back immediately.

        Forgot to mention I didn’t have any hydraulic brakes either because I busted a brake line reversing over a rock a week before and had to use engine braking and handbrake to stop. Ah, young driver, first car…

    • Had the similar thing in my Renault Super 5 from 1987… but I had to drive about 40 kilometres with this, also using ignition key.
      F***ing Weber 32DRT with its blocking throttle, nothing more.

  6. Pingback: Post-production: The week in review | Ran When Parked

  7. At 9.9 hp, our 1963 Messerschmitt KR200 is our lowest powered car. With a top speed of around 90 kph on the level, it’s great fun to drive, and we’ve taken it on journeys as long as 350 km. Its low weight gives it a definite performance advantage over our 1961 2CV with its 12.6 hp.

  8. I used to own a 1960 German Goliath Hansa 1100 sedan, 66 cubic nice flat four, with about 40 hp.
    Coming down a hill, I managed to get it up to what the speedo said was 65 mph…scared the heck out of me!!

  9. 51 HP from 903 ccm is a good result, comparing to Renault’s 48 HP from its C1E (1108 ccm). My daily driver is the R11 TC with this engine, don’t ask me about it.

    • Yeah, I remember being surprised when I found out it had 51 horsepower! That’s not bad at all, especially for such a small car and for the era it was built in.

  10. I have an Isetta my grandfather bought new in 1958. I believe it’s 13 hp. I’m 260 lbs. and 6’3″. Match made in heaven. I saw the Suzuki comments above. We used those at the mines in Western Australia – perfect for utterly flat country, and young guys who would hoon the hell out of a car if they could. (You couldn’t in the Suzukis… Gutless, rattle your teeth out machine.)

  11. For a couple of years my daily driver was a 2CV. A 1963 2CV, with the 435cc engine. That’s right, 18 ground-pounding, rubber burning horsepower. I could outrun a top-fuel dragster with that thing (just so long as the dragster remained parked…..)

    I miss that car.

  12. I own a 1987 trabant 601… Peaked out at 26HP from the factory. It’ll move the 1400 lb plastic car at 70 mph though. Bought my wife for Christmas a Nash metropolitan. At 52 HP she proudly sports fully twice the horsepower of my Trabbi. In a tight race though we still might both be edged out by my dad’s battery powered rider mower.

  13. I had a 1963 Corvair 4dr ” Monza with Powerglide – use premium fuel “.
    Not much HP but handled like a Porsche after I put radials on it.
    Paid $75 for it in 1976.

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