19 Feb 2019

A Trike-fecta: America Welcomes The 3-Wheeler

The 3-wheeled automotive footprint is anything but new. When designing his Benz Patent Motorwagen in the mid-1880s, Karl drew it with three wheels. And when H.F.S. Morgan put a version of his personal vehicle into production around 1911, it too featured three wheels. But despite the age of the concept – or perhaps because of its age – the 3-wheel footprint is enjoying a renewal. You see it in the well-received revival of Morgan’s S&S-powered trike, you see it in Polaris Industries intro of its Slingshot, and you see it (most recently) in the broad distribution of the Utah-based Vanderhall.

There are, of course, reasons for the revival beyond nostalgia. Channeling Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s ‘add lightness’ mantra, three wheels (and their drivetrains) are typically lighter than four. And given that the mechanisms are more often seen by state DMVs as motorcycles rather than cars, the hurdles for certification are lower. Finally, it’s hard to duplicate that bugs-in-your-teeth feel of ‘olde’ in a Miata sporting a full windshield, or Toyota’s 86 sporting a full top.

For this writer, 3-wheeled Nirvana is the Morgan redux – but that takes most of $50K, without options. And while the Slingshot certainly has its fans, the Transformer-inspired design seems too over-the-top for something without a top. The happy middle ground, then, would be the Vanderhall, available at a growing network of motorcycle retailers. Base price is right at $30K, and for that you get 200 horsepower, a 0-60 time of under five seconds, and a ride/handling combo that apparently suggests – based on recent reviews – both a good ride and great handling. And if you have a garage in Texas, 3-wheelers take up roughly half the space of your classic Caddy.

Accessible price, responsive performance and bugs in your teeth? It could be a trifecta.