Known affectionately as the “Bugeye” in the US and “Frog-Eye” in the UK, the Mark I Austin-Healey Sprite was an entry level British sports car introduced in 1958. Designers Donald Healey and Leonard Lord saw a chance to fill a gap in the market below the larger and more expensive MGA.
In 1916, the A.O. Smith Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, introduced an inexpensive buckboard-style cycle car called the Flyer. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the Flyer/ Auto Red Bug as the least expensive production car of all time, citing a 1922 ad that listed them for $125.
The name DKW comes from “Dampf-Kraft-Wagen” which translates to “steam-powered vehicle.” It carries this name because the first vehicle its Danish designer, J.S. Rasmussen, built, was a light steam car.
Inspired by watching events such as the Port Townsend (WA) Kinetic Sculpture Race, it occurred to local tinkerer and inventor John Montgomery how simple it would be to run a live axle through the middle of a canoe and use an inverted bicycle frame to drive it.
The Biscuter, or ‘Zapatilla’ (little shoe) as it was known in Spain, was actually built to the design of the French engineer Gabriel Voisin. ‘Biscooter’, the French name, was in itself a playful name for a car the size of two scooters.
During Japan’s “Bubble Economy” (1986-1991), the nation’s car manufacturers enjoyed a bit of freedom in their car designs. Cars designed for smaller and smaller niche markets were financially feasible during this period.