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Almost as a hobby, in 1977 Guy Duport built a prototype, first-of-its-kind diesel-powered microcar. It was a small car with a plastic body and 2 doors, equipped with a 510cc (about 31 cu. in.) Lombardini diesel engine. According to Duport, that 10HP engine assured 3,500 hours of operation, allowing it to travel potentially more than 62,000 miles. Consumption was an astonishing (for the time) 3 liters per 100 kilometers (about 80 mpg!). The only element of the car manufactured by Duport was the chassis. This four-passenger version, named the Parco 611, was equipped with a 602cc (about 37 cu. in.) diesel engine. The design of the body and transmission used many parts of Renault 4, 5 and 14 models. Subsequent French regulations banned the manufacture of microcars for four people. In 1982, a Duport Parco achieved a trip from Paris to Dakar (7,000 miles) without any problems.
French law about driving microcars:
To drive a vehicle with an engine capacity under 50cc (about 3 cu. in.), and a speed under 45km/h (about 28 mph) you don't need a driver’s license. When gas prices skyrocketed in 1974, some people tried to build small cars with such an engine. All these cars were underpowered and dangerous on the road, so after that, the law was modified, removing the engine size requirement but there was now a maximum of 4kW power. This allowed diesel engines of about 300cc (about 18 cu. in,) to fit in the “sans permis”, or “without a license car” category. It was much more powerful than a 50cc gas engine! The 45km/h speed limit remained, however, so it was not very practical. If the power was higher, up to 10kW, one needed an « A1 » driving license. Passing the test with questions about the road signs, then the speed may exceed 45 km/h – the Duport Parco 611 is an example of such a car.
Manufacturer: Ets Duport; St-Ferreol, Faverges, Haute-Savoie, France
Country of Origin: France
Drivetrain Configuration: Rear engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: Single cylinder, diesel, 602cc, air-cooled, 10 HP (about 7.5kW)
Transmission: Centrifugal clutch
Top Speed: 40 MPH
Years of Production: 1982-1989
Number Produced: About 600
Original Cost: $10,000
Text by Claude Guéniffey