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UrbaCar

UrbaCar "Wedgie"- 1977

If you saw an Urba-anything in Mechanix Illustrated magazine in the 1970s-80s, it was a surely a design by Robert Q. Riley and David L. Carey of Quincy, AZ, doing business as Quincy-Lynn Enterprises. The UrbaCar seen here was their first design for the magazine. Originally pitched to Popular Mechanics, the design was passed to Mechanix Illustrated due to too many perceived DIY projects at PM. Quincy-Lynn and Mechanix Illustrated hit it off, working together for 10 years, with Urba hovercraft, Urba electric trikes, and other Urba concepts offered periodically. Q-L is still in business at RQ Riley.com, offering all sorts of plans.
The UrbaCar was a response to the Arab Oil Crisis of the early 1970s, and it was hoped the car could reduce America’s dependence on OPEC-supplied oil. The original 1973 concept was built in Ontario, and nearly reached production, but was less refined than the plan- or kit-built car as seen here. Design concept to running prototype took one year; in that time the fuel crisis abated, and interest in a production run waned. However, many do-it-yourselfers were interested enough to purchase plans and kits through the magazine. About 20 kits, supposedly requiring only 30 or so hours of work, were sold, but many sets of plans were also purchased.
For a total cost of “around $1400”, one could build an UrbaCar in a home garage. Some square-section tubing, Styrofoam, fiberglass, a Kohler 16hp industrial engine/transmission, a steering box and various switches, latches, etc. were all that was required to build one’s own city runabout. It was fairly sophisticated, with a rubber-isolated subframe keeping the engine vibrations to a dull roar. Toothed-belt instead of a chain drive added to the isolation of the drivetrain. With a 650 pound curb weight, it offered a similar power-to-weight ratio as a VW Beetle.
If you think you’ve seen an UrbaCar, but can’t place quite where – have you seen the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall? Several UrbaCars were featured – the Centurion, Tri-Muter, Town-Car, Phoenix, and Boonie Bug, in addition to the Urbacar.

The blue car seen here, “Wedgie”, has an interesting and well-documented history. The car was originally bright red, and, while it differed in several details, the wedge-shaped headlight nacelles are original to its design.

Paul Brantner of Cumberland, Maryland built Wedgie on his back porch, with his young daughter Ruth’s help. Paul spent about $1800, and every receipt, note, and photo, along with the original plans, survive. He was a welder by trade, but had never used fiberglass – he had quite a learning experience! Other than the Kohler drivetrain, Ford starter motor (for reverse) and the steering box, everything else was home-built. Paul even adapted a garage door keypad to accept a numeric code for starting, rather than using a key.

Wedgie was the very first kit-car to be registered in Maryland – getting it through the almost non-existent process took some doing, but there was a lot of learning on both sides. When Paul and Ruth trailered the car 160 miles to Annapolis, the only comment the state police made was that it needed bumpers. Paul drug the car back home, added some modified Pinto bumpers, mailed in a photo, and crossed his fingers. The State responded by sending him a VIN tag, license plates, and registration papers!

Like many cars of this sort, Wedgie was eventually retired, and sat, unused, until 2008, when Rick D’Louhy and Geoff Hacker heard about the car, and tracked Paul down. Paul was thrilled that Wedgie would be saved, giving Rick and Geoff everything he had on the car. If anything, Wedgie is even “wedgier” than it was before. Honda alloys with fabricated centers featuring the logo replaced the old steel wheels. Wedge-shaped 1968 Dodge Coronet taillights replaced the rectangular Pinto units, and a wedge-shaped instrument cluster from a 1957 Chevy pickup added to the “wedgieness”, plus gave the cabin some extra color. Paul passed away in 2009, before the restoration was finished, but his wife, Sally Ann, and daughter Ruth approved of everything.

Specifications
Manufacturer: Quincy-Lynn Enterprises
Country of Origin: USA
Drivetrain Configuration: Rear-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: Air-cooled Kohler single, 16hp
Transmission: Kohler integrated CVT; reverse by Ford car-starter motor
Top Speed: 60 (advertised)
Years Produced: Kits ca. 1975, plans still available
Number Produced: 1 prototype, approx. 20 kits, many plans
Cost: approx. $1400

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