For any Petrolhead, “Isle of Man” evokes heroic (perhaps even utopian) images of a speed-loving island in the Irish Sea, where racing motorcycles sear through the countryside, blistering past ale-swigging onlookers. For four-wheeled enthusiasts, crowds line the narrow tarmac lanes as local boys like Mark Higgins or legends like Jimmy McRae feverishly chuck their flame-spewing rally cars around by the scruff. One would be forgiven to conclude that the Isle of Man’s only car manufacturer might want to tap into that deep-rooted tradition.
Instead, we get the Trident, and its sibling, the P50, produced by Manx-based Peel Engineering Company. While Peel made aerodynamic fairings for racing motorcycles, their cars were somewhat less racy. The single-seat P50 first appeared in 1962, followed by the two-seat, bubble-top Trident in 1965. When launched, the P50 was the smallest production car in the world, boasting one seat, room for a bag of groceries, and not much else. Power came from a 49-cc Zweirad Union (DKW)-supplied two-stroke, rated at a whopping 4.2 horsepower. At £299 and apparently capable of 100 mpg, it was advertised as “almost cheaper than walking.” It could propel its solitary occupant to 28 mph – Although a period road tester suggested the top speed was relative to the size of the steak the driver had for dinner.
The Trident that followed featured a slightly revised chassis, moving the 49-cc engine from the side to the rear, opening up space for a second seat. The body was a fiberglass monocoque placed atop a rudimentary metal frame, with a scooter-type engine and single drive wheel. The Trident was easily identified by its Jetsons-style Perspex bubble top fixed to the top half of the body, hinged at the front like a clamshell. Estimates vary on how many Tridents were built, ranging from 45 to 80, while 47 P50s left the works.
The Peel Company was reborn in 2010, producing faithfully replicated petrol and electric versions of the P50 and Trident in fully-assembled or kit form and with modern engines replacing the smoky, wheezing two-strokes of the 1960s. As original survivors have become quite sought after and values exceed the realm of many collectors, reproductions are a great way to experience the fun of a Peel at a friendlier price point.
This Peel Trident is one of these late-model examples, finished in powder blue with black upholstery, and is in very good condition overall. The finish is in good order, with authentic detailing, including period-style lights and fixtures. The clear bubble top is in excellent condition showing no crazing or haziness. It features period faux knock-off wire wheel covers in front (not made by Borrani) and luxuries like headlights, taillights, and a steering wheel. This Trident notably has a modern scooter drivetrain, including the swing arm and rear wheel assembly. While this engine’s origins are unknown, it undoubtedly adds a welcome level of refinement and likely an extra pony or two over the original. The chassis is otherwise standard, with an undamped coil-spring front end and tiny 11x4.00-5 tires – available at your local lawnmower shop should you ever wear them out.
This Peel Trident is a delightful collector piece for Microcar enthusiasts and is ready to enjoy, making it a most welcome addition to any collection, large or small.
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