It was about 15 years ago that I purchased Vol. 3 of the Popular Mechanics Do-it-yourself Encyclopedia at an estate sale. Inside that red, hardbound collection of reprinted PM feature projects, I found an article that would ignite a long-standing, sometimes dormant but never extinct desire to build my own car. Specifically, my own 3-wheeled micro car.
The book contained a 1965 article detailing how to build the “Suburba”, a 3-wheeled, motorcycle engine powered mini-car platform for which you would design your own body. PM originally ran the article as a “design a body” contest, and the hardbound edition also included the top body designs – submitted by PM readers. The winning trio of designs, submitted by Norman K. Niemi was great.
The R.Q. Riley Factor
Eventually I would stumble upon the work of R.Q. Riley, who has been designing and selling DIY plans for “vehicles of the future” since the 1970′s. Riley’s thoughtful chassis designs, which often utilize major components from existing auto platforms, captured my imagination and I never again really considered building the PM chassis. But Norman Niemi’s body styling was so cool, I would love to emulate his coachwork for use atop a Riley platform.
The recent buzz over the upcoming release of Riley’s new X-R3 deisel-electric hybrid DIY trike brought my Build Your Own Car demons back to the surface, so I dug out the original article that started it all for me (check out page 2, I’m pretty sure that’s Al Franken in the passenger’s seat).
One of my co-workers is acting very committed to starting an XR-3 build as soon as the plans become available so, with any luck, I may get to actually help one or 2 come to fruition.
Build A Car out of Foam