One Seater! 1981 Freeway

freeway

Jamie PalmerBy Jamie Palmer

100 miles per gallon from a classic car? I guess that may depend on your definition of “car”! This Freeway has the less powerful 12 horsepower Tecumseh engine (versus the optional 16 hp that only got 80 mpg) and is located in Woodridge, Illinois. It’s listed here on eBay where the opening bid is $3,750 without a reserve and the buy-it-now is $4,250. The seller is well-versed in Freeways, having sold many before with 100% positive feedback from happy buyers. The interior is in pretty good shape and the exterior has been painted; apparently they were originally molded in only three colors from the manufacturer in Minnesota. The seller just installed a new fuel tank, which is located under the driver’s seat and the little car has been driven around the block. freeway2

I’m sure other fettling will have to be done considering that it’s been off the road for a while, but how complex can it be? Apparently about 700 of these vehicles were sold from 1979 through 1982, and there have been owners’ get-togethers since then as you can see in this video. I love that it has a sunroof to go with the two window vents! My commute when I’m not working from home is close to an hour; I’ll bet this would save a lot of fuel! If you decide to pursue this and be different, just remember: reverse gear is open the door and push! Would you be interested? As this post was going live, this other Freeway (a 16 horsepower model)  just got listed on eBay as well for a buy-it-now of $7,499!

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Comments

  1. redwagon

    an ancient elio!

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    • Rick

      That was my first thought too. Dollar for dollar I think I want the Elio.

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  2. Mark E

    Wow. Lets look at this… Less than 1200 miles away on some coast? check. Local interest? check. (The company HQ was about 4 miles away) The fun bonding experience of picking up the car locally and driving it 400+ miles back home? check and double check! Plus I get to feel smug rather than jealous when that certain insufferable neighbor, the one who traded his smart car for a fiat 500, someday, maybe gets an Elio! ^_^

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  3. Charles Gould

    As an owner of two Freeways, trust me, you do NOT want to do 400 miles in this car! They are quirky, fun, draw lots of attention, but they handle downright scary! They used the Messerschmitt as a template for this design, but they used 12 inch wheels and tires instead of the Messerschmitts 8 inch tires, which substantially raised the center of gravity, and then they mounted the heavy cast iron Tecumseh snow thrower engine up high in the back, which further disrupted the weight and balance even more, and made the passenger compartment quite noisy. The Comet centrifugal clutch setup is unusual to say the least, and makes some disturbing squealing noises on take off.
    Don’t get me wrong, this is not written to discourage anyone from buying one of these, as they are a blast, and really unusual and fun to own and drive, and incredibly simple to work on, with reasonable parts availability, and still quite cheap to purchase. I am just saying that you will not be happy on a 400 mile trek in one of these.
    Chas

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    • JW

      @Charles, I’m inquisitive, are these things actually legal then to drive on the streets? By the description they seem to be more or less a go-cart with a body on it and 3 wheels instead of 3. Am I to understand you can license them for the street with only one headlight and no crash safety bumpers, does not look like it could pass a safety inspection to me. Enlighten me please.

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      • Charles Gould

        @JW, yes, these are street legal, however, I suspect that each state has its own requirements, and you should check with your state for a definitive answer. In Massachusetts and Vermont, I have had not trouble registering these, although I did it several years ago. They were a production vehicle when they were made, and as such, should be exempt from subsequent requirements, especially since they are now over 25 years old.
        They are also a three wheeler, which can be registered as a motorcycle (under a loophole originally designed for sidecar rigs) in many states, and are therefore not subject to many regulations such as bumper and headlight specifications. However, as a motorcycle, some states would require you to wear a helmet when driving the Freeway, although many have helmet exemptions for enclosed motorcycle vehicles.
        These were designed after the Suez Canal closure caused the energy crises and fuel prices rose through the roof in the late 1970’s. The company got some sort of government grant to build a high efficiency vehicle, and the company was actually called High Mileage Vehicles or HMV. They were manufactured in Burnsville Minnesota in 1979 to 1982, although most models were 1980 or 1981 models. The grant ran out, they did not sell well, and a few overturned causing injury and possibly death, and lawsuits ensued, which is why production was limited to approximately 770 units.
        Still fun, quirky, and easy to work on, this will steal a lot of attention at your local car show, and they are still quite affordable with good parts availability for the industrial motor. I have good friend who has designed a two speed gearbox to replace the centrifugal clutch mechanism, and his car really flies.
        Curiously, I just checked Wikipedia to verify the accuracy of my details, and my yellow Freeway is pictured there:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Yellow_HM_Vehicles_FreeWay.jpg
        Chas

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  4. Charles Gould

    Having said all of that, this one is in truly remarkable original condition, with a single repaint, and is well worth the opening bid. Someone drove this one over 12K miles which is considerable for a Freeway, so it is likely reliable as well.
    Chas

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    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      @Mark — Let us know if you pull the trigger!
      @Charles Gould — Thanks ever so for sharing your expertise! That’s great info for a prospective purchaser to know 🙂

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    • Jw

      Thanks for the info Charles, you are the Motors Manual of Freeway cars. I feel a little smarter today.

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    • Michael Nola

      Charlie I remember you from the mini car club I have a 1981 freeway I am restoring do you know where to find the rear drive assembly sprocket brakes and brake cylinder and shoes

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  5. RayT Member

    This (and the Trihawk) remind me of the Tri-Vette. A guy who worked for me years ago had one: a one-in-front three-wheeler that had the profile of an AMC Gremlin with a long beak and used a Fiat 850 engine/transaxle in the back.

    It was a pathetic automobile, and I believe his total distance covered in it could be measured in yards at best.

    Even so, I really wanted it, and pestered him to sell, which he wouldn’t. Not that I wanted to drive it; I just wanted to own it.

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  6. DREW V.

    You realize of course that there was an optional towing pkg availible for the Freeways??? I liked to have died laughing the 1st time I saw one with a trailer hitch… lol

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  7. jim s

    another one to own but not drive for safety reasons. interesting find.

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  8. mtshootist1

    Well, naming it the Freeway, would have been a very optomistic outlook on life, wonder how many people got run over actually trying to drive it on a freeway. hopefully none..

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  9. Charles Gould

    @jim s I disagree, and I frequently drive my Freeway, which is absolute fine and fun around town, and quite safe and manageable, and not at all dangerous or disconcerting. I would only fear long trips at highway speed such as 400 miles!

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  10. Richard Lewis

    Charles is right on all points on this. I believe there was an aftermarket add-on in the steering system or front suspension that helped to tame some of the unusual handling.

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  11. Charles Gould

    Richard Lewis is absolutely correct. I had forgotten about the kit which one enthusiast designed to enhance the handling, and I understand that it was quite effective in solving most of the steering, stability and suspension issues. I do not recall what the acronym stood for but the kit was called the F.A.R.T kit. I suspect that it stood for Freeway steering revision something.

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  12. Richard Lewis

    Here is what a Freeway might look like that has had less than stellar care. I found a few years ago in a junk yard in So Cal. I did not buy it but a friend did.

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  13. Charles Gould

    Actually Richard, aside from the flat tire, and plexiglas rear window, which is easily replaceable, this one is in great shape, and the gelcoat would likely polish out beautifully on this car as well. This is exactly what my yellow car looked like when I got it, and this is how it looks today:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HM_Vehicles_Free-way#/media/File:Yellow_HM_Vehicles_FreeWay.jpg

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    • Matthew Tritt

      I love that your yellow car makes that Isetta next to it look big! Quite the collection!

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  14. Horse Radish

    Who would even think of putting a radio into this thing ?
    I would imagine you would want to spend as very little time in this death trap as you possibly could.
    The only safe place would be to ride this on a golf course.
    Try riding on a motorcycle in traffic for a week and you know what I mean.
    At least a motorcycle you can steer out of trouble’s way or outrun the danger,
    but not in this !

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  15. MikeG

    I’d imagine Pikes Peak is not an option here.

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  16. Um

    I agree, Mr. Radish. I can think of many more enjoyable ways to die.

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  17. recar

    I think many of us have become morbidly pre-occupied with “safety’. Many folks- myself included- used to revel in every kind in every kind of automotive silliness. I had an Isetta back in the day. I can’t remember if it had seat belts or not, but I’m almost positive that it had no airbags.

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    • Horse Radish

      I picture myself somewhere in the middle between “morbidly pre-occupied with safety” and suicidal.
      After all I am riding a motorcycle without seat belts nor airbags.

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