Stay Off the On-Ramp: 1980-81 HMV Free-Way

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

Are you more of an original vehicle lover or a resto-mod vehicle lover? How about with three-wheeled vehicles? Hello? Hey, where’d everyone go? These wacky things are a 1980 and 1981 HMV Free-Way and the orange one appears original whereas the black one has been modified, a lot. The orange one is listed on eBay in West Palm Beach, Florida with a current bid price of just under $2,800 but the reserve isn’t met. The sinister black one, or as sinister as one of these can be, is on Craigslist in South Hadley, Massachusetts for $5,000 or offer.

H-M (high-mileage) Vehicles, or HMV, was a company in Burnsville, Minnesota that made these unusual three-wheeled vehicles from 1979 to 1982. It goes without saying that they were made to take advantage of aerodynamics to cheat the wind, and also to cheat gas stations with their 60+ mpg or 100+ mpg numbers, depending on which engine the owner wanted. These things are typically titled as motorcycles, depending on your state’s regulations. You’ll also have to check whether a helmet is required, even with an enclosed cab. I’m assuming that the orange one was found in storage somewhere, they show this photo of it with things piled on and in it. Jamie featured one two years ago, a 12-hp version, that was going for $4,250.

There are no engine photos for the orange car, but the seller, a dealer, says that it has the higher 16 hp Tecumseh engine option, good for 60-70 mpg when driven at 40 mph. And, for the record, these were never, ever made for driving on the freeway, just to get that out of the way now. The smaller engine was a 12 hp Tecumseh. The black car has been hot-rodded quite a bit, at least for these vehicles. You’d better sit down for this next part: the black one used to have the 12 hp but it now has a Kawasaki Ninja 500R engine with 50 hp in it! I’ve wanted an HMV Free-Way for several years but I don’t know if I’d trust myself with a 50 hp version! I’ve read a lot of forums on them and even though they have the most-stable three-wheel layout with two wheels in front, the engines were mounted fairly high and they were a little tippy. I’m assuming that the reserve on the 16-hp orange one is well over $5,000. These little oddball vehicles are climbing in value as people are realizing that dang near everything else has become too expensive. And, these are so easy to store and they really do draw a huge crowd.

Most of the black ’81 Free-Way photos show it without the cab/body, so they don’t really show what the interior looks like. But, being open, you can see the entire framework, or lack thereof, on these things. And, just to get this out of the way, too: no, you don’t want to get t-boned by a Suburban in this. That always comes up on any small vehicle shown for some reason, as if people who love and drive these things don’t know that already. This would be a tough choice for me. I’m a staunch original-spec guy, but I love the look of the black one with the plain black rims and caps. If the orange one were local I’d be on it like crazy, but then again, that black one.. hmm.. Have you seen one of these before?

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Comments

  1. billy

    Clark Howard the radio guy was one of the original investors in this company. (if I recall correctly) It was a strange time, we had just experienced the price of gas double in a short period, people were trying all sorts of wacky ways to save fuel and heat homes, etc. I recall gong to many energy fairs at that time, a lot of hippy types hawking all sorts of things, most of which didn’t pan out because as soon as the price of energy got where the rich people wanted it, all of a sudden, there was no longer a shortage. Gosh, funny how that happens, huh? Well, some of us learned to enjoy small fun cars. I dropped my Road Runner and have never looked back. Won’t find me with a 5000 pound truck when oil his $200 a barrel!

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    • Dave Wright

      Have you ever seen something like this after a 5000 lb truck ran it over……………the cost of fuel won’t be so important to you after that.

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      • billy

        I don’t drive anything this absurd, but my small cars will out handle your lumber truck, can probably get out of the way before disaster happens, plus get 40MPG. What do you get?

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    • glen

      $44.81 a barrel, so you can drive the truck for a while , yet!

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      • Dave Wright

        Oil is the second most common liquid on earth.

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    • dkray

      Why not just wait until the Elio comes out next year. $7450, 80mpg, and a top speed of 106 mph. eliomotors.com

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      • Patrick Huff

        I’ve been waiting 7 years on my Eliot

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  2. Mike

    Can’t believe I almost bought one when they came out. They were so cool with the one seat and the sloped back.

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  3. Tony S

    “These little oddball vehicles are climbing in value as people are realizing that dang near everything else has become too expensive.”

    Respectfully, where are you getting this info from?

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    • MSG Bob

      Not to put words in Scotty’s mouth, but I think he means that the car collecting hobby is what has gotten too expensive. For the most part, I agree with that.

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  4. John H

    A friend bought one of these — in orange — when gas spiked. He worked about 40 miles from home, so this was his commuter car. His commute was on I-81 through central PA, and around Harrisburg, and he always said the car could keep up with the flow of traffic.

    He always said the car’s biggest problem was the drive tire riding in the center of the lane. On rainy days it was slick and during a snowstorm in the winter it was snow-covered. He spun it off the road several times due to snow.

    He really wanted to mount toy (?) machine guns to the front fenders.

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  5. JimmyZ

    That second one has been modded with a Kawasaki Ninja 500 engine. I bet that’s a squirrel to drive.

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    • Nova Scotian

      Ha!!! LOL!😂

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  6. JCW Jr. Member

    I worked on a guys cars at a garage. One day he stopped a d showrd us his new ride. It was one of these. About 4 months later he was hit by a car got really messed up. Was cars fault he sued got big bucks. He did say on a bike most likely would have been killed. He never rode a bike again and did not replace his hi way with another. He did say it was fun and he really like it till then.

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  7. JCW Jr. Member

    Sorry said hi way instead of free way

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