Rad Microcar: 1960 Messerschmitt KR200 Kabrio

As you look at the Messerschmitt KR200, it isn’t hard to notice hints of the company’s aviation heritage in the vehicle’s design. That the KR200 was something of a sales success is no doubt, and the fact that today they are a desirable collectible is also beyond question. Barn Finder Ikey H referred this original little KR200 to us, so thank you for that Ikey. The Messerschmitt is located in Santa Ana, California, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $22,500 for the tiny classic.

While this vehicle is considered by many people to be a Messerschmitt, technically, this isn’t actually correct. Following the end of World War II, Messerschmitt was a company with a strong aviation history that was forbidden to build aircraft. The company diversified in a couple of areas, but eventually stumbled upon the production of micro-cars. The first of their cars, the KR175, rolled out of the Messerschmitt factory in February of 1953. This remained in production until 1955, when the updated, and more powerful, KR200 was released. Although the KR200 remained in production until 1964, by 1956 Messerschmitt found itself in a position where it was permitted to return to its core aviation business. Suddenly, the need for motor vehicle production was an unnecessary distraction, so the company chose to sell its manufacturing works in Regensburg to a consortium which comprised Fritz Fend, the car’s designer, and brake manufacturer Valentin Knott. The resulting company was known as “Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH Regensburg,” or FMR. Therefore, if you look at this particular car, you will see that nowhere does it carry a Messerschmitt badge, Where this would normally sit on the car’s nose is a distinctive FMR badge. And yet, to this day, the majority of people still refer to the cars as “Messerschmitts.”

The styling of the Messerschmitt is distinctive, and there is no mistaking what sort of vehicle you are looking at. The car was available in two distinct types, being the model with the full bubble canopy, and the “Kabrio.” This particular vehicle is the Kabrio, which has the soft-top and fixed side window frames. There was also a full Roadster built, and although it was essentially identical to the Kabrio, except that the side glass and window frames could be removed, it carried the KR201 model designation. This one is finished in a shade called “Grau,” or Grey. There are a few minor dings and marks on the body, but none of these look to be too bad. The car seems to be free of any real rust, although there is some corrosion “leaking” from under a couple of scratches in the paint, and from under the FMR badge on the vehicle’s nose. The KR200 is not weighed down with a massive amount of exterior trim and chrome, but what it wears appears to be in good condition.

Signs of the aviation heritage of Messerschmitt are pretty obvious when you look at the interior of the KR200, especially the tandem seating position. Because it was designed to operate as affordable transport for the masses, the interior trim of the KR200 is pretty basic. Vinyl abounds on the seats and the sides of the interior, while there is carpet on the floor. The interior actually doesn’t look to be too bad. The covers on the seats appear to be free of any major rips or tears, and I think these might restore okay. Some of the vinyl trim items look like they have come loose, but the majority of these look like they might be able to be successfully glued back into place. The dash is a model of simplicity, with a few warning lights, a voltmeter, and a speedometer. Forget a wheel, because the steering is performed by an item that you could refer to as either a steering yoke or handlebars. The similarity to a motorcycle extends to what happens when you move that yoke because the steering in a KR200 is staggeringly direct. A small movement results in a very big change of direction, and this really takes some getting used to.

Powering the KR200 is a 191cc (or 11.7ci) single-cylinder, two-stroke engine, delivering 10hp. This engine marked a leap forward in performance over the KR175, which had to make do with a mere 9½hp. This larger engine allowed the KR200 to achieve a top speed of 62mph, while the car could also deliver fuel economy figures of 60mpg (or higher) with ease. Since we don’t get any engine photos, we have to rely on the owner’s words, and this is where things get confusing. He mentions the fact that the engine is in good condition but then goes on to say that it turns freely. I would take this as meaning that the engine doesn’t actually run. That engine, built by Fichtel and Sachs, is actually a pretty straightforward engine to work on, so if there are any issues, they should be easy to address. Power is then sent to the rear wheel via a 4-speed manual transmission, which is a sequential shift, much like a motorcycle. In a further similarity to vehicles of the two-wheeled variety, it is also a transmission with no reverse gear. In the KR175, the solution to this issue was to get out of the car and push it backwards. For the KR200, Messerschmitt devised a cunning system to address this. The engine featured a system called “Electramatic,” which allowed the engine to be restarted in the reverse direction. This then effectively endowed the KR200 with four reverse gears, and meant that theoretically, the KR200 had the same top speed being driven backwards as it did being driven forwards!

When it was first introduced, the Messerschmitt KR200 was a pretty reasonable sales success, but during its lifetime, sales dropped dramatically. This initial success meant that around 40,000 cars were produced. As well as being a success in their home country, the KR200 also sold in reasonable numbers in countries such as the UK. Many factors led to the ultimate demise of the KR200, but possibly one of the greatest factors was the introduction of the original Mini in 1959. Here was a car that was only 9″ longer than the KR200, and offered the owner so much more, including a useable trunk, a normal transmission, and twice the seating capacity. While sales slumped and production of the KR200 eventually wound down in 1964, today the KR200 has become an extremely popular cult classic. The little car that sold for $1,070 when new can now command prices well in excess of $40,000. This particular car is said to be a solid car that has never had any accident damage, and at the asking price, it actually represents a pretty promising project car.


  1. Gaspumpchas

    These types of 3 wheeled vehicles have real squirrely handling. I have known 3 guys who lost their lives driving these. Might be a cool museum piece but as far as driving them—NEIN!!!

    Like 6
  2. Rube Goldberg Member

    This Mike Wolfe goes bananas over these things, escalating the price into the stratosphere, good for him, just a big expensive toy anyway. That reversing 2 cycle is also used on golf carts ( I think) and again, 3 wheeler, single tire running in the oil strip. Looks like a fun thing, you’d have to be off your cork to go 60 in this, but for a parade at 6 mph, be a hit. Where the rich pi$$ their money away,,,,

  3. Ramone

    Great story, Adam. Always learn stuff on BF. Interesting little death trap. Cool car. Certainly get attention driving this!

  4. Robert Park

    My dad bought one as a project when I was a kid. The Sachs motor had thrown a rod. We would pump up the tires, drag it to a nearby hill and soapbox derby it.He sold it years later un-restored as he was too busy with other projects (Nash Metropolitan’s)

  5. Marshall

    When I was in high school in the early 70s, we had a German exchange teacher who had one of those.

  6. Lookout Mtn, Tn

    Had one of these back in the 60’s…had the bubble top and conv top. Also neat that the engine would reverse itself run “either way” and you could go just as fast backwards as forward. Those times are but a forgotten era as the clock is running out. Willingham/ Lookout Mtn

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