1969 Velorex: Three Wheeled Rarity

velorex

The popularity of the recently re-imagined Morgan 3-wheeler has spurred a new generation of owners who throw caution to the wind to practically sit on the ground with the handling qualities like only a 3-wheeled vehicle can deliver. But did you know Morgan wasn’t the only game in town? The Velorex, like this 1969 example here on eBay, hails from Czechoslovakia and features a 350CC chain-driven 2-stroke motor. It is comprised of a variety of materials, from steel to leather to plywood. Experts say there are less than 10 in the United States, so this Canadian find is quite rare indeed. Growing up in the Hudson Valley region, I saw one of these distinctive cars every now and again, owned by a very eccentric man and his wife. Given they lived in a castle he built himself in a rural area,  I suppose a Velorex was quite the suitable car for him! Do any of you have memories of driving a Velorex or know where one is hiding? Let us know in the comments below.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Rovinman

    Here in Bangkok, at the Jesada Technik Museum, (a Microcar Museum), there are 6 of these beasts.
    See this link (mostly in Thai)

    http://www.jesadatechnikmuseum.com/en/collection_detail.php?id=4

  2. Dave Wright

    There were a whole slew of 3 wheelers built in England…….The Bond comes to mind immediately. This type of car should remind us of the power of Tax Laws. Different countries had rules that exempted or reduced tax rates for 3 wheelers and micro cars under a prescribed horsepower. Even European furniture was influenced by tax law. On the mainland, if you had a built in closet it was taxed as another room……..so the proliferation of amours to store clothes. The laws change and markets follow.

  3. David Frank David Member

    There are a few of these for sale, like this one in Georgia, listed here; http://www.cycletrader.com/listing/1969-Velorex-3-wheeler-112189869
    It is also a 1969 and almost identical. Thiings like the wheel caps give it away as a different car. They are asking $12,900 for it.
    There are said to be only 10 in the US. These were made by Jawa of Czechoslovakia I believe. I owned a Jawa motorcycle years ago. It had a really smooth 350 2 stroke just like these. You had to mix the gas and oil, unlike other 2 strokes of the day. Mostly, it was very reliable, cheap to buy and almost new.

  4. Horse Radish

    I wanna be eccentric.

    Drive a jalopy like this and build a castle in rural California.

    While I heard and seen these before, I really did not know that there are experts for these…..

  5. Larry Grinnell

    The Dezer museum in North Miami had one or two of them as recently as 6-9 months ago.

  6. Charles Gould

    Velorex are great little cars, and there are quite a few more than 10 here in the states, but they are still very rare. The Weiner Museum had one or two as did the Dezer collection, and the one for sale in Georgia was from an owner that had two of them as well. The NY castle builder who you reference is Peter Wing, and his spectacular eccentric castle is worth visiting or googling to have a look at it.
    A friend and I imported two of them directly from the Czech Republic almost fifteen years ago, and we both drove them regularly. I also acquired a second one later from the estate of a good friend who passed, and that car now resides in the Lane collection. So that is ten examples that I know of here in the states without counting this one on offer, and without really digging any deeper.
    They are very quirky cars but fun to drive. They have a tubular framework covered by the hyde of that rare animal, the “Naugha”, much like an old fabric airplane. So it is not actual leather, but rather Naugahyde. Still quite primitive for a 1969/1970 era car, but these were conceived in 1945 and actually produced relatively unchanged from 1963 though 1973. They were all the same brown color, and all of them use a “BMW nail style” key that is identical for all cars, so it was easy to grab the wrong car if you came out of a Czech pub late at night. Curiously they solved this by placing a tiny padlock on the door handle, and the brake and clutch pedals had a horizontal pipe welded to the vertical pipe lever, and the cars were sold with a smaller diameter pipe that was threaded through the brake and clutch pedal and then a pad lock was placed on that pipe to prevent anyone from taking your Velorex. The problem was that the keys to all of these padlocks were all the same as well. So, although non Velorex owners were prevented from stealing your car, other Velorex owners could easily drive off in your machine!
    The cars used all Jawa motorcycle parts, including the 250cc and later 350cc two stroke engine/gearbox, wheels, tyres, fenders, lights, and even the motorcycle fuel tank is tucked under that fabric bodywork. As you can imagine, the motorcycle engine had no reverse gear, so a novel solution was in order. Being a two stroke engine, it does not care which way it runs. So, to reverse the Velorex, you simply shut the engine off, and then pull a switch on the floor which reverses polarity to the starter, and activates a second set of points which are timed AFTER top dead center, and the engine is simply started in the reverse direction, theoretically providing four reverse gears as well. This was the same arrangement used in the Messerschmitt KR200 “Kabinenrollers”. Unfortunately a three wheeler does not handle very well in reverse with the two steerable wheels in the rear of the direction of travel! So, reversing speeds should be carefully restricted.
    It is crazy to think that a fender bender in a Velorex requires a tailor instead of a bodyman!

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