Some Assembly Required: Tri-Magnum Project

Way back, when dinosaurs were kings, we were a very handy nation.  Without 87,000 channels on TV, other distractions occupied our time.  One of the biggest distractors were do it yourself magazines, such as Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Mechanix Illustrated.  Every month, these magazines would have detailed articles on such diverse topics as “How to Build a Mobile Garden Cart” to “Build This Home Waterboarding Chair.”  The men of this great period of American history would then go into their garages and begin building these items using the vast amounts of tools all real men possessed.  We were a nation of builders, and we were not afraid to tackle any task, no matter how complex or absurd.  There exists, for sale on Craigslist out of Prophetstown, Illinois, one last unfinished relic of this long bygone era.  A gentleman is selling most of what you need to create a Tri-Magnum rolling trike, and the secret plans from Mechanix Illustrated to build this futuristic transportation conveyance.  The cost of admission for this radical project is just $900, and we have intrepid reader Pat L. to thank for tipping us off to this opportunity.

The Tri-Magnum was a build it yourself three wheeled trike that Mechanix Illustrated promoted in a 1983 cover article.  Looking like it had been built for a sequel to the global hit movie Megaforce, this motorcycle based home built isn’t exactly a kit car.  With a kit car, you usually find a donor chassis, engine, and suspension and attach a body kit and all the trim to that.  With the Tri-Magnum, you had to source a Honda Goldwing, the front suspension and steering of a Corvair, and surely some more junkyard parts and pieces.  After you started assembling this futuristic rolling movie prop, I am sure a number of raids on the local hardware store were in order as well.

The plans for building this aerodynamic road warrior come as both a 73 page manual and 13 separate 18″X24″ blueprints to assist in fabrication.  While the seller seems to have had these plans for some time, updated plans are still available by the designer.  R.Q. Riley is the gentleman’s name, and he also has a website that can tell you a lot more about these 50+ mile per gallon wonders.  While I think the skill level needed to put one of these together in a professional manner is fairly high, the seller thinks that nearly anyone can throw one together.  Maybe he needs to interact with the general public a bit more.  While there are still a few people out there with the tools and the talent, the general public has, sadly, made it a habit to look down on people who work with their hands.  Just look at the problems we as a society are having trying to interest students in vocational careers.

The seller has included in the price a 1982 Honda Goldwing with an 1100 cc engine, the Corvair front suspension that you will need to complete the front end, the booklet, and the blueprints.  The owner does warn us that the Gold Wing has a blown head gasket to add to your laborious pleasure.  The plans must be for an older design, because Mr. Riley talks about the kits having a VW based front end.  I am assuming these are parts from the old Beetle, but Corvair parts should work just as well.  This might be the most hard to source parts you would need, as Beetles and Corvairs are no longer as plentiful in local junkyards.  Their time has passed.

Of course, you have to ask yourself if time has passed by build it yourself cars like this as well.  While it might be a fun project, it is really not that practical.  Without opening windows, an air conditioner, or the creature comforts of a car that we all take for granted now, would the cost and time spent building it be worth it, or would it end up as lawn art?

Fast Finds


  1. RayT Member

    So for $900 you get the instruction manual, a clapped-out Gold Wing and some assorted bits which you too can turn into a futuristic sports car?

    I think not. If I bought this, it would remain in the same state forever, since I (probably like the original purchaser) lack the skills to make this happen.

    Can’t even count the number of old Mechanix Illustrated “projects” that impelled me to buy the magazine, study the step-by-step instructions intently, and conclude that no, this was yet another I wouldn’t be building….

    • grant

      The Goldwing is worth $900 all day long. Is it an Interstate or an Aspencade? I cant quite tell. I rode on the back of a buddy’s 84 Aspencade in this same color down I20 from Atlanta to Augusta towing a matching trailer once, only time I’ve ever thought I might doze off on a bike! Very comfy and stable. Someone will buy this for the bike alone and sell off or scrap the rest.

  2. Elrod

    Somewhere in depths of the Earth, there is a secret cave where a caped crusader has collected every Mechanix Illustrated contraption ever contrived – he salivates now over this latest masterpiece, and rushes to the red sirens and the alarms going off in his head to obtain this mighty trophy! If only he had a piece of transportation that actually ran….

    Like 1
  3. LOSER

    $900? I would negotiate at $9. This guy has got some seeds.

  4. glen

    The front reminds me of that Bricklin from the other day.

    • chad

      “The front reminds me of that Bricklin from the other day.”

      or is it the back?

      • glen

        I had another look, I’m now thinking the front bumper of the Bricklin was attached to the back! Either way, it’s different.

  5. Rocco

    How do you get in it? Is there a door somewhere?

  6. Dt 1

    It looks like a half of a 1980 Lamborghini what the hell is it

  7. Darrun

    As a young man, I bought the Original Mechanics Illustrated magazine that those plans were in.(and probably still have it stashed away) I dreamed of building one of these for several years, but the lack of needed skills, money, tools and a garage kept it from ever happening.
    Although the bike is probably worth the asking price in parts alone, you can buy running Goldwings quite cheap if you shop around. The Corvair front suspension is not configured right for the chassis design. Your legs actually go over the front VW axle when you’re sitting in the cockpit.
    The body is a major fiberglassing project in it’s self. The chassis is quite simple to build. A few years ago, I came across a Fire Aero. This was the same concept, but the body was factory built. I assembled that chassis and mounted the body, then realized I was no longer that young man with a desire for this, and that dream was over. Passed it on to someone that still had a dream.

  8. Darrun

    Fire Aero

  9. Coventrycat

    I really admire those that can complete a project like that; I love the idea of it, but know my limitations – and enthusiasm- end about the same time the article does

  10. jw454

    It’s more of a plan than a project at this point.

    • Pa Tina

      Remember that putting men on the moon started with a plan. Perhaps if you could find all of the folks that worked on that project and they all brought tools, this Plan 9 From Outer Space could someday be a wicked cool ride. On second thought, forget about it.

  11. mark

    So the Gold Wing needs a head gasket. Offer 700 bucks for everything. Fix the Goldwing for 300. Throw the plans away and ride the Goldwing.

  12. Paul

    I burst out laughing at the part about the windows not rolling down.

  13. TechnoHippie

    sooo seeing how you can buy the plans for this still for like 95 bucks

    what is REALLY for sale here is a $805 Goldwing.

    If you want to build the trike this you can just buy the instructions from the people who own the rights to them and pick whatever bike you want (like one that’s not all f’d up for example).

    This guy should have 3 ads on craigslist – one for $50 for the instructions and one for $300 for scrap metal (corvair front suspension) and one for $500 for the Goldwing – assuming he has the title for it..

  14. Casey Jones

    If he had a finished body he would have something otherwise all I see is a Goldwing and a manual he clearly rolled his joints on and picked pot seeds off of.

    As mentioned above the bike is worth the cost of admission but I’d toss the book.

  15. Rod444

    Or for another $740 you could buy this questionably “completed” Tri-Magnum with questionable fiberglass work, questionable graphics, questionable safety and mostly questionable taste.

    • Pa Tina

      I was in New London last week. I missed a golden opportunity.

  16. charles

    It calls for a VW front end double torsion bar tube design.

    Not a Corvair front end that is wrong.

    Today it would be possible to build it
    much lighter than in the 80’s .
    Aluminum and better steel tubing options.
    Also new Epoxies instead of fiberglass.
    And lots of Sport bikes to choose from.

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