Bargain EV? 1959 Taylor-Dunn Trident

I have a couple of friends who live in sort of a, not a gated community, but a community.. with a gate and a fence.. hmm.. well, in any case, it would be perfect for something like this 1959 Taylor-Dunn Trident. This 60-year-old EV project can be found here on eBay with an unmet opening bid of, gulp, $5,000 and it’s located in San Diego, California. Thanks to Ikey H. for sending in this tip!

A chicken farmer named R.D. Taylor Sr. in Anaheim, California needed a way to haul chicken feed around and he came up with carts to haul it around on. He started selling them to neighboring farmers and when he was asked to come up with a motorized cart, he came up with the predecessor to this l’il rig. In 1951, a gentleman named Fred Dunn threw his hat into the ring and the two of them were a success. By 1955, the name was changed to Taylor-Dunn Manufacturing Company and in 1959 they came out with the model you see here: the Taylor-Dunn Model R Trident, a battery-powered “shopping car” which was fully street legal. They’re known as NEVs today, Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.

I know, street legal seems strange for such a tiny vehicle and even before the gigantic SUV craze that we’re in now, cars in 1959 weren’t exactly small and soft. Think huge, pointed, protruding bumpers and chest-spearing hood ornaments that could have crushed their share of Taylor-Dunn Trident cars, and Taylor-Dunn Trident car owners. Which brings me back to small communities and it’s even better if they’re private communities without a lot of traffic in them.

The seller says that this vehicle is “in original condition with the exception of re-upholstered seats. Its missing one door latch ornament, fiber glass back hatch and the original battery charger. All other components are there including components to the drive train.” It sure looks like it’s been repainted to me but maybe they don’t mean original paint when they say original condition. These EVs were either steering wheel or tiller controlled and you can see the tiller on this example. If you can find one with a steering wheel, buy it, or better yet, tell me about it… These were basically a golf carts and there’s not much novelty there but this model is rare. It was made as a “shopper”, as in something to go around the neighborhood with and get groceries and things like that. I would prefer one with four wheels myself.

You can see that it’ll need a full restoration but it’ll be more than worth it. A couple of months from now you’ll have a machine that’s probably worth north of $20,000. No, really. A person could almost afford to put in modern batteries and motors/controllers with that big of a profit waiting. A restored example sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2012 for, are you sitting down? – $29,900! Yep, a hun’derd bucks less than thirty-grand. So yeah, those of you who would normally pepper this vehicle with negative comments, here’s your chance to step up to the plate and step into a healthy profit in early-2019 in order to finance that muscle car restoration that you’re working on. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to make the money that’s needed to do what you really want to do in life. This could be one of those times.

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  1. Kenneth Carney

    If it weren’t for the steep opening price and the shipping charges, I’d be all over
    this one! An EV like this one could give
    me a lot of independence as I have a sight impairment that keeps me from driving a conventional car. I know this
    because I met a young lady at a church
    function who has nearly the same limpairment as mine. And while she used
    a golf cart as her means of transport, the
    principle is still the same–you don’t need a licemse to drive one. Oh sure, you’ll
    need to stay off the main roads, but the
    freedom to go anywhere you like is enormous! Scotty, you mentioned the
    fact that you could update the charge
    controllers and batteries to modern
    specs and this is indeed true. I’d be
    using lithium-ion battery stacks mated
    to a 2-way charging system that uses
    either the sun or a 110 volt plug-in to
    charge the batteries after you use it.
    By upgrading the innards, you could
    expect up to a 20 to 30 mile range
    before needing a charge. Until solar
    panels are built into electric cars and
    trucks, range will always be an issue.
    But for short hops around town, this
    thing would be ideal. Could just see
    myself displaying it at our local car
    show every month and having a good
    time doing it. That’s just my 2 cents!

  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    That would be a different project for sure. I remember some of my scooter tramp friends stopping by my home shop to shoot the ‘breeze.’ I was tuning up my Honda Spree scooter. I would get a similar reaction from my friends in the car crowd if they showed up to witness me playing with a bumper car. And they would get a similar response from me.

  3. grant

    Scooters are fun! The few time my friends laughed at mine I told them to be more secure in themselves and try it. Without exception they all loved it. Most of them skipped that part and just asked to ride it!

  4. Scott C.

    I’m a GM retireree at a Fisher Body plant and we had quite a few Taylor-Dunn electric scooters in different configurations to get around in the plant. Had to have an in-plant drivers license to operate one.

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      The old Janesville plant Scott?

    • Alexander

      GM Spring Hill for me. Still open! They don’t trust me with these things running around campus though!

  5. John P

    That’s an expensive golf cart!!

  6. Beatnik Bedouin

    Like Kenneth, the price and shipping (in my case to NZ) is a deal breaker, but these kinds of oddball machines have a real appeal (well, to me, anyway).

    As scooter fans, Geomechs and Grant would probably dig my latest score, ex-Japan. It’s a 1981 Honda Stream with 2200 kms on the clock (see photo).

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      That’s about as cool as it gets in my world, B2!

    • grant

      A scooter with a bucket seat!!! Love it.

  7. xrotaryguy

    It’s a three wheeler! Register it as a motorcycle and split lanes in LA! 🤣

  8. Mike

    Can you imagine if Tesla added their battery pack to this and had a insane/Ludicrous mode?

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Do you really think that this Taylor-Dunn might actually go plaid, Mike..?

  9. Saul

    Taylor-Dunn is still in the business. My plant uses T-D burden carriers and carts all over. They actually have four wheels, steering wheels and flashing lights!

  10. Coventrycat

    A face only a mother could love, but I like it a lot.

  11. That Guy

    When I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s my grandmother lived in a retirement community in Claremont, CA. These and others like them were quite popular with the old folks, and they were a common sight on the local streets. They always had three wheels and tiller steering, and were road legal. I’m not sure why they disappeared but it seems to me they had mostly vanished by the mid-70’s.


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