Cool Commuter: 1980 Vanguard-Sebring Comuta-Car

Until the release of the Tesla, fully-electric production vehicles were largely a thing of the past. Prior to the Tesla Model S, the CitiCar and its variants held the record for most fully-electric units assembled by a North American company. This 1980 Comuta-Car, which superseded the CitiCar, is largely  complete and hasn’t been neglected in the way many of these electric cars were. It needs batteries, and some minor cosmetic work, but there is no doubt this would be a hilarious commuter! Find it here on eBay in Texas with bidding at $466 and no reserve! Thanks to Matt W. for sending this in. 

The interior of this car is a direct combination of an economy car and a golf cart. The dash construction, wood grain, and steering wheel all say “affordable American car” while the instrument and control set up says “get me to the 18th hole.” It even has heat! The seats are removed to show the battery compartment, but they are intact and included with the sale. In case you didn’t notice from the outside, 85% of this car is passenger compartment! I can’t imagine anyone looking or being comfortable in this car, but I’ve never driven one so I could be completely wrong.

This is where the magic happens. This would appear to be the battery compartment, but I’m not at all familiar with these cars! There are no batteries in it at the moment, but it takes eight six-volt deep cycle batteries. Furthermore, it has reportedly been fitted with a newer six horsepower GE electric motor. According to the ad, “Should be noted that previous owner installed a solid state electric controller which tremendously adds to the reliability and performance.”

These cars have hilariously enormous bumpers on the front and rear that would be excellent for sitting on while doing…something that requires sitting. The rear window is not installed, but it is included and in good condition. I would love to have something like this for local commuting when I felt like having a laugh. While it may be an efficient car, with cars like the Tesla available nowadays it is really more of a novelty. Would you drive it?

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Comments

  1. Matt Member

    One of my closest friends own one of these, and he drives it to school sometimes, he bought it as a joke and since he only lives 10 minutes rom the school its fine (unlike build quality). Pretty funny little car if i do say so myself!

    • Andrew Tanner Member

      That’s exactly what I would want one for!

  2. Madmatt

    I would love to drive it to and from my business,10 min drive-
    as Iam now old enough to”not care”what others think,or say!
    this would be fine for me in the summer,but wouldn’t make it in a
    normal north Ohio winter….looks nice,and fun!

  3. Steve R

    It looks like a rolling coffin.

    Steve R

  4. XMA0891

    When these were still being produced, my uncle bought a wrecked one and completely re-did it.
    He lived in MN. He didn’t keep it long.
    Citicar, L’electric Leopard, or even Tesla, IMO all these cars are never going to be much more than a novelty given existing battery storage capabilities.
    We’ll get there someday, until then I’ll keep my internal combustion engine.

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      I agree, until we do away with the battery setup ( something that hasn’t changed in over 100 years) electric cars will never be viable. And as long as gasoline is still around, there’s no need to develop it further.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcmZ1dof3Qw

      • Kerry

        Rube, thanks for your input. Couple of points: 1) battery technology is moving fast. Today’s LI-ION batteries will be replaced with something better. 2) Most cars are driven less than 50 miles/day. Even today’s EVs are good for 200+ miles. 3) EVs can recover much of the kinetic energy wasted by ICE cars in braking. 4) EVs are much simpler; while an ICE drivetrain has hundreds of moving parts, an EV has just one. Most EVs don’t even have a transmission. 5) We know that the supply of fossil fuels is finite, whereas the sun will outlast us all. 6) All the car makers are moving fast to electric. Some countries have already set deadlines to stop the sale of ICE cars.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      Battery capacities are one of the biggest issues with electric cars, but there are a couple of others to consider. Firstly, you need to look at where the owner draws their charging from. If their electricity supplier is producing power using coal or gas generation, then they are just moving the environmental issues elsewhere. The second is the fact that battery production (and the disposal of used batteries) is an incredibly polluting industry. This car is great for a giggle, but like all electric cars, people bought them to make themselves feel warm and fuzzy inside.

      • r spreeman

        Wonderful to see some rational discourse on this. People pushing electrics don’t like to think where the power comes from. Solar? Wind? Ha. And we will run out of minerals for making those batteries long before we run out of fossil fuels. Since when is there anything efficient about replacing 100 pounds of gasoline with 2000 pounds of batteries?

      • George Goldtrap

        I bought the second Citicar off the SEBRING FL assembly line. Paid $1800.00. Drove it to my Court House
        office 5 days a week for 2 years…no oil, no gas. Replaced one 12v battery. Sold car for $1300.00. So, daily transport for 2 years…$300.00 per year. Pretty economical transportation. I now drive a Hundai Ionic hybred. 50+ mpg. Great transportation.

  5. Mark Hoffman

    The Pontiac dealer in the town I grew up in got the franchise for the CityCar when they came out about 1974. They sold maybe six or so.

    A yellow one was put into duty as an errands car for the dealership. Back and forth to DMV with paperwork , runs to parts stores, even though there were 2 a block away, etc.

  6. eggsalad

    Idly wondering what the motor voltage is. Could possibly install Lithium Ion or LiFePO4 battery pack and the appropriate charging. Interesting…

    • doug

      48 volts in 1974.

      Like 1
  7. Beatnik Bedouin

    To answer the question – Yes, I would.

    If I had someplace to store it, on-site, I’d be tempted to buy it and bring the damned thing to NZ, even though the shipping cost would probably be more than the buy price.

    I live in a small town in a tourist area of NZ, and it could be handy on rainy days (I ride an ex-pizza delivery scooter as my main form of transport ’round these parts).

    • Andrew Tanner Member

      Sounds like you really have a use for it!

    • Peter

      Just buy an old golf cart there, instead of the import costs?

      Like 1
  8. Rokoneer

    I believe in these later Vanguard cars that the batteries are actually stored in the GIANT front and rear bumpers whereas the earlier versions had the batteries under the seats. Now that would make for an interesting collision result!

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      You are correct, sir. The CitiCar has the batteries under the seat and the Comuta-Car has the batteries poking out on each end. The trick with every vehicle ever made since cavemen started rolling the stone wheel around is to not get into a collision with another vehicle. No matter the propulsion system (battery, gas, propane, hydrogen, diesel, chipmunk, etc.) or whether it’s big or small (Comuta-Car, Suburban, etc.), it’s never good. For the time, these cars were pretty safe with an aluminum cage. And, of course, they were never meant for high-speed freeway commuting, just for running to the store or to work and back on city streets.

  9. Kerry

    Chick magnet! I drive a ’71 VW that I converted to electric, and get more attention than a Ferrari.

    Like 1
  10. Patrick D.

    I think it was a similar car that was molested by an Elephant in the John Laroquette Show.

    Sorry, this reference is just too obscure…

  11. Jack Quantrill

    Looks like a prop from a Woody Allen movie!

  12. Three Pedal Steve

    My only laps on the Sebring race track were behind the wheel of a Vanguard.

    The factory was right there at the old airport and the race track was their proving ground. I was called in as a design engineering consultant back in the day. They sent me out in one of the factory “mules” to do a couple of hot laps. It was painfully slow……… But I have driven Sebring!

  13. JW

    Like I said about the Maverick looking for a commuter car for the wife but if I bought her this car she would divorce me and after 37 years of marriage I’m too old to break in a new model.

  14. Peter

    Looks like a golf ball retrieval car??

    • redsresto

      Looks like a door stop…

      • Peter

        For a large door.

  15. Francisco

    There’s one of these going around my town. Ironically it’s owned by the guy who owns the local stock car track. I looked at it up close once, and noticed the batteries were stored in the front bumper.

  16. dr fine

    I was going to comment that in the eighties I almost bought one for $500 as a joke, but this one is even cheaper. Uncle Eddie on Grounded for Life drove one. He got mad at someone and drove off in a huff. She walked down the street, grabbed the car, and stopped it!

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I forgot about the car being in that show but as soon as you mentioned, I remembered.

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