Mystery Project Car: What Is It?

Barn Finds reader James C. submitted this find wondering if we could identify it — it turns out we can, as we have featured two of them in the past. This one is for sale here on craigslist in Mount Vernon, New York. The seller is inviting offers, so see what you think it’s worth!

Enough suspense — this is a Trimuter, originally designed by Robert Riley and featured in Mechanix Illustrated in 1980. As it turns out, Mr. Riley is still very much around and still sells plans for an updated version of the Trimuter today. Of course, now you can build an electric, diesel or gas version! It’s hard to tell if this build was ever completed from the pictures, but it has certainly been damaged underneath.

There’s other issues apparent on the hood, and of course you will be on your own for glass (plastic?) windows. The tilted portion in the front was where the hidden headlights were intended to mount. Trivia time: a modified Trimuter was featured in the movie Total Recall.

This Trimuter looks like it was equipped with the original Kohler 2-cylinder engine per the plans. I’m guessing the electric clutch on the left was used to engage what looks like a starter motor for reverse capability. The more I look at this Trimuter, the more I think it wasn’t run long, if at all — the CVT clutch and mufflers look brand new. Are you interested in finishing this project — or restarting it? Did you know what it was when you saw it? Let us know in the comments!


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  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    In many large metropolises (metropoli?) like Seattle, San Francisco, Rome and the like, the city engineers are reducing the number and size of parking spaces to encourage smaller cars and public transport. This rig and its more modern ilk are what they’re looking for.
    As for many of us, a trip to the city is a lesson of rudeness and truly poor drivers. Those folks can have all of these they desire. This is a car ahead of its time, but a lot of folks will want to lock that time continuum in place so as to avoid the negativity that seems to be rampant (and the norm) on the byways in those places..

    Like 2
  2. Rich C

    Looks like a car that would be used by Spy vs Spy in Mad Magazine.
    Kinda fits the head shape.

    Like 7
  3. Slightly Askew

    It’s the “Spymobile” in the “Spy vs. Spy” series.

    Like 9
  4. Chris M.

    What is it you ask? It’s a P.O.S.

    Like 5
  5. Shaun Dymond

    It’s definitely an unusual design. Reminds me of the front end of the Pink Panther’s car that was in the opening credits of the ‘60’s television series.

    Like 3
  6. Ron G.

    Howdy, thanks for listing this. I have been looking for a Trimuter and just purchased this one so it is now sold. This should be a fun/challenging project

    Like 8
    • grant

      Awesome, have fun with it!

      Like 4
    • Russell

      Keep us in the loop … so to speak

      Like 2
  7. Fernando Abruna

    Great Design.My admiration and respect for Mr. Robert Riley.

    Like 2
  8. Dan

    Since it has an odd number of wheels, is saddled with a CVT, and is almost painful to look at, I’d consider $1 to be a rip-off. It strikes me as a poor blend of motorcycle and car.

    Like 2
    • james malone Member

      Dear lord, where’s your sense of humour and adventure! you are missing the fun of this hobby/obsession!

      Like 5
  9. william bocheff

    I’m thinkin’ something along the lines of “death on wheels”…

  10. S L Barta

    Judging from the color, I’d say it was a Cub Cadet. Where’s the mower deck?

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