Not Quite Teslas: Pair of 1976 CitiCars

1976 CitiCar

I’ll bet a lot of you think the Tesla is the first electric car marketed in the US (the one you see above isn’t it either, there were electrics available very early in the automobile’s history). The Citicar/CommutaCar was offered in various forms from 1974 to 1982; I remember seeing them advertised in magazines during that timeframe. These two, or really 1-1/2 as only one has bodywork, have found their way to sunny Youngtown, Arizona and have come up for auction here on eBay with reserve not met as I write this.

 

Comuta-car AdCitiCar Ad

Although I’m a sports car enthusiast, I’m also a fan of anything that’s a little different, and this car is certainly different! From a little research, I found that the 1974-1976 CitiCar was based on a golf cart design, and was brought out as a response to the oil crisis and corresponding rise in gas prices at that time. Later on, the design was sold to Commuter Vehicles, who modified it slightly and sold it as a CommutaCar, which is what these vehicles are labeled as in the eBay auction. Actually, as far as I can tell, these cars could be either CommutaCars or CitiCars, as they have the later heater air side scoops but the one with a body has a CitiCar nameplate. 

1976 CitiCar Chassis

The design featured an aluminum space frame that the body was attached to, or formerly attached in the case of the second car in the auction. Both cars have clear Arizona titles, so if you were interested in a rebody of the second car (I can’t imagine it being too hard as every panel is basically flat) that would certainly be possible. Believe it or not, in 1976 Sebring-Vanguard, the manufacturer of the CitiCar, was the sixth largest auto producer in the USA. Eventually over 4,400 of these little cars were produced. In case you are wondering, they were powered originally by a set of 6-volt batteries.

1976 CitiCar Interior

The inside picture here was interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First, I wouldn’t have expected an attempt at luxury in a basic vehicle like this (the fake woodgrain panels). And finally, anyone familiar with difficulties with period Lucas electrical components would question the choice of a Lucas multi-function control stalk for an electric car! That’s an MGB or MG Midget interior door handle on the right as well if I’m not mistaken.

1976 Electric CitiCar

Offering a top speed in the mid-thirties and a limited range even if restored, this “classic” would certainly have limited use today—but there are certainly folks interested! I found an owners group, a descendant company of an original supplier that can supply parts and technical expertise, and an online version of the owners manual in just a short search online. There are even pictures of a young owner using one as transportation to his high school prom! I don’t think they would work for my commute, but what about yours?

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Comments

  1. Rancho Bella

    Just the cars name is enough to make me want to buy them………..
    commutacar………..gwad that is funny

    They appear to be golf carts with an enclosed body.

    The boy (owns a fiberglass repair biz) and I would soon have these finished and painted in no time flat and his buds build desert karts on batt juice.
    Tempting

  2. Car39

    i live in a golf cart friendly community. If you’re not in a hurry, or looking for luxury, they’re pretty handy. These could work under those criteria

  3. J.W.

    If your a fan of History channels Counting Cars out of Vegas you will know Danny’s employee conned him in to helping him purchase and rebuild one but it’s way customized and has a motorcycle motor I believe.

    • James g

      He talked about a motor but that never happened he kept it electric one episode that they finally did the car at the end Rolli gets in the car to ride it and it’s out of battery

  4. tom999p

    There’s one of those in the bushes over in the next town from where I live..

  5. JW454

    I remember one of these from back in seventies in a light power blue color. It sat in the backyard of a house near my parents home. I would see it while passing by but I don’t ever remember seeing on the street. I’m talking ’75~’76 time frame so it had to be pretty new at the time.

  6. Junkman Member

    I have one of these cars and I can tell you they’re definitely the model T of electric vehicles. You get three speeds slow, medium( all 8 batteries in parallel) and fast ( all in series) slow is regulated with a bimetallic coil and burns a ton of juice. Not to mention catching the lawn on fire when used too long. Top speed is about 45 mph down grade with a tail wind, they do not like up hill roads at all. I drive 1 mile to work then 1 mile home and hope it makes it up the driveway, not a confidence builder for sure, but you’ll get a lot of honks and thumbs up. Makes a Smart Car look like a Cadilac. The commuta car has a rack of batteries in place behind the front bumper and is said to have a greater range

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      @Junkman Thanks for chiming in and giving us some first-hand experience!

  7. Cameron Bater UK

    I can’t see these being much use as they are, if you wanted to go as far as stripping all the electrics out and rewireing it to take more modern batteries then maybe, trouble is I don’t see that being cheap enough to surpass buying a new electric car with a warranty.
    If I’m not mistaken Toyota did produce an electric variant on their IQ (ultimatly surpassed by the Nissan Leaf) but even then a petol powered one would probably do the same in £ or $ to the Mile after you’ve fueled it with electricity so if you want one of these because a cheap to run small car is what you want buy a second hand Toyota IQ for about £5,000.

    As a side note I think the first electic car can be credited to Ford of all people, if I’ve got my facts right then Ford did produce a version of the Model T that was powered by an electric motor. I’m unsure if its true as my knowlage of early 1900s American Cars is sparse, I’m better from 1930/35 onwards.

  8. Chris Member

    I remember several of these coming on the market in the late 80s after the trial the post office did with these ended.. http://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/electric-vehicles.pdf

    • PaulG

      Lots of interesting reading there Chris, Thanks!

  9. bowtiecarguy

    @Cameron Bater UK
    According to what I have read Dr Porsche was credited with an electric vehicle in 1900

    http://press.porsche.com/news/release.php?id=642

    Does anyone know of anything earlier?

  10. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    @bowtiecarguy: Per Wikipedia: Thomas Parker, responsible for innovations such as electrifying the London Underground, overhead tramways in Liverpool and Birmingham, built the first practical production electric car in London in 1884, using his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries. It’s also worth noting that the first two widely-recognized World Land Speed Record holders were both electric cars (the Jeantaud Duc and La Jamis Contente).

  11. John

    Another of those cars that make no sense whatsoever and yet I’d love to have one to play with. The bid as I write this is $250. I wonder what the reserve might be, and what he intends to do if the reserve is never met?

  12. Cain

    Another cool electric car was called the Detroit Electric. Here is a great read on them!
    http://www.detroitelectric.org/

  13. rjc Member

    Hi guys , well I was suprised to see my listing posted here. :)
    I am listing these for my friend. Personally I wanted to make a buggy out of the one with out the body. I think it looks cool with just the frame.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Good luck with the sale!!

  14. Joseph

    I remember seeing an electric car go through the branson auction years ago from the 1950’s that was A electric car cant remember but it was a factory produced car think it was called a VOLT but not sure.

  15. Charles

    http://www.golfcartcityonline.com/golf-carts-classi/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/126427-200×122.jpg

    This would be my first choice for an aftermarket body on a golf cart…

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