Stable Genius: 1981 HMV Free-Way

If a person were going to drive a three-wheeled vehicle, something like this 1981 HMV Free-Way is the way to go, at least as far as stability goes. This unusual and street legal vehicle can be found here on eBay in Monroe Township, New Jersey. The current bid price is just over $900 and there is no reserve. These can and do regularly sell for $4,000-$5,000 in nice shape.

From this angle, it looks like the single rear wheel is missing but it’s just hidden back there. The front wheels are a little unusual, I’ve never seen white walls on one of these cars, or motorcycles, or however a person refers to this vehicle. The two-wheels-in-front configuration makes for a very stable ride. Dave Edmonson, the designer and builder of these cars, was a genius.

The H-M Vehicles (High-Mileage Vehicles) Free-Way was made in a southern suburb of Minneapolis – Burnsville, MN – for a shop-teacher’s-hand number of years (4), from 1979 to 1982. There isn’t much storage space but that rear window pops open so you can carry one small bag of groceries home and not much else. This one has an unusual tow bar with twin trailer hitches on the front bumper that you can see in the first photo.

This was the era when it seems like everyone was trying to come up with a small, fuel-efficient commuter vehicle and even though the Free-Way didn’t really catch on nationally, they sold almost 700 of them in four years. It’s a single-seat vehicle with a snowmobile-like CVT belt transmission so you had to Flintstone it (i.e., foot out the door) to go in reverse as there was no reverse gear, or really any gear. They were good for either 40 mph and 100 mpg with the 12-hp engine or a little faster but “only” 60-70 mpg with the 16-hp engine.

The company offered a diesel version but reportedly none were sold. There was also a 4-hp battery-powered version but I don’t know if any of those were made. That’s what I would have wanted – if you’re going to get weird, why not just go all out and get the battery-powered version? This one has the original 16-hp Tecumseh single-cylinder which was the biggest engine available and the seller says that it runs smoothly and quietly. Would any of you drive an HMV Free-Way on public roads? I would, but you already knew that.


  1. Dave the Wave

    Having owned a couple…From factory they would flip over around 36 mph.
    Think Lead acid batteries pouring out on you.
    A kit was designed to fix steering. New battery technology can make an electric doable.
    You tube: Rides with Chuck, HMV Freeway.

    Like 3
  2. MikeH

    It’s none “was” sold, not none were sold. Sorry, I can’t help it, I’m a pedantic old fart. I have driven one of these, but not at 55 mph. Nor do I have the desire to drive it at 55. It’s an interesting drive, to say the least.

    Like 2
    • Dweebster

      If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb. So since there were potentially multiples of these, wouldn’t the plural be correct?

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      MikeH, I was using it in the context of “..none of them were sold.”, so that’s why I used “were” instead of “was”. Using “was” in that context wouldn’t have made sense but you have a good point. I was being a bit lazy and should have written it out to make it more clear. Thanks for catching that.

      55 mph in one of these and it could be your last ride! That sounds like a scary speed in one of these to me.

      Like 3
      • MikeH

        Scotty–The actual subject of the sentence is “one”. “None” is a contraction of “no one”, or in this case, “not one”, with the no or the not modifying one. If you break it apart, the sentence is “not one of these was sold” “Of these” is a prepositional phrase and it being singular or plural has nothing to do with the verb. Minor point. But, from personal experience, if all of us drive a Freeway at 55 mph, none of us is going to survive.

        Like 1
  3. 36 Packard

    I believe the radio host Clark Howard was an early investor in these. Not a great investment. Living in the Twin Cities at the time, I noticed they were a big deal , all the TV stations did stories. There was some excitement around. Remember, the price of gas had just doubled in a very short time frame and people were kind of crazy. I never drove one but I did go see them in person, I figured out pretty quickly that these would get gobbled up on the freeway, not to mention I would never fit in it anyway.

    Like 5
  4. Brick

    I never knew these things existed before seeing one a year or two ago on Barnfinds. It inspired a bit of research and this article:
    One has to believe a powerplant of more than 16hp would fit back there. Sure wouldn’t take up much garage space!

    Like 2
  5. Steve

    Had a friend in Orlando that just had to have one, back in the early 80’s. Drove to work via I-4 ONCE! Scared him so bad he put it on the market the next day!!

    Like 2
  6. Rube Goldberg Member

    Does anybody else think it’s a bit odd, a car called “Freeway” and can’t go fast enough to go on one, not that I’d want to. Should have 4 wheels, I never liked that single wheel running in the grease strip.

    Like 3
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      That’s a good point, Mr. G., I didn’t think of the third wheel always being in the middle, not to mention having trouble steering around potholes and things like that, too.

      Like 1
      • Rube Goldberg Member

        Being a life long motorcyclist, I never rode in the middle. Aside from the oil and coolant, I’ve seen a lot of stuff that nobody else ran over, from bolts and nails, to a bullet once, even a driveshaft!

        Like 5
  7. H5mind

    Just the thing for that Hayabusa motor you had in the corner of your garage.

    Like 4
  8. Dave Mazz

    I’m just guessing, but I suspect most folks with a spare Hayabusa motor lying around would find a better use for it… :-) :-)

    Like 2
  9. Mark

    I have one of the original 12hp engines, it was replaced with a 350cc Honda twin.
    It then had 5 speeds, and was extremely overpowered. The owner flipped it twice, and sold it. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t sell to anyone he knew. He bought it new, took a bus to MN, and drove it back to KS.

    Like 1
  10. Charles Kelly

    I stood to long at an auction and now own one. Was thinking to replace the engine with a 800cc Honda V-twin out of a Pacific Coast. But sounds like speed kills or could kill. Then again maybe an electric drive train from a Zero would be OK. Need a winter motorcycle, as my Mp3 is chilly. Charles in MN


    I have wanted one of these ever since I saw one under tarp here in town, but it was gone before I could ask about it. Some day.

  12. Tim

    They had some motorcycle shops act as dealers, as I ordered one in Florida. After several months of excuses as to why I was still waiting, I got my deposit back. I did actually get to drive one, a 12 horse model. If I remember right the 12 was Briggs and Stratton, the 16 horse was Tecumseh, both two cylinders. My test drive wasn’t bad, a little stiff riding and noisy, but okay. I did get it up to 50 mph. The 16 horse was claimed to do 70. The current often promised but yet to be delivered Elio 3-wheeler car looks to be a great improvement, if the company survives.

    Like 1
    • Mark Davis

      Both the 12hp and the 16hp were Tecumseh engines. OH120/OH160.
      Overhead valves. As I stated earlier, I have an original 12hp engine from a coworkers.

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