Three Wheeling Oddball: 1983 Urba Sport Trimuter

I remember these as some of the more outré electric cars available in the 1980s. The Urba Sport “Trimuter” could be powered by 10 six-volt batteries and an electric motor, or by a 16 horsepower Briggs & Stratton twin-cylinder gas engine. Yes, that’s right, 16 horsepower. This rare 1983 survivor is for sale here on eBay in Aguanga, California with an $850 opening bid nobody’s made yet.

EVs of this period are not only crude, but downright ugly, and the Urba was both. It’s a three-wheeler, thus escaping some of the period regulations for small manufacturers. You could build it from plans offered by Mechanix Illustrated and showcased in the February 1980 issue. It was reportedly the most popular set of plans in the magazine’s 75-year history, but why then don’t you see ‘em around?

There were no doors. The lucky owner entered his or her Trimuter via a front-hinged canopy that rose on struts and must have fried occupants’ heads in the summer. They probably froze in winter, too. The canopy seems in working order.

The idea was that the Trimuter would be a super-efficient urban commuter car. They probably got 200 mpg with the B&S motor, and had about 30 miles of range when electric. According to the vendor, either version of the Trimuter could reach 60 mph, but it probably needed half an hour to do it. The frame is made of two-inch square tubes, and the suspension is leading arms with anti-dive geometry up front and independent semi-trailing arm in back. There’s a Datsun differential and drum brakes. The previous owner of this one installed a Honda CB 360-cc motorcycle engine, but that’s gone now.

The good stuff: The body and chassis “are very solid and complete, but will need some minor fiberglass repairs.” I don’t know how minor it is—there’s a big crack in front of the wheel well on the right side. And what’s with that big patch of what looks like bondo? The other side has some kind of duct there. Fiberglass doesn’t rust, but metal does, and all the steel parts we can see are heavily surface-rusted. The fuse block, ignition switch are with the car, as is the 17-gallon fuel tank.

The driver’s seat is in place, but not the passenger’s, and if there was ever a dashboard with instruments it’s gone. There’s a new eight-inch front tire, but the rear tires and rims need replacing, and somehow the side windows have to be located or fabricated.

The Trimuter was last registered in 1985, so we’re talking about a long slumber. The deal includes a clear California title, and a copy of the Mechanix Illustrated in question. Some technical drawings are also part of the transaction.

Looking back, it appears I wrote about a rather better Trimuter in 2016 (above), and pointed out then, “Other Mechanix Illustrated kit cars you may encounter include the 80-horsepower Tri-Magnum (much prettier than the Trimuter) from 1983; the diesel-powered Urba-Centurion “sports car” from 1982; and the hideous Town Car, based on a VW Beetle chassis and with a hybrid-electric drivetrain good for 100 mpg. The car, with a body made of FRP/urethane foam composite and pop-up headlights, was a huge hit. Several states changed their motor vehicle laws to accommodate it.” That’s a fairly well finished interior below.

The Trimuter was seen in the 1990 sci-fi thriller Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and made a more-recent appearance on Netflix’ Gotham Garage Rust to Riches. It’s hard to know what to do with this unfinished and weary Trimuter. You could put an enormous amount of work into it, and you’d end up with a really poor car. On the other hand, it would make a very good business attention-getter if you just park it, as is, out front.

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Comments

  1. Rodney - GSM

    “Ace and Gary, your loaner car is ready”

    Like 6
    • CVPanther Member

      Thanks, Rodney, best laugh I’ve had all day.

      Like 1
  2. michael h streuly

    I think a turbo busa motor would move it right along. Possibly a little faster then 60 mph.

    Like 5
    • Big bear

      Michael.. sounds like a great idea.. but.. how would you keep the front from pointing to the sky?😂

    • Stephen Miklos

      Michael.. that sounds like a good idea. But what would keep the front wheel from reaching the sky?😂

      Like 5
      • bill

        YES!
        Had a Kawi 500 powered 3 wheel custom w/single wheel up front. Drove me right into ditch first ride. Under even mild acceleration, torque steer coupled to light front end is beyond scary.
        Front end Grip goes away, you go along for the ride – wherever rear wheels decide you need to go. EVIL

        Like 2
      • smokeymotors

        good idea! put some wings on it!

      • DayDreamBeliever Member

        bill,

        The cure might be an open diff (solid axle would be NUTS!) with hand brakes for each rear wheel, as are used on sand buggies.

        This thing looks aerodynamic, but it doesn’t mean that it would work well on the road…

  3. TRPIV

    Came here to say the same thing, Michael.

    Like 2
  4. bone

    Early 1980s Ford Escort rims , thats GOT to bring the value of this up !

    Like 6
  5. David Miraglia

    Great for a guest role on a Sci Fi series

    Like 2
  6. Brick Member

    HMV FreeWay, Corbin Sparrow, Bradley GT, and now this. Thank the Car Gods for Barn Finds to find automotive obscura I’d either forgotten or never knew about.

    Like 1
  7. Mark

    Last time I saw one of these it had a large main wheel protruding thru the roof and was powered by a quick pull on the T-stick.

    Like 5
    • DON

      I remember that !!!

      Like 1
  8. Robert Eddins

    I.d love to drive it as an EV. I don.t know if my 200 lb. arthritic body could get it and out. I.d sure give it a go. Pretty amazing all the ingenious ideas folks had back then. I give anyone who made such kudos.

    Like 1
  9. John

    17 gallon fuel tank?!
    This makes the Pinto look like a safety vehicle!

    Like 5

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