In a world obsessed with horsepower figures and 0-60 specs, few revere the undercelebrated gems of the automotive world that don’t go fast, but are still just as beautiful.
Did you come expecting to read about the Aixam Coupe or the Chevrolet CMV? Maybe the Hindustan Ambassador or Smart’s Fortwo CDL?
Electric lovers are probably thinking about the Mia Electric or the Renault Twizy, while classic car buffs probably suspect BMW’s Isetta takes the win.
Well, the slowest is actually the Peel P50. Ever heard of it? Many haven’t.
The P50 currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the slowest car ever built. And to say that it’s a collector’s item is an understatement.
Holding the “world’s slowest car” title probably isn’t the most prestigious attribute, but there’s no denying how unique it is. It’s a record that no one’s in a hurry to break.
In this article, we’ll go over who made this car and why.
Peel Engineering’s Peel P50
Peel Engineering built 50 P50s on the Isle of Man between 1962 and 1965. It was advertised as a microcar designed to hold the driver and a single bag.
It only had three wheels, one door, one windshield wiper, and one headlight. The car was so tiny, in fact, that they did not include a reverse gear at all, opting instead to place a handle on the rear end so the car could be moved when needed.
In other words, you would simply grab the handle and reposition your P50 as needed prior to setting off rather than putting the car in reverse to back out.
The Peel P50 was powered by a small, single-cylinder engine putting out an astonishingly low 4.2 hp. It could only be had in a manual, and as mentioned earlier, no reverse was available but the car was light enough that most adults could move it as needed.
- Engine: Single cylinder DKW 49cc
- Horsepower: 4.2 hp
- Torque: 3.7 lb-ft
- Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
- Transmission: Three-speed manual with no reverse gear
- Fuel economy: 83 mpg
- Curb weight: 130 lbs
- Length: 52.8“
- Width: 38.6“
- Height: 39.4“
How Fast Is the World’s Slowest Car?
Knowing that the P50 produced literally less than 5 hp, it is a no-brainer that it was definitely not fast. There is no 0-60 time because the car was incapable of reaching 60 mph! The top speed was approximately 28 mph, or 45 kph.
Granted, 28 mph on 3 wheels in a tiny, single-seater car weighing only 123 lb (56 kg) probably felt like 60 mph! Plus, this was not a car built for speed or performance in general. It was a fuel-efficient, small car made for those who needed a car for light travel.
Guinness Book of World Records
Just how small was this car, really? It actually holds the record for being the smallest car ever! Oddly enough, however, the Guinness Book of World Records did not certify the P50 as the smallest car in the world until 2010, despite the vehicle being manufactured in the 1960s.
Peel Engineering actually revived the P50 in 2010, explaining the seemingly sudden recognition of the vehicle. It was no longer a 3-speed manual, though. Instead, the revived P50s came with either a CVT or electric motor. More on this below!
If you think these cars are worth next to nothing, given their impractical nature and sluggishness, you would be very wrong. A 1964 Peel P50 was sold at an auction in 2013 for over $120,000!
The P50 represents a piece of automotive history and is one of a kind, which is likely why it manages to fetch so much for original models, despite offering very little in terms of performance.
Plus, only 50 were made, so an intact original P50 is rare, which usually inflates values.
As noted above, the Peel P50 was reintroduced in 2010 as an EV and traditional gas engine. They come with some changes from the original to meet safety standards. For example, they now have a reverse gear rather than an external handle.
Additionally, they have upgraded and revised steering, suspension geometry, and drivetrain components. Despite this, they maintain the same size and weight, as well as very low power numbers.
The gas engine makes 3.35 hp, while the EV makes just over 3 hp! They both have a top speed of approximately 28 mph, too.
So the P50 was recreated to be more modern and road legal but kept the essential spirit of the car, being low in power and weight, and having a top speed under 30 mph!
P50 Kit Cars
The P50 can also be customized or ordered as a kit on the p50cars.com website. This team offers multiple options and even faster P50s.
They offer both built and kit cars to choose from. Built models include 3 options styled after the original P50 of the 1960s, the first one is nearly identical to the original (with the exception of being an EV), while the other 2 offer more.
The second option looks identical to the first, but features a turbo mode and can reach 50 mph. Their third option features an authentic DKW motor and can go up to 41 mph.
There are even convertible, or cabriolet, options! These are limited to 50 total.
The kits come with everything you need to build a P50 yourself if you order a gas engine. The authors of the website claim it should take around 50 hours to assemble. If you opt for the EV, you need to purchase a battery separately.
Finally, what if you want a P50 but need more room? In comes the Trident. There are 3 Trident models, each offering 2 seats and one even reaches 55 mph, the fastest of any P50 model out there.
Despite car enthusiasts’ general obsession with speed, the Peel P50 is a prized vehicle. Some have even sold in excess of $170,000. This, of course, refers to the original P50s of the 1960s.
Today you have the option of buying your own P50 kit and building this ultra-compact car yourself or buying a made-to-order model. It is a rare thing for a car to be revived and recreated decades later, especially with so many options on offer.
The slowest car in the world might not win a race, but it does capture the interest of many who find its tiny size and diminutive power both fun and unique.
If you’re curious where these power measurements come from, check out our guide to the history of horsepower.
Would you actually consider daily driving a P50? Let us know in the comments below!
Well, the smallest car in the world!
Very exciting post, Vivek!
P50’s speed has never killed anyone.
Looks a little bit weird but driving it may be an interesting experience (my body fits, lol)
Thanks for a good read.