A sneak peek into some of the simplest cars ever made in the world

The secret to selling more cars is making it simple and efficient. The world witnessed the launch of several such vehicles after the World War II. And, such cars have been launched at all times and have always found takers. Here are some of them:

Citroën 2CV (1948)

French carmaker Citroen's president Pierre-Jules Boulanger's brief to his engineers was that he needed a car that should be like a bicycle with four wheels. He believed that the Citroen 2CV will be an alternative to bicycles, motorcycles and horse-carts. The Citroen 2CV, the car of his dreams, hit the streets in 1948. It had a 9 hp flat-twin engine. During those times, French law stated drivers needed to be able to put their arm out to signal and required pivoting windows that helped drivers to indicate. The Citroen 2CV had such windows till 1990.

Chevrolet Corvette (first generation, 1953)

Chevrolet first generation Corvette is a rare and beautiful vehicle. Above all, simplicity is the hallmark of the vehicle. It was powered by Chevrolet's straight-six engine, which was used by Chevrolet for its pick-up trucks. It had a two-speed automatic transmission. Later, Chevrolet used a V8 engine in the Corvette.

Messerschmitt Kabinenroller (1953)

The KR175 and the KR200 sat its two occupants one behind the other, like a scooter. It had a pixel glass ceiling and only three wheels. It used a special technique on the steering wheel to increase the speed. In 1964, the company stopped its production and shifted its focus to the aviation sector again.

BMW Ista 1955

The BMW Ista falls between a motorcycle and car. It was manufactured by Italian company Iso. BMW made minor changes to it. The Ista had a front door for entry and exit and a 12 bhp single-cylinder four-stroke engine that was common in motorcycles. BMW introduced this small car in many countries with minor changes. In several countries, it had only three tyres, which was aimed at reducing taxes.

Fiat 500 (1957)

The Fiat 500 was developed by Italian engineers at the lowest cost possible without compromising on style and it was only nine foot long. The aim of chief engineer Dante Giacosa was to reduce the cost as much as possible, forcing him to install even a pull-type starter. The fact that 38,93,294 units of the Fiat 500 were sold between 1957 and 1975 stand testimony to the popularity of the vehicle. It was succeeded by Fiat 126 and was available until 2000 in Poland.

Austin Seven/Morris Mini-Minor (1959)

When talking about small cars, how can one avoid the Mini? The Mini was introduced in place of 'bubble cars' by Sir Alec Issigonis. Issigonis, who believed that compactness and simplicity are the hallmark of small cars, tried to make the Mini the simplest. The speedometer was fixed in the centre of the car; it was aimed eliminating the need of two dashboards even if the driver seat was on the left or right. It took such small and insignificant things very seriously. The car was produced until 2000.

Renault 4 (1961)

Though the Renault 4 was conceived to take on the Citroën 2CV, they were like chalk and cheese. For Renault chairman Pierre Dreyfus, the key considerations for the car were economy, multi-purpose use, and rough-terrain ability. The car that was launched in 1961 had foldable back bench that provided extra space for luggage, a first in car design. The windows slid horizontally. Though it was discontinued in 1994, the Renault 4 still has its pride of place among car lovers.

Porsche 914 (1969)

The Volkswagen car was known for its affordable pricing and simplicity. The mid-engined sports car built in collaboration with Porsche was a two-seater. Launched in 1969, it was produced until 1976. It was powered by either a flat-four or flat-six engine.

Lada Niva (1977)

Russian authorities asked carmaker Niva to make a car like a "Renault 5 put on a Land Rover chassis". And that was exactly what the firm created. The Lada became popular due to its high ground clearance, a Fiat four-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive in the Siberian region. The Lada Niva first took to the road in 1977 and 40 years on, it’s still going strong, reflecting its popularity in the region.

Fiat Panda (1980)

The 1980s were the boom time for small and simple cars. The Panda was Fiat's superbly sweet and simple car launched in 1980. It was produced until 2003 with only a few changes.

Ford Festiva (1986)

The Ford Festiva closely resembles the Maruti 800. The small car wave that created ripples in the US in 1980s reached the Pacific shores through cars like the Ford Festiva. Initially, it was made by Japanese company Mazda and later by South Korean firm Kia. The 1.1-litre four-cylinder engine that produced 49 bhp of power was sluggish in nature.

Lotus Elise (1996)

The Elise was launched by British carmaker Lotus Cars in September 1996. The car was light at just 725 kg and had a low price tag. Romano Artioli, who was chairman of Lotus and Bugatti, gave the name of his granddaughter Elisa Artioli to the car.

Daewoo Matiz (1998)

Daewoo conceived the Matiz keeping in mind the markets from Belgium to Uzbekistan. It was also available in India from 1998 to 2002. This small car was powered by a .8-litre engine. A 1993 concept designed by Italdesign was rejected by Fiat; but Daewoo went with it which finally became the Matiz. The Matiz showed that even design can be reused!

Nissan Frontier (2004)

The Frontier is still sold in the US by Japanese carmaker Nissan. It was renamed as Navara to be sold in Europe. It is the oldest pick-up vehicle of Nissan. It has 11 different names in different countries; if it is called the Frontier in eight countries including the US, it is named Datsun in Japan, Skystar in Turkey, and Terrano in Chile. Nissan has announced that the Frontier will get a makeover in 2021.

Caterham Super Seven 1600 (2020)

No matter how many times you look at it, the Caterham Super Seven 1600 that was launched in 2020 can only be seen as a classic car despite its modern mechanicals. The chassis is tubular steel and can be bought in parts or full. The Super Seven features a vintage style wooden-rimmed steering wheel that has no modern driving aids. The Caterham is completely analogue and is powered by Ford's four-cylinder engine.

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