Sunday, July 5, 2015

How about a 3.5 horsepower hand built Car of the Future from the mid-'70s? Citicar!

I was recently on the West Coast for 10 days and found dozens of great Hoopties along the way (This blog ought to be known as West Side Hoopties while I work through them all). The first selection had me freaking out as I was certain I would never see one in the wild. In fact, the only other example I've seen of the following ride has been sitting in the mud of a friends neighbors yard for decades. Without further ado I present to you; citicar!
Just look at this little freak! At first glance it seems to be a combination plastic frog and garbage can, kind of like a shoe, or even an escape pod from some 1950s spaceship. This, however, was the top selling electric car until the Tesla was introduced.
The citicar (all lower case as is written on the side) was manufactured between 1974 and 1977 in Sebring, Florida. Very little changed during the 3 years of production but we can tell this is a second model due to the SV\48 designation on the side (which means there is a 3.5 horsepower 48 volt motor powering this beast).
This thing has seen some use! When you smash the corner of your citicar what do you do? Just charge up and keep on truckin'! 
The dimensions of citicar are minuscule; just 8 feet long and 4.5 feet wide! Basically this car is the size of a sheet of plywood. It weighs right around 1,000lbs.
Blammo! citicar just rolls down the street with this huge chunk of its body blown out, not a care in the world. These were never painted when new; the body itself consists of colored plastic. There were 5 colors to choose from; red, yellow, blue, orange, and beige.
Check out that dashboard! This thing looks like a homemade bumper car with that "wood" panel and the same rectangular orange light for everything. The fact that it has a radio is surprising as you'd want to use every bit of power for extending your driving range. Charging up is as simple as plugging that wire hanging out of the metal box under the passenger side of the dash into your home socket. An overnight charge was advertised as being good for 50 miles.
I love the big ashtray bolted to the door, as well as the voltage symbol on the accelerator pedal. Also, I'd like to give a big shout-out to the designer of those defroster vents! They look like they were fashioned after a ballot box.
Let's take a step back and enjoy citicar in all her well-used glory. Every bit of it seems to have taken a licking.
The 1975 citicar brochure brags proudly about the handling capabilities of this diminutive little ride, with a turning radius of only 11 feet and a low center of gravity. You'll never get a speeding ticket though as the SV\48 had a top speed of 38 miles per hour! This was actually a huge improvement over the woeful 25mph top speed of the original SV\36.
ELECTRIC CITICAR with those little lightning bolts is great.
The door's a bit floppy on this ride. I think that center button is the reverse light. 
One more peek at the inside. The gauges are simply a voltmeter and speedometer. The toggle switch to the right of the keyhole is pretty funny and I regret not getting a closeup shot, but it simply states FORWARD and REVERSE. I suppose that's the entire transmission!
The seat backs are separate but it's pretty obvious from this angle that the seat bottom is a plank with some foam attached to it. The upholstery looks like a roll of toilet paper the cat got to. The windows for citicars are plastic units that slide down into those two metal brackets on the door.
I can't say it enough how dumbstruck I was to see one of these being used!
If Atari 2600 made a car this would be it.
The decals look so DIY with the uneven lines and weird lightning bolt.
OH COME ON ALREADY!!! That's the door handle?!? Security wasn't really the main idea I guess.
The Vanguard logo on the hubcaps is great and very Harlem Globetrotter-esque.
Plastics break down and fade in sunlight (which probably helps to explain why that huge hole happened on the side). The finish on this is totally finished. I do love how there is this faux hoodscoop to allow imaginary air into the imaginary carburetor. To kill any notion that this might be a hoodscoop they went ahead and installed this ELECTRIC CITICAR plate right on it!
Well we'll leave this frumpy oddball looking kind of surprised at its own existence. Really, every day this car is driven is another day it stays away from the Pacific Garbage Patch which is good for the environment. I truly doubt I'll ever see one again.
PS - citicar reminds me of Dumb Donald from Fat Albert

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