Messerschmitts built for Germany’s Luftwaffe during WWII included the first operational jet fighter. After the war, a devastated economy and a public lacking funds to purchase vehicles gave rise to new class called "bubble cars." Prohibited from making aircraft, Messerschmitt produced two-seater that proved to be one of the most successful bubble cars of all, selling 25,000 copies in its first year. It was termed a Kabinenroller (translates as cabin scooter) and that's exactly what it was, an enclosed motorcycle with an extra wheel.
The KR200's light weight and aerodynamic design allowed it to achieve 56 m.p.h. despite its tiny engine rated at just 10 horsepower. Gas consumption averaged around 87 m.p.g.
Allowed to produce aircraft in 1956, Messerschmitt soon lost interest in micro cars and sold the rights to the KR200 to its designer, Fritz Fend. Fend introduced a convertible model and continued production, but KR200 sales were declining as Europe's economy improved and drivers could afford four-wheeled transportation like Volkswagen’s Beetle or Austin’s Mini.
In 1955, a specially prepared KR200 broke twenty-two international records for twenty-four hour speeds in a three-wheeled vehicle under 250 cc. engine size by averaging 64 m.p.h.
Today, spunky little Messerschmitts never fail to bring a smile when they appear at classic car shows; modestly priced, they make perfect collector cars for those with cramped garages. Riding in one under that clear plexiglass top is a unique, if noisy, experience.
Written by Jim Cherry