Offbeat

Against the Trend: Bumper Cars with Electric Propulsion to Gas Engines

Four bumper cars equipped with internal combustion engines are on display at the Essen Motor Show.

For over 40 years, Tom Wright of California was a two-wheel motorcycle fanatic. And then he saw a bumper car that changed everything. In Germany they are also known as "auto-scooters," electric-propelled small four-wheelers used mainly as attractions at amusement parks for visitors who enjoy bumping into each other's car with minimal damage. Mr. Wright liked what he saw but decided to add a few new elements to that toy.

These turned out to be a 500 cc internal combustion engine taken from a Kawasaki motorcycle, 10-inch wheels, and a six-speed gearbox and chain transmission. The result was his first vehicle, which he called the Police Car. It was also licensed to be driven on the road. Later he acquired another bumper car and called it Hot Idea and turned it into a "chameleon" car that changes colors frequently. This car has a Yamaha 750 cc motorcycle engine mated to a six-speed gearbox. Additional distinguishing features are wood trim and a chrome-plated radiator grille.

In the sunlight, the paintwork changes color depending on the side from which the car is viewed. The basis for the Chevrolet Corvette is a 1958 bumper car which was built in Germany. Mr. Wright bought it through eBay and modified it with a 500cc Kawasaki engine and bodywork made of fiberglass. It has a theoretical top speed of 100mph, though for the time being the owner is satisfied with 56mph. Mr. Wright already built nine cars and four of them are now on display at the Essen Motor Show. The fourth is called Alfa Romeo due to its front grill and how it's adapted to the vehicle.

The engine is a two-cylinder Kawasaki with a six-speed gearbox, disc brakes and halogen headlights. While they may not be for some car or motorcycle guys, Tom Wright's creations are certainly original and we'd love to be able to get behind the wheel of any of them.

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