“I really want to know what these dudes were smoking” reads a message from a reader named Nick, whose email—eloquently titled “uhhh what.”—includes a link to one of the wackiest automotive (ish) contraptions I’ve ever seen on Craigslist. It’s made of a bunch of vehicle parts bolted and welded and probably taped together—let’s see if you can guess which vehicles those parts come from.
I don’t actually have the complete answer to this, though I do know where some of the parts come from. But before I get into that, I’ll tell you about the brief conversation I had with the seller, Avrom, who lives in the Tri-City area of Washington State.
He said he picked the vehicle up locally because it looked like fun. “I had a lot of time on my hands. I was gonna get it back on the road,” Avrom told me. Ultimately, he’s since given up on the machine, which he says now has a cracked engine block due to water getting into the motor and freezing. Still, he told me, “There was no way I was gonna throw it away because of what it is,” going on to say he has two people who seem interested in purchasing the trike, which is for sale for $US500 ($725) just outside of Richland.
I asked Avrom for a bit of information on how this thing is put together. He said that powering the vehicle is a Honda Gold Wing in the rear, though it should probably be replaced with another bike since the motor is cracked. “The front forks on the Gold Wing were removed, and there’s a pin where the forks were that hold it together,” he says of how the motorcycle is hooked to the rest of the contraption.
The whole front suspension and steering comes from a VW Beetle, and Avrom says the radiator, which comes from the Goldwing, is below the grille, which he says comes from a Ford Ranger (though I don’t think that’s a Ranger grille—can you guess where it’s from?):
The wackiest thing is the fact that whoever built this three-wheeler decided to use a rear hatch as a windshield. I’ve never seen anything like it, and though the glass is missing, even if it weren’t, this wouldn’t really be the safest vehicle to drive, as rear hatch glass isn’t as safe as windshield glass.
I reached out to reader Matthew Koppey, who works for high-tech electronics company Gentex, a company that makes electrochromic mirrors, digital displays, dimmable aeroplane windows, cameras, and the list goes on. Matthew knows all about glass, so I asked him to go into why one wouldn’t want to use a rear hatch as a windshield.
“Rear hatch glass would not make a safe windshield, at least in terms of a DOT certification,” he told me. “Rear glass, side windows, and sunroofs are usually (but not always) made from tempered glass. The stuff that bursts into a million tiny pieces when it’s broken.”
“Basically they bend thick glass to shape, then run it through a tempering furnace where they get it hot and then immediately cool it via blown air as quickly as possible. That leaves the outside of the glass in a state of compression, while the inside is in tension. This increases the strength of the thin layer of outer glass in compression, but once you get past that it releases all the tension stored in the centre glass – hence the ‘explodey’ bits of glass when you finally break through.”
Windshields are a bit different.
“Windscreens are made from laminated glass. This is typically two layers of ~2mm glass with a layer of laminating material in between,” he explained. “The laminating material is almost always [polyvinyl butyral] (PVB), but can also be [ethylene-vinyl acetate] (EVA) or [thermoplastic polyurethane] (TPU). Think of these as sheets of hot glue, although they get processed a little differently from one another.”
“You make a sandwich that goes glass-hot glue-glass. Then you toss this thing in an autoclave or oven to get it hot enough to melt the glue and either vacuum out the air or press the glass together with pressure in the autoclave. What you’re left with is an optically clear laminated stack and the most important point of all this rambling.”
Koppey then went on to discuss how windshields have to pass impact tests that vary based on region. “They’re usually something like drop a steel ball or dart from x meters above it; object can’t penetrate,” he told me. “By laminating two pieces of glass together the outside glass (and even the inside) can break and absorb the energy of the impact, while the laminating material prevents the projectile and glass shards from flying inside the vehicle.”
In the end, he summarised, “If you stick rear glass from a hatchback where a windshield belongs, you run the risk of a stone, baseball, walnut, etc. breaking through and hitting you in the face at 60mph.“
So basically the main takeaway here is that this “trike” is absurd and unsafe with or without the rear hatch glass acting as a windshield, and the fact that someone—anyone—actually thought to buy this as it is, baffles me.
Anyway, see if you can figure out where the grille, seats, and rear hatch come from. Because I have no clue.