1955 Messerschmitt KR-200 2-Seat Opening Top
Configuration: Rear engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: Fichtel & Sachs 191 cc single-cylinder, two-stroke
Horsepower: 9.9 hp
Transmission: Four-speed, hand-operated
Top speed: 65 mph
Weight: 506 lbs
A Little History
German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt was temporarily banned from producing aircraft following Germany’s defeat in World War II. Designer and engineer Fritz Fend looked for other commodities for the company to produce. The Messerschmitt KR200, or Kabinenroller (Cabin Scooter), was a three-wheeled bubble car designed by Fend and produced in the revamped factory from 1955 to 1964. Retailing for about 2,500 DM, the Messerschmitt KR-200 was considered an immediate success, selling nearly 12,000 in its first year of production.
The narrow body, and corresponding low frontal area, were achieved with tandem seating, which also allowed the body to taper like an aircraft fuselage, within a practical length. The tandem seating also centralized the mass of the car along the longitudinal axis which, combined with the low center of gravity, low weight, and wheel placement at the vehicle’s extremes, gave the KR-200 good handling characteristics.
Apart from the dual-mode ignition, the KR-200 had a steering bar reminiscent of that of an aircraft. To steer the KR-200, the driver would swivel the steering bar about its axis from the horizontal (straight-ahead) position instead of rotating it as with a conventional steering wheel. The mechanism was connected directly to the track rods of the front wheels, providing an extremely direct response best suited to small amounts of movement.
The Messerschmitt KR-200 had quite a following in Hollywood and with celebrities, and was featured in several films, among them was Strictly for Pleasure (1958) with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. But perhaps the most well-known celebrity Messerschmitt KR-200 fan was Elvis Presley. In 1957, Elvis, in what would become a signature move, traded his Messerschmitt KR-200 to Bernard Lansky, owner of Lansky Brothers department store on Beale Street in Memphis – and a favorite store of Elvis’s – in exchange for a two and a half-hour shopping spree.