Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Heinkel Cabin Cruiser

Dundalk is a small city on the East Coast of Ireland about half way between Dublin and Belfast. Touring around the town one day I entered the City Museum where I was surprised to find a small car near the lobby. I was even more surprised to learn that what many referred to as the ‘bubble car’in the 50's and 60's was in fact manufactured in Dundalk. 

I remember this car from my days as a student architect working at Building Design Partnership in Manchester in the late sixties. I always wanted one but couldn't afford it. I didn't want to pay more than 100 pounds....eventually I got a similar age Ford Popular for 65 pounds.

The Heinkel came in both a three wheel and four wheel model. The four-wheeler had a 200cc engine and a top speed of 50 to 80 miles per hour.

At its peak, 250 cars a week were manufactured for export to UK, North and South America. However, demand for full sized cars put Ireland’s only car manufacturing plant out of business in 1961. The rights were resold to UK where the car continued to be manufactured until 1964 as the Trojan.

The irony is that I think the world is now ready for more bubble cars. But I doubt they will be built in Dundalk.

ps I subsequently bought an NSU Prinz 30 (which looked a bit like a bubble car)  from my friends Peter and Lindsay Stewart who had driven it around Europe....christening it Mr Puffin...for obvious reasons! Here is a photo of a similar NSU Prinz 30 that my friend Eli Harari and I drove around Europe, before selling it to some fellows from Kuwait in Amsterdam. (I'd like it back!)


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