Gas Guzzlers, Eat Your Carb Out! Stuart Pivar's Microcar Putts Around at 77 Mpg—downtown
"The mechanical absurdity of using 300 hp to negotiate narrow streets at 20 mph is absolutely embarrassing," says Pivar, the semiretired head of six plastics firms, and a man very much about Manhattan who refuses to own a normal car. "Anyone in a huge, powerful machine is an absurdity today and should laugh at himself and people should laugh at him." Pivar's solution to such a laughing matter makes 30 mph floored, gets 77 mpg and costs about $1,000.
The inventor began by applying a little cycletherapy: He bought a moped two years ago. But riding it through pot-holed Manhattan streets was scary, he found—and having to put his foot down at traffic lights interrupted his reveries. Thus did Pivar, who has been inventing things ever since he found as a kid back in Brooklyn that he could dazzle schoolmates with his chemistry set, decide to cobble up the world's first microcar by cannibalizing a couple of mopeds. The result was the first three-wheeled noped. When friends clamored for Pivar to build them one too, he obligingly tooled up.
Microcars began rolling off his Long Island production line at the rate of a dozen a week, and he is now planning to enlarge his plant. Thus far 400 have been sold. Mayor Russell Lloyd of Evansville, Ind. drives one, and so does Newport, R.I. mayoral candidate Buddy Sherman, who is transforming his into a campaign mini-bandwagon. An ice cream vendor is using them in fleets—as are whole resorts and retirement villages. One New Yorker has even ordered a custom job: black and pearlescent magenta.
No highway dreadnought, the micro-car has only a 49-cc. two-cycle, one-cylinder engine that produces just one and a half horsepower. It can carry a couple of shopping bags in the pannier behind the seat (and another under it). Luxury is no selling point: The wind-chill factor and dampness are built-in risks. Owners, however, will be warmed by the economy: In addition to other savings, no insurance or registration is required in many states.
Pivar, the divorced father of three grown daughters, a not very retiring bidder at art auctions, an enthusiastic chamber musician (piano, harpsichord, cello, flute), is definitely running on full these days. "I have to confess when I read the newspapers and observe our energy shortage that I remind myself of a man who is in the munitions business and likes to read war news. I feel very guilty about that," says Pivar, sounding somehow not very guilty at all.