From the first advert shown here, you could be forgiven for thinking that the three-wheeled Powerdrive was the size of a 1959 Cadillac; in reality it was well under nine feet long. That was still bigger than many of its rivals though; the Powerdrive could seat three people abreast if they were on the small side, or very good friends.
The Powerdrive project was set up in Wood Green in north London, with David Gottlieb designing a three-wheeled car that featured an aluminium bodyshell over a tubular chassis – and despite its relative lack of wheels the bodyshell still had the shape of a four-wheeler. Power came from a rear-mounted British Anzani two-stroke motorcycle engine that powered the single rear wheel via a chain drive; the gear change was mounted on the dashboard.
With coil spring independent front suspension, hydraulic brakes and an electric starter the Powerdrive wasn't as basic as it could have been, but this was still a car that was far from luxurious. Aimed at those who wanted to graduate from a motorcycle the Powerdrive was definitely a step up from two-wheeled transport, but this was still a desperately basic car that was always going to sell in small numbers.
Backing the operation was Blue Star Garages, which also retained the exclusive rights to sell the Powerdrive. It was claimed that this not-so-titchy three-wheeler was capable of 60mph along with 65mpg, so usability and low running costs were allegedly key features – in reality the top speed would have been closer to 40mph, especially once loaded up with two or three adults. What did add to the Powerdrive's appeal though, was the fact that it was classified as a motorcycle for taxation purposes, which reduced running costs significantly.
Launched at the Dorchester Hotel in London in June 1955, by 1957 Powerdrive had gone bust after an unknown number of its three-wheelers had been built. The car didn't disappear entirely though, because it would resurface as the Coronet.
||322cc, rear-mounted, 2-cylinder
||3-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
||15bhp at 4800rpm