There is nothing like an Energy Crisis to arouse America’s entrepreneurial spirit. While the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 gave birth to some odd but economical little cars like the virtuous CitiCar and the dubious Dale, the 1979 crisis sparked by the Iranian revolution brought us the FreeWay.
The HMV (High Mileage Vehicles) FreeWay was the brainchild of Dave Edmonson of Barnsville, MN. The FreeWay was basic transportation taken to the extreme, having just 1 door, 1 seat, 1 headlight, and powered by a 1-cylinder engine. This fiberglass-bodied, 700lb mini car looked more like a fully enclosed motorcycle. Actually, it had more in common with a snowmobile. That rear-mounted Tecumseh-sourced engine and CVT transmission saw far more action in the snow than on the highway. Mr. Edmonson claimed the FreeWay would get 84mpg from its standard 12hp gasoline engine. A “sport” version put out 16hp, could do 60mph, and get 60mpg.
HM Vehicles, Inc. also offered an electric and a diesel version of the FreeWay. The former had very limited range and the latter was prohibitively expensive. Both sold in extremely limited, if any, numbers. Over three years about 700 FreeWays were sold before HMV went belly up in 1982. D&A Vehicles, also of Minnesota, acquired the rights to the car. They turned it into a 2-seat roadster called the Minikin. D&A sold a handful of them in 1983 before they, too, went out of business.
Dave Edmonson wasn’t the first entrepreneur to convince himself that America wanted a fuel efficient car with 3 wheels. He wasn’t the last one either. In 2009, Paul Elio announced his own 3-wheeler that would be in production by 2012. What was it about 84mpg? Like the FreeWay, the Phoenix, AZ based Elio also claimed that magical mileage number. The Elio’s launch date was pushed back to 2014, then 2016, and lately 2019. Hmm, maybe the FreeWay really will be America’s last fuel efficient 3-wheeler.
copyright@2018 by Mal Pearson