Microcars, those tiny cars that look like they barely fit one person, typically powered by a motorcycle engine, and most importantly, affordable. In the '50s, they could be seen puttering down European streets. As silly as a lot of these cars looked, they were actually a big business. So big, in fact, that one actually saved an aerospace company from going out of business.
This is the Messerschmitt KR200. KR stands for Kabinenroller, which translates to "cabin scooter." It's a pretty accurate description of the car since it has a motorcycle engine and handlebars for a steering wheel.
Preceding the KR200 was the Fend Flitzer, a microcar conceived by German designer Fritz Fend. The full potential of the Fend Flitzer wouldn't be realized until after World War II. When a postwar ban on aircraft production in Germany went in effect, airplane manufacturer Messerschmitt AG had to look for other ways to stay in business. Fortunately for them, Fend,the guy behind the Fend Flitzer, lacked the resources to mass-produce his vehicle.
In 1952, Fend approached Messerschmitt to make his car, the Fend Flitzer into a production car. They agreed that was a good idea, and so they hired him to basically take his design and improve upon it. The reult was the KR200 which kept Messerschmitt floating. In the end they made about 25,000 Messerschmitt microcars.
Those 25,000 KR200s kept the Messerschmitt AG manufacturing plant busy and brought in enough income to keep the lights on for the duration of the ban on airplane production.
And in 1956, Messerschmitt was allowed to go back to making airplanes they sold the car to Fritz Fend, and he continued to build cars until 1964.
Today, the KR200 finds its way into the collections of nostalgic car enthusiasts and people who find the microcar era fascinating, like Mark Hatten.
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