Unusual Vehicles is a series that shines a light on history’s weirdest cars. Three-wheeled vehicles have a quirky reputation, with a good example being the Czech Velorex. The car was developed by brothers Frantisek and Mojmir Stranksy in 1943. They were inspired by the Morgan three-wheeler and wanted to design an economical car that would fill the gap between motorbikes and four-wheeled vehicles.
The Stranskys owned a bike repair shop and in 1936 they started working on a prototype car. They used a tubular body that was covered with a thin dural layer, similar to leather. The mechanics were taken from a motorbike. After WW2, there was a vehicle shortage, so it was much easier to build a machine using any mechanical parts that were readily available.
The first Velorex prototype was ready in 1943. The public responded positively to the model, so the Stranskys developed more. The original parts were improved upon, with the first batch of cars coming out in 1945. The cars were powered by different motorbike engines. For example, one featured a 150 cc CZ, while another had a 250 cc Jawa engine. The price of the cars was a quarter of the cost of a normal motor, which demonstrated the Velorex’s economical appeal.
In 1950, the Stransky’s workshop was transferred to a small manufacturing company in Hradec Kralove called Velo. This later became Velorex. Frantisek died in 1954 when a test prototype crashed. Mojmir refused membership in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which led to him being fired from Velorex.
The car lived on and continued to be improved. In 1956, the name was changed from Oskar to Velorex and by 1959 the company were producing 120 vehicles per month. 1963 saw the introduction of a new ‘Model 16’ that came with a Jawa 350 or CZ 175 engine.
Production of the Velorex stopped in 1971, with the company switching to four-wheel car development. The Velorex retains cult status with its owners.