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Quirky Car Chronicles: The 1959 Scootacar Mk I “Telephone Booth”

The 1959 Scootacar Mk I "Telephone Booth"

In the landscape of classic cars, the 1959 Scootacar Mk I stands out not just for its unique appearance but for its fascinating backstory and design philosophy. Designed and manufactured by Scootacars Ltd, a subsidiary of the Hunslet Engine Company, the Scootacar was the brainchild of designer Henry Brown. This British microcar, with its origins in Leeds, England, was conceived out of a practical need for easier parking – supposedly at the behest of a director’s wife who found her Jaguar too cumbersome to park.

Scootacar Rear

The Scootacar, particularly the Mk I, is a testament to innovation and determination, especially considering Henry Brown’s previous venture, the Rodley 750, was less than successful. However, undeterred by past failures, Brown designed the Scootacar with a unique blend of practicality and quirkiness. Its design was so distinctive that it earned the nickname “the telephone booth,” due to its tall, narrow structure which was very tall for its size, being 60 inches high, 87 inches long, and only 52 inches wide​​.

Scootacar Interior

Central to the Scootacar’s design was its engine placement and seating arrangement. It featured a Villiers 9E 197 cc single-cylinder, two-stroke engine, placed in such a way that one would sit very upright, holding a pair of handlebars, over a box containing the motor​​. This innovative layout allowed for a compact, efficient design, eliminating the need for a separate engine compartment and enabling a surprisingly low center of gravity, which significantly enhanced its handling. Despite its compact size, the car offered a considerable amount of storage space and featured a large parcel shelf, which was quite an achievement for such a small vehicle​​.

Scootacar Engine

It boasted a lightweight fiberglass body bonded to a steel floor pan, with a large curved glass front window and Plexiglas side and rear windows to save weight​​. Only 1,500 units were produced, making any surviving examples today extremely rare and sought after​​. Its distinct angelfish-like shape was purportedly derived from a full-size sketch of the designer seated directly above the motor, emphasizing the car’s human-centered design approach​​.

The Scootacar’s legacy is a testament to the era’s ingenuity and a fascinating chapter in automotive history. Its conception, driven by the desire for a more manageable alternative to traditional cars, underscores the constant quest for innovation in mobility solutions. While the Scootacar Mk I might not have been a commercial blockbuster, its story, design, and the circumstances of its creation offer an intriguing glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of mid-20th-century automotive design.

The Scootacar is more than just a vehicle; it’s a narrative of ambition, design innovation, and the timeless appeal of thinking outside the conventional box. As one of the most iconic and best-loved British microcars, it occupies a special place in the hearts of classic car enthusiasts and collectors around the world​​​​.


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