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April 28, 2024

1958 Colt Economy 375cc, an Unsuccessful US Made Two-Seater Microcar

One of many unsuccessful attempts at producing a low-cost car for local transportation. This one is by Colt Motors Corp. of Boston, Massachusetts, offered with a 1 cylinder air-cooled engine for $995. Photo taken at an auto show, perhaps New York, 1958.

Not a whole lot is known about the Colt—it appears to have come and gone pretty quickly, although from the little we do know, it seems to have been an interesting concept. The product of Colt Motors of Boston, Massachusetts, the Colt was a tiny two passenger runabout with a folding cloth top. The plan was to have a local boatbuilder produce the fiberglass bodies in one piece, after which Colt Motors Corp. would cut out the doors and do the final assembly of the car in a hat factory owned by one of the officers of the corporation.

Overall construction was geared towards lightness, and the whole car reportedly weighed about 700 pounds. There was a very good reason for that lightness. According to online information, the little Colt was powered by a one-cylinder air-cooled gasoline engine, in this case a Wisconsin. This was reportedly hooked up to an automatic transmission, though most likely it was a simple centrifugal clutch-type arrangement. The diminutive Colt was said to be able to travel as fast as 50 mph and achieve fuel economy up to 60 mpg. All parts used in its production were said to be American made.

At any rate, Colt Motors announced the new car with a retail price of just $995, which was higher than that year’s tiny King Midget, but appearance-wise, the Colt looked a lot more car-like, which would have justified the higher price. For comparison’s sake, the lowest-priced U.S. car in 1958 (aside from King Midget) was the Rambler American, tagged at $1,789. In the only Colt press photo above, a sign claims it was available for “immediate delivery.” That was stretching the truth quite a bit.

What happened, according to one researcher, was that Colt Motors was unable to reach a deal with Midget Motors to buy the needed chassis at a wholesale cost that would allow it to sell the car profitably at the hoped-for $995 retail price. That, in turn, killed its plan to produce the little car, because Colt didn’t have enough money to design and build its own chassis.


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