The HMV Auto Freeway Cars were built for economy. These 3 wheel cars were made to take the bite out of high fuel prices.
Gasoline prices can certainly spike upwards. Gas prices have increased significantly during the 2010 to 2012 period and this wasn't the first time for gasoline pump price shock. Back in the early 1970's we had the same situation we have as of this writing. Runaway gasoline prices.
Today, oil supplies are adequate. No shortage. During the 1970's, the world went through the oil embargo. This had nothing to do with supply and demand. The oil embargo was more a political action but it nevertheless spearheaded a drive for better gasoline mileage.
The HMV Free-Way Micro Car
Tough times often produce alternative ideas. One answer to high gas prices came from Minnesota and in the form of a 3 wheel car. A Burnville Minnesota car manufacturer answered the 1970's high gas prices with the introduction of what was called the "micro car". The inventor of the HMV was Dave Edmonson. Edmonson believed he could build a small car with superior gas mileage and he actually started his project back in 1970. The micro car was called the HMV Free-Way Car. This one seat, three wheel, extremely small vehicle was powered by either a 12 HP or 16 HP engine. It's manufacturer, the H-M-Vehicles, Inc, boasted a 100 MPG rating for the 12 HP engine and about 60 MPG for the 16 HP model.
The HMV 3 wheel cars were built from 1979 to 1982. At that point in time any automobile that was getting over 20 MPG was considered an economical car to own and operate. This of course was before the hybrids of today. Gas mileage during that period was generally in the teens and in many cases the low teens. Eventually, the government got involved and in many ways forced Detroit to find a way to produce cars with better gas mileage.
In the case of the HMV's, there was some disagreement as to just how this new car design would be licensed. Being three wheeled vehicles some states classified the micro auto as a motorcycle and others as an automobile.
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The Bond Cars
To be sure, there were three wheeled automobiles prior to the creation of the HMV Freeway. One such car was the "Bond" automobile. Back in 1949, Sharp's Commercials began producing an economical three-wheeled mini car. They named it the Bond Mini Car. Many different models were produced with the first using a one cylinder engine and then a step up to two cylinders. This first of the Bond Cars were built from 1949 to 1966. The second generation small car came on the scene while the Bond Mini Car was still being produced. The Bond Equipe was built from 1963 to 1970. After that, the Bond Bug was built from 1970 to 1974. Messerschmitt was another automaker of a three wheeled car in the early 1960's.
A Collector's Car
There were only a total of about 700 HMV's built before the company went out of business in 1983. When it comes to gasoline mileage, the public can be a bit fickle. By the early 1980's, the oil embargo was almost forgotten and the mini cars like the HMV Freeway lost it's appeal. When gas is cheaper, the buying public goes back to bigger is better. The fact that only about 700 were ever produced however makes the automobile quite rare and some surviving models are now in the hands of automobile collectors. Restoring the HMV is a project that has been undertaken by many people.
You should be able to find a lot of information on the internet for HMV Mini Car parts and restoration stories. There still are plenty of avid fans out there for this three wheel American car. While it may not be the most comfortable ride, it has found it's place in the annals of American automotive history. After all, the car did achieve 100 MPG.
(Photos from author's private collection)