The Ultimate Guide to the Simplest Cars Ever Made

In the world of luxury and the Simplest Cars Ever Made, where lavish features and high-end tech are the norm, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class stands out. But isn’t there beauty in simplicity?

Post-World War 2, simplicity was the name of the game. Car manufacturers aimed for basic designs, ensuring their vehicles were affordable for the masses. Over the years, as times changed, so did the perspective on simplicity. By the 21st century, simplicity became a sought-after trait, especially for car enthusiasts.

Let’s journey back and rediscover some post-war automobiles, ranging from budget-friendly to thrill-inducing, that championed the art of simplicity.

Citroën 2CV (1948)

Simplest Cars Ever Made

Citroën’s 2CV was the epitome of simplicity, a testament to the company’s dedication to creating an affordable, no-frills vehicle. Imagine this: Pierre-Jules Boulanger, the head honcho at Citroën back in 1938, described his vision for the car as a “four-wheeled bicycle.” He saw it as the perfect replacement for bikes, motorbikes, and even horse carriages.

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Although World War 2 put the brakes on the launch of its precursor, the TPV, the spirit of simplicity lived on in the 2CV, which made its debut in 1948. The early models sported a modest 9bhp engine, a canvas roof that spanned the length of the car, and front windows that, believe it or not, flipped upwards. Why? Well, back in the day, French regulations required drivers to stick their arms out to signal turns. These quirky pivot windows were a cost-effective solution before turning indicators became mainstream. Even as the 2CV eventually adopted indicators, the iconic windows remained a feature until 1990. Oh, and that hole in the grille? It wasn’t just for looks – you could actually fit a starting-handle there if needed!

Chevrolet Corvette (first generation, 1953)

Simplest Cars Ever Made

The first-generation Chevrolet Corvette is a real gem – rare, beautiful, and holds a significant value. Underneath its sleek fiberglass exterior, it initially housed the tried-and-true Blue Flame straight-six engine, which Chevrolet had been using for years in various models, even in their pickup trucks. While it originally came with a two-speed automatic transmission, Chevrolet spiced things up later by introducing a V8 engine and a manual transmission to the mix.

Messerschmitt Kabinenroller (1953)

Simplest Cars Ever Made

The KR175 and KR200 models by Messerschmitt, with the former showcased in the picture, were quite the unique rides. They featured seating for two in a single line, a clear Plexiglas roof, and just three wheels. As for power, it relied on a basic two-stroke, single-cylinder air-cooled engine. Interestingly, some versions had the driver rev up the engine using a twist grip right on the steering bar. However, by 1964, production came to a halt. Messerschmitt pivoted back to the aerospace sector, and those in the market started leaning towards slightly bigger compact cars.

BMW Isetta (1955)

Simplest Cars Ever Made

The Isetta, originally crafted by the Italian company Iso, saw its most renowned version developed by BMW in 2020. While BMW retained its iconic design, notably the front-hinged door, they gave it a bit more punch with a 12bhp single-cylinder four-stroke engine, which was borrowed from one of their motorcycles. They didn’t stop there – BMW also spruced up its looks, moving the lights higher up on the front.

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And here’s a fun tidbit: the Isetta was one of those “bubble cars” that made you wonder, “Is it a motorcycle or a car?” In fact, some versions made for the English market sported just three wheels, a clever move to benefit from a lower tax bracket.

Fiat 500 (1957)

Simplest Cars Ever Made

When Fiat set out to design the 500, they had a clear goal: create a vehicle that sat comfortably between a moped and a family car. With weight and cost as top priorities, the legendary engineer Dante Giacosa, who lived from 1905 to 1996, had an innovative idea. Making the 500 front-wheel drive was off the table, so he decided to place the drivetrain right behind the passenger area. This smart move not only cut down on size by removing the need for parts like the driveshaft, but also reduced the weight. Under the hood, Giacosa chose an air-cooled two-cylinder engine, which churned out 13bhp in the initial models. And to further cut costs? He opted for a pull-type starter.

By 1975, production of the 500 came to a halt. But Fiat wasn’t done with simplicity. Its successor, the 126, was straightforward and gained such a loyal following that it continued production in Poland until 2000. And for those curious about how the 500 looked? Check out the photo of the 500R.

Austin Seven/Morris Mini-Minor (1959)

Simplest Cars Ever Made

What more can be said about the iconic original Mini? Dreamed up by the visionary Sir Alec Issigonis, who lived between 1906 and 1988, the Mini was a refreshing alternative to the wave of bubble cars popping up in the UK and beyond. Recognizing the appeal of compact cars, Issigonis cleverly designed the Mini by positioning the four-cylinder engine right atop the four-speed manual transmission, rather than placing them side by side. Plus, a nifty touch was having them share the same oil.

Issigonis was all about efficiency. He wanted the Mini to be not just easy to drive, but also straightforward to assemble. That’s why the Mini sports a speedometer smack dab in the center of the dashboard. This clever placement meant there was no need to produce different dashboards for cars depending on which side the steering wheel was on. The beloved Mini’s production sadly wrapped up in 2000.

Renault 4 (1961)

Simplest Cars Ever Made

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