This Volkswagen Has 20 Horsepower and Weird Rear Wheels

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We were all eager to get our driver’s licenses back when we were teenagers. Some were able to hop behind the wheel of a car at just 14 years old with a learner’s permit while others had to wait until they turned 18. In Germany, you can drive from 16 by getting an A1 driver’s license. However, you’re not allowed to drive a regular car.

This peculiar hatchback is tailored to those who want to drive as soon as legally possible. It’s called Geparda (German for “cheetah”) and starts as a perfectly fine Volkswagen up! The diminutive hatchback goes through a series of changes and becomes a trike to fall into the L5e category. It’s not a true three-wheeler since the odd rear axle hosts a so-called “double wheel” in the middle.

That’s why the car’s rear end looks like it’s floating when viewed from the side. The wheel spats with huge “Geparda” branding remind us of the VW XL1 where the extra panels served an aerodynamic purpose. The rear wheels sit close to one another, hence why it’s (wrongfully) categorized as a three-wheeler.

The company behind the Geparda claims it has modified the chassis to improve the car’s stability after fitting the unusual rear axle. There’s an H&R stabilizer up front and Eibach springs at the rear, so this automotive oddity should be less tippy than something like a Reliant Robin. The modified up! can be considered as a rival for the Citroën Ami, Fiat Topolino, and Opel Rocks-e since the Stellantis trio can also be driven by 16-year-olds.

While those three are electric, the Geparda uses a naturally aspirated 1.0-liter engine. The three-pot was offered by VW with either 59 or 74 horsepower. However, it has now been significantly detuned to just 20 hp, routed to the front axle via a five-speed manual gearbox. Nevertheless, it can still reach 68 mph, so it’s theoretically possible to drive it on the Autobahn. That frankly sounds terrifying.

It weighs just 2,000 pounds and returns 49 miles per gallon. The Geparda gets rear drum brakes, front discs, four airbags, ABS, and ESP. It seats four people and has a permissible total weight of just under 3,000 pounds.

Based in Bad Homburg, Geparda has already delivered the first vehicles and is charging about €20,000 ($21,650). That kind of money will buy you a lot of car if you’re 18 or older, but if you can’t wait until then, this will do. It’s not the only German company offering these conversions since Ellenator does the same with the Fiat 500.

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