Four Velorex three-wheelers head for Route 66


Four Velorex three-wheeler cars are being shipped from the Czech Republic to the US on Wednesday for an expedition across the legendary Route 66. The expedition will kick off from Chicago in early September and, if everything goes according to plan, the Czechoslovak-made veteran cars should reach their destination, Los Angeles, at the end of the month.

Photo: CTK
The Velorex three-wheeler was developed in 1936 and went into production after the Second World War. It was designed by two brothers, who owned a bike repair shop, and aimed to make a cheap substitute for cars, which were in short supply after the war. The result was a cross between a motorbike and a car, known as Velorex or Hadraplán. The frog-shaped vehicle was produced up until 1973.

To find out a bit more about the three-wheelers and about the Route 66 expedition, I went to see Tomáš Jaroň, one of the Velorex crew. I met him at his workshop in Prague’s Žizkov district. He was busy making a final revision of the vehicles before they are shipped to the States, but he took a few minutes off to provide me with the technical details.

“It’s a steel frame with a leather jacket. The engine is here at the back. It’s an engine from a Czech-made motorbike Jawa. The car has 16 horsepower.”

So how fast can it go?

“How fast? Normally around 90 or 80 kilometres per hour and the maximum speed, when you are going downhill with the wind in your back, is 116 kilometres per hour.”

Tomáš Jaroň himself owns about seventeen Velorexes, although not all of them are roadworthy. The vehicles that will take part in the expedition, however, have been completely overhauled and they are ready to hit American roads.

“We want to be the first Velorex expedition to cover the legendary Route 66 - the so-called mother of all roads. It is about 4,000 kilometres long and it goes from the east – from Chicago – across eight American states to Los Angeles.”

How long do you expect it will take you to cover it?

“About 22 days. But we must cover about 220 kilometres a day.”

In order to get a better idea of what it will be like I climb inside.

So we are now sitting inside. It doesn’t really feel like sitting in a car. I guess the roof is convertible.

“Yes, the roof is here. Now it is down and on a rainy day I can put it up. It’s like a regular car. This is the break, this is the gear and this way you start the engine.”

Well, after a short ride, I honestly can’t imagine how the shaky cars can reach their destination without falling apart. However, Tomáš Jaroň and the rest of the team have no doubts about that. They are flying over to Chicago on 2 September and two days later they set out on expedition Route 66. So, keep your fingers crossed for them.