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The T-Rex, built by Campagna Corporation in Canada, is technically classified as a motorcycle. This low-slung, teardrop-shaped vehicle doesn’t look a lot like a motorcycle with its three tires, two seats, and steering wheel, but there isn’t quite enough there to classify it as a car, either. It is propelled by a ZZR 1200 Kawasaki motorcycle engine, and it is built with high speeds and high stability in mind.
Perhaps the most apt metaphor would be to call it a high-powered, pavement-friendly snowmobile. But that doesn’t really describe it either. It’s a unique species of hybrid automobile, which appears to have been sired by a sports car with a penchant for sexy Japanese bullet bikes. But regardless of its questionable parentage, it’s a peppy little bastard.
It offers only 155 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like a lot for a performance vehicle, but remember that this thing is tiny. It weighs in at only 900 pounds dry, which means that filling the gas tank and seating two average men increases the overall vehicle weight by almost 50%. Power is delivered to the extra-wide rear tire through a six-speed transmission, pushing the car from zero to sixty miles per hour in about four seconds. The transmission is a sequential-type straight out of a motorcycle, which means that the driver steps through the six gears with simple shift-up and shift-down options.
The vehicle has an open-air design, enclosing the driver in little more than a tubular steel roll-cage and some fiberglass plastic-sandwich panels. It provides the driver and passenger with three-point retractable seatbelts which will ensure that the passengers aren’t separated from their seats in the event of an accident, though where the seats may end up after a high-speed impact is anyone’s guess.
Safety is probably the biggest concern with this vehicle. Although videos of the slalom show that the T-Rex’s wide front stance and fat rear tire keep a firm grasp on the asphalt at high speeds— pulling up to 1.9 Gs of lateral acceleration without losing grip— it lacks anti-lock brakes, which is a bit risky for something so light and fast. And I wasn’t able to find any data on the performance of the tubular frame in impact situations, but since it lacks doors and has minimal hardware, an impact could be very nasty indeed.
But one could argue that the T-Rex is a motorcycle at heart, sharing many of the benefits (fun!) and drawbacks (danger!) of that type of transport. The seatbelts and rollcage are certainly more safe than a motorbike, and the vehicle is much more visible than its two-wheeled cousins. In many ways, it really is a compromise between performance motorcycling and automobiling.
Daniel Campagna, the designer of the T-Rex of founder of the company, is a veteran in the high-performance automobile industry. He has participated in Formula Ford championships, he’s built vehicles for off-road racing, he created the twin-track snowmobile, and he’s worked as a mechanic for a Formula One racer. So far, he has devoted more than eight years to developing the T-Rex concept, personally building the first vehicles by hand, and producing the first prototype in 1994.
A new T-Rex can be had for about $44,000, and according to the manufacturer, it’s street-legal in all 50 U.S. states. So if you have several grand burning a hole in your pocket, and you fancy a go-kart which can go from naught to sixty in four seconds and reach speeds of 140 miles per hour, this may be just the ticket.