I was amused to come across a photo essay about the Zundapp Janus, a German "bubble car" from the late 1950's.
The Roman legendary god Janus, for whom it was named, had two faces, one looking ahead to the future, and one behind to the past. The car had two doors, one in front of the driver, the other behind the rear seat. The two seats faced forward and aft, with the engine between them. The car was terribly underpowered, able to reach only about 50 mph (probably downhill, with a following wind), and had very little interior space if filled with its maximum of four adult passengers. Nevertheless, several thousand were sold in its first and only year on the market before being withdrawn in 1959.
Here's one of the original German film advertisements for the car.
A later review reminisced:
The two benches can be folded to form an ingenious double bed, with sleeping comfort being augmented by the detachable steering wheel. Luggage has to be accommodated via nets mounted in the doors and the options list included a heater, rear sun visors, a sunroof, duotone paint and, most importantly, a fake steering wheel for the rear-facing passengers to further traumatise any number of overtaking motorists.
A family friend in South Africa owned one, and I can remember being driven around in it. We kids thought it was a hoot to be able to open the back door and step in and out, instead of using a side-mounted door like every other car. I think we must have "mounted" and "dismounted" many more times than the vehicle actually moved. Being children, the novelty was the thing.
Do any of my readers remember the Janus, or any of the other "bubble cars" of the era? I also remember driving in an Isetta, #1 in the video list below, and one of the Messerschmitt vehicles featured as well. (The fun of riding in "a real Messerschmitt", while making appropriate machine-gun noises, never lost its appeal to a young boy - as did being a passenger in a first-generation Triumph Spitfire sports car!)
I shudder to think what health and safety experts would say about them if you tried to build bubble cars today . . . but they were fun.