The Thrift-T was made by the Tri-Wheel Motor Corporation in Springfield, Massachusetts. (The Company first started in Oxford, NC.)
The car was produced for local deliveries like US Postal Service, florist, auto parts store, family doctors, and in town trips to the store.
This vehicle is the only known surviving example known to exist. Total production figures are unknown. The cars most unusual feature is that the motor, transmission, and rear end can be removed in under 30 minutes. Located under that is a 'Cradle' that holds everything in place. The engine is an Onan air-cooled 10 horsepower opposed twin engine which is mounted under the seat. Top speed is in the neighborhood of 40 MPH.
The car was designed with no inner door, kick panels or insulation in the interior. It was available in only two colors which were Hawaiian Gray and Lock Have Green and optional colors were available at extra cost. The top and side curtains were available only in the color black.
This car has 5,500 original miles and been treated to an 8 month, 1350 hour, full-frame off restoration. It is now painted in its original Yellow exterior color. It has been featured in seven magazines which include 1 as cover car.
A slab-sided utility roadster, the Tri Wheel Motor Corporations Thrift-T was unique from every angle! An Onan-powered three wheeler was designed in 1951 by the Tri-Wheel Corp of Oxford, North Carolina and manufactured by the Tri-Wheel Motor Corp., located in Springfield, Massachusetts. Production of the Thrift-T lasted from 1948 until 1955 and they were produced in two standard colors, Lockhaven Green and Hawaiian Gray. At an additional cost, other colors were available.
Much like the name implies, the interior of the Thrift-T was stark and incredibly simplified. The seat was a bench seat and a floor mat for the driver and passenger. There were no door panels, kick panels or any type of sound insulation. The controls and gauges were the bare minimum as well, and consisted of only a steering wheel, a stick shift and a small variety of gauges.
Inside the engine bay of the Thrift-T was powered by a 62.5-cubic inch, horizontally opposed, 10hp Onan engine mated with a Crosley transmission and axle. The Thrift-T was capable of achieving a top speed of 40 mph and featured 4.59 x 12 tires. In less than thirty minutes the Thrift-T's steel body can be separated from its chassis and powertrain as the drivetrain rests in a cradle beneath the body and is connected with a trailer-ball and hitch setup.
By Jessica Donaldson
Originally the vehicle was designed as a three-seater for commuting. By 1955 the Thrift-T was available to be purchased with a pick up body, and enclosed delivery van and an open top utility vehicle capable of seating up to five people as well as having enough room for additional luggage.