Picture this: You're blasting down your favorite back road on a clear, sunny day. The wind rushes against your helmet. You see a corner up ahead. You grip the steering wheel tight, pull a heel-and-toe downshift, and guide around the turn with the front tires as your back tire screeches against the pavement.
At this point, you may be saying: "Wait a minute. Helmet? Steering wheel? Back tire? Just what the heck am I driving in this fantasy -- a car or a motorcycle?"
Well, imagine a high-performance vehicle that combines the attributes of both to create one unusual -- and somewhat scary -- machine. That would be the T-Rex, a three-wheel, motorcycle-based speedster from Campagna Motors, a Canadian company. You read that right -- three wheels; two up front and one in the back.
The T-Rex sits mere inches from the ground, has no doors, an open cockpit, two seats and goes without the usual amenities like power steering and power brakes. It blurs the line between car and motorcycle and it's incredibly fast, too. But it handles in a way cars can't and offers stability that bikes can't either. It's a thrill to drive.
Those thrills have their tradeoffs, however. First, keeping the powerful T-Rex under control will take every ounce of skill you've got. And it's much more expensive than most motorcycles and even some sports cars, too. But some say you can't put a price tag on the unique rush the T-Rex offers.
In this article, we'll discuss how the Campagna Motors T-Rex works, inside and out. We'll leave it up to you to decide if the excitement is worth its cost -- and whether or not you can handle it.
Before we go into the how and why of the T-Rex, we should learn a little bit about three-wheel vehicles and the unique dynamics they offer.
Three-wheeled vehicles have been around for a long time. In fact, the first modern car, the Benz Patent Motor Wagen, had only three wheels. Three-wheelers are usually smaller vehicles that are relatively inexpensive to buy and gas-thrifty at the same time. Some of the first three-wheel cars came after World War II, when the people of postwar Europe needed transportation without encumbering the cost of a car. Motorcycles were cheaper to license, and three-wheeled cars (also called trikes) fit the motorcycle definition. Many of these early models were powered by motorcycle engines, just like the T-Rex is today.
These triangle-shaped vehicles can be described as either deltas -- one wheel in front and two in the back -- or tadpoles -- two up front and one in the back. The T-Rex is a tadpole-shaped vehicle. These are more stable and aerodynamic than delta-shaped vehicles.
Three-wheel cars, regardless of the configuration, have several advantages over bikes and typical four-wheel cars. First, because they typically weigh very little, three-wheeled cars can house smaller engines for better fuel economy and lower overall fuel costs than typical passenger cars. Second, they sit upright on their own, so they offer more balance than motorcycles do. And lastly, they provide more driver protection than a motorcycle does. On the downside, they aren't quite as agile as motorcycles, and in some configurations (delta design), they aren't as stable as cars.
On the next page, we'll look at the T-Rex's chassis, and see how this three-wheeled, motorcycle go-kart hybrid is born.
At first glance, the T-Rex's body resembles a big go-kart that's missing one tire. It's about 11 feet (3.4 meters) long with a 7.5-foot (2.3-meter) wheelbase and sits just a few inches off the ground. The tricky part is getting into it: At its highest point, the T-Rex is only 42 inches (1.1 meters) tall [source: Campagna Motors].
So it's a long, low, angular beast. Its body consists of a tubular steel frame and a reinforced roll cage (for safety) covered in fiberglass body panels. The suspension is adjustable front and rear and includes sway bars for extra stability. It has two narrow tires up front and one huge tire in the rear. Its three wheels allow it to be upright at all times, unlike a motorcycle, which the rider must constantly balance with speed or with his or her legs while stopped.
The total package only weighs 1,040 pounds (471.7 kilograms) -- that's about 1,500 pounds (680.4 kilograms) less than a lightweight sports car like a Mazda Miata [source: Campagna Motors]. This incredible power-to-weight ratio is the main reason the T-Rex is so fast.
Some three-wheel cars are more car than motorcycle. The T-Rex is the opposite. It uses a lot of motorcycle parts, including the drivetrain. But it's more practical than a bike in many ways. It has two seats, offers a little bit of cargo-carrying space and it has a 7-gallon (26.5-liter) gas tank, too.
In most states, you'll need a motorcycle license to pilot one. Others have more unusual laws. In Colorado, for example, you have to take a separate license test to operate a three-wheeler. You may also be required by your state to wear a helmet in a T-Rex, although that's probably a good idea regardless of the law [source: McGrew].
Up next, we'll talk about the heart of the beast -- its engine -- and see how it performs.
T-Rex Engine and Performance
Something has to make squeezing into the low, tiny T-Rex worth the effort. In this case, it's the powerful engine that's mounted behind the driver's seat.
The T-Rex is powered by a 1.4-liter, DOHC, inline four-cylinder motorcycle engine. The engine comes from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14, one of the fastest production motorcycles in the world. In this application, the ZX-14 engine puts out 197 horsepower -- the same as a Honda Civic Si sport sedan -- but in a body that weighs just over 1,000 pounds (453.6 kilograms). Combine that with an 11,000 RPM redline and you've got a three-wheeler that can do zero to 60 miles per hour (96.6 kilometers per hour) in just four seconds. That's fast by almost anyone's definition [source: Jacquot].
As motorcycle-like as it is, there are some car elements too. It has a steering wheel, three pedals, and a stick-shift transmission. (Automatic transmission users need not apply here.) However, unlike a car, it uses the Kawasaki's six-speed sequential transmission, meaning the driver has to shift through each gear one at a time, just like a bike. It also has all the gauges you would expect on either machine, like a speedometer, tachometer and a fuel gauge just to name a few. Campagna claims a quarter-mile (.4 kilometers) time of about 12 seconds and lateral acceleration of 1.3 g, which is much more than most high-end performance cars.
So how does it drive? It's incredibly fast, not so comfortable, and requires constant attention to keep it from flying off the road. It's also downright terrifying. Its small size means your head might bump into someone else's side mirror. But the truth is, the T-Rex is one of the most hardcore performance machines you can buy.
On the next page, we'll look at competitors to the T-Rex, and find out if this three-wheeled monster is worth your hard-earned cash.
It's visceral. It's special. It's only for the hardest of the hardcore. But with a current price tag of $54,000, is it the T-Rex the biggest bang for your buck?
At that price, a person could buy a base model Chevrolet Corvette ($48,930) and still have money left over to buy a new Kawasaki Ninja 500R motorcycle ($5,499). Both of these machines can provide you with incredible thrills and allow you to push the limits of your abilities -- and potentially lose your drivers' license, too. And for just a little more than the price of the T-Rex, you could get a brand-new BMW M3 Sedan ($55,000), another machine that offers mind-blowing power. If insane motorcycles are your thing, you could invest in a Ducati for the same price -- or even less if you search for the best deal.
The T-Rex also isn't the only performance three-wheeler on the market. The Can-Am Spyder is another example of a trike, and the driver sits upright and uses handlebars, making it essentially a three-wheel motorcycle. And while it's quick, the two-cylinder, 100 horsepower Can-Am Spyder simply doesn't offer the performance that the T-Rex does. But it also costs just half as much [source: BRP].
A better competitor to the T-Rex might be the Ariel Atom. The doorless, roofless two-seater is similar in that it's a frame, engine, and tires -- and not much else. Powered by a performance-tuned Honda four-cylinder engine, the Atom can do zero to 60 miles per hour (96.6 kilometers per hour) in less than three seconds. At about $50,000, it's similarly priced and probably a little easier to control than the T-Rex, since it has four tires [source: Ariel Atom].
But the T-Rex isn't only about numbers like zero-to-60 times or MSRP. It's about a driving experience that'll require all of your skills. It's about riding on three wheels when everyone else is on two or four. It's about the power of speed and throwing caution to the wind. But most of all, it's about having something no one else in your town probably has the guts to own.
For more information about the T-Rex and other three-wheeled cars, follow the links on the next page.
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More Great Links
- Ariel Atom. (June 4, 2010)http://www.arielatom.com
- BRP Can-Am Spyder Roadster. (June 4, 2010)http://spyder.brp.com/en-US/
- Campagna Motors. "Campagna T-Rex." (June 4, 2010)http://www.campagna.com
- Jacquot, Josh. "2009 Campagna T-Rex 1400R Full Test and Video." Edmunds Inside Line. (June 4, 2010)http://www.insideline.com/campagna/t-rex/2009/2009-campagna-t-rex-1400r-full-test-and-video.html
- McGrew, Jonathan. "2009 Campagna T-Rex: The Car That Is Two-Thirds Motorcycle." AllSmallCars.com. (June 4, 2010)http://www.allsmallcars.com/blog/1020947_2009-campagna-t-rex-the-car-that-is-two-thirds-motorcycle