I came across one of these a few weeks ago at the Blackhawk Cars ‘n’ Coffee day in Danville, near San Francisco. I had never seen one before and heard a lot of people ask the same question about it: what is it?
I have known about Polaris for some time, they make many different (but similar) products and have seen their CanAm Spyder 3-wheeled motorcycle on the roads for a while. This though is a slightly different kettle of fish! It’s much bigger and like the CanAm and other 3-wheelers has two wheels at the front and one at the back. From memory they are defined as a trident layout. The original and current Morgans have this configuration whilst the 70s Reliant Robin and Regal plus the wacky Bond Bug had the reverse configuration.
The Slingshot is powered by a 2.4 litre Ecotec motor from General Motors and is good for 170 odd horsepower. It has a lot of electronics (ABS, Stability Control, Traction Control) to keep it on the ground although there is a button to switch off the aids if the driver is keen. Apparently the owner of this one said that he was able to spin up the belt driven monster rear wheel quite easily. His was the first one in the Bay area and as at the date of the event there were 12 running around the San Francisco region. I noted that he had a crash helmet on the seat which suggests that they are classed as a motorcycle rather than a car even though they are also fitted with seat belts. The seating is a normal car style, side by side, rather than the CanAm’s motorcycle arrangement.
Basically this vehicle is a steel space frame with exposed suspension units, a motor up front connected to a 5 speed manual transmission. There is a very short prop shaft to a diff that converts the power to a high strength belt that drives a 20″ rear wheel. This wheel is hanging off a lightweight swing arm like a motorcycle. They have done an interesting job with the exhaust system as it is significantly shorter than any other vehicle that this motor would be fitted to. Up front the suspension units are double wishbone and the owner was raving about them from an aesthetic perspective! Front wheels are 18″ with low profile tyres.
It is an odd looking vehicle, clearly designed for speed and lots of fun, making it a difficult decision: the Slingshot or the CanAm? If you want attention, there is nothing better than one of these – everyone will look!