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2000 Corbin Sparrow Electric Car

2000 Corbin Sparrow Electric Single-Seater

The most unusual shoe shaped car of the future!

The 1990s were a decade of automotive upheaval. In 1990, the California Air Resources Board drafted a “Zero Emissions” mandate, in an attempt to stem the tide of worsening air quality in the state. Initially, it required manufacturers selling cars in the state to produce “zero emission vehicles” for two percent of sales by 1998, although this was later relaxed. Although challenged by Detroit automakers, it did spur development and marketing of a new wave of battery electric vehicles, the only kind considered “zero emissions,” some by the Big Three themselves. Among them was the Corbin Sparrow.

Tom and Mike Corbin were successful manufacturers of motorcycle seats. As the story is told, one day Mike was looking at gridlock traffic on one of California freeways, and noticed a constant stream of motorcycles passing cars in the high-occupancy lane. Why not an all-weather single-passenger commuter car, he wondered?

The Sparrow, a single-seat battery electric drawing much from motorcycle practice, was first shown at the San Francisco Auto Show in 1996, and drew much interest and many orders. By 1999, the Sparrow met US National Highway Traffic Safety regulations, and production began. Capable of 75 mph, the Sparrow used a 165-volt DC motor, cog-belt drive and disc brakes on all three wheels. It weighed just 350 pounds, and was capable of covering 25-30 miles on a single charge. The driving position was smack in the center, accessed through a single door on the right side.

A virtually new car, this Corbin Sparrow has covered just 1,948 miles since first registered in 2001. Serial number 50, it is of the first 100 designated “Jelly Bean” for their shape. Cars after serial 100 were of a different form, having a small hatch at the back. These are called “Pizza-butt” by enthusiasts, from their use as delivery vehicles by Domino’s Pizza. It is currently registered in Connecticut as a motorcycle, and is ideal for commuting in urban areas. The phrase is much overused, but the buyer of this vehicle will certainly be the first on the block to have one.

This car will be sold at:
A Sale of Important Motorcars and Automobilia
Vintage New England
26th September 2009
The Larz Anderson Auto Museum
Brookline, MA