Ellenator - this Fiat 500 seems to be missing something…
Democratic motoring is something that Fiat has always done well. Low prices, easy maintenance, practical packaging, logical design – Fiat consistently delivers. But a company in Germany has found a way to make the current-model Fiat 500 even more democratic, by exploiting a local legal loophole that allows it to be driven by 16-year olds and older people who don’t have a modern driving licence.
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Meet the Ellenator, a kind of Fiat 500-minus. Of course, what draws your attention is its, ahem, ‘remodelled’ rear end. Where have the wheels gone? Has it only got three wheels now? Well, kind of. It’s classed as a three-wheeler in German law, even though it retains four wheels, because the rear ones have moved inwards, close enough together to be considered a trike. It’s how the old 1950s Isetta bubble car used to be sold, in Germany at least – the UK had a three-wheeled version because our laws require strictly three wheels for special status.
The German classification means that the Ellenator can be driven by anyone who possesses an A1 driving licence, which is obtainable by people as young as 16 years of age. It can also be driven by people with other restricted driving licence classes, including the archaic class 4 that some older drivers have.
The Ellenator is the brainchild of garage owner, Wenzel Ellenrieder, of Westendorf in the Allgäu region, which he describes as “the region of inventors”. As well as having to move the rear wheels inwards, the conversion also has to be restricted in terms of power, by law, to 20hp. The makers simply adapt the original Fiat engine to limit its power output. This reduces the top speed to a mere 90km/h (56mph) and presumably makes the acceleration somewhat glacial. On the flipside, fuel economy is said to be better, with a claimed average consumption of 56mpg.
Unlike other vehicles that qualify for 16-year olds to drive, such as quadricycles (Renault Twizy et al), the Ellenator has the advantage of retaining all of the Fiat’s safety equipment like ABS, ESP and airbags. It also keeps its on-board comforts like air conditioning, electric windows, central locking, CD, Bluetooth and so on. And being based on the 500 means you can have it as a hatchback or a convertible with Fiat’s electric folding roof. Trouble is, you’ll have to feel very indulgent to buy your 16- year old one. The conversion can only be done using a brand new car sourced from one specific dealer in Germany, which then hands the car over to Ellenrieder’s company to convert. And it isn’t particularly cheap: €5680 taxes paid, or €5980 if you’re converting a Fiat 500C soft-top. Still, a string of German teenagers are no doubt very pleased to receive such a birthday present.