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The 2016 Elio

Cars come in all shapes, sizes, colors and have all kinds of propulsion mechanisms -- gas, diesel, electric and hybrids. But there's one thing they all have in common: four wheels.

Not the Elio though. The three-wheeled, two-person car is the creation of Paul Elio, an entrepreneur who at one point was so broke he took a job as a roofer in Phoenix to keep his dream alive. He has since raised $70 million and acquired a former General Motors plant in Shreveport, La. Now all he needs is another $230 million to start building cars.

Elio is convinced that the cars will sell. After all, they'll only cost $6,800 and will deliver 84 miles per gallon. And they'll seat two people comfortably -- one behind the other, like a WWII fighter.

The way Elio sees it, if Elon Musk can start a company from scratch and sell his Tesla electric cars for close to $100,000, he should be able to sell gas-powered cars for $6,800. He plans to use the same company showroom formula Musk has adopted -- no dealers, in other words. 

Two markets

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Interior view

Elio sees two markets for his odd-looking little cars: people who are now driving clunkers and people who have other cars but will see the Elio as a fun way to handle short errands around town.

"The Elio is personal transportation and people are going to want one even though they own other cars," he told the Wall Street Journal

All things considered, the Elio isn't all that unusual as tiny cars go, except for that three-wheel thing. Elio swears his cars are stable. They have two wheels in front, one in the rear. The front wheels do the steering. That's the opposite of the design used by futurist R. Buckminster Fuller, who built a three-wheeled car back in the 1930s, using the rear wheel to steer.

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The Dymaxion (Photo via Wikipedia)

Fuller's car, like most of his creations, was called the Dymaxion and it wasn't so much a car as an all-around transit pod that Fuller thought would one day be able to fly and sail the seven seas as well as drifting down the highway in what he called its "ground-taxiing phase."

There was one big problem, though. The car was dangerously unstable and was nearly impossible to control. Fuller gave up on the idea after one of his test drivers was killed when the Dymaxion spun out of control after colliding with another car.

Elio swears his car is safe. Besides airbags, it features a steel roll cage, anti-lock braking system and what Elio says are "50% larger crush zones than similar vehicles."

Sound good? You can reserve one for $100 on Elio's website, as nearly 43,000 consumers have reportedly already done. 


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