Junkyard Outtake: 1980 Comuta-Car – This Was The Future In The ’70s

Some of the junkyards I’ve been to have a small area in front where occasionally they sell some of the cars.  The establishment where I found this thing at had one of the larger for sale areas but one of the worst selections.  The same went for the yard itself, it was mostly junk which shouldn’t be a surprise, but…tucked in the weeds between the lot and yard like a diamond in the rough was this little gold nugget.

At first I thought it was a CitiCar, then I realized it was actually a Comuta-Car, which is the renamed version.  The CitiCar was produced by Sebring-Vanguard between 1974 and 1977, after which the company was sold to Commuter Vehicles, Inc., who took over the tooling and with some changes including the name revived production.

It’s a little hard to make out, but the bumpers were extended significantly as compared to the original in order to move the batteries from under the seats to within the bumper assemblies and rework the frame to meet safety standards that were changed since the original vehicle was produced.  The design holds eight 6V batteries.  While apparently the structure did comply with all applicable safety standards in effect at time of production I’m not sure that I’d want eight acid-filled batteries popping if this was crushed between two cars although there is an aluminum cage-like assembly under the plastic skin.

The motor was a 6hp GE unit and this vehicle would run at up to 40mph for up to 40 miles of range.  It is a little unclear if it could actually do 40mph for 40 miles though (I doubt it).  The wire hubcaps are a nice touch and serve to class the thing up, Tesla tries to do something similar with their “Aero” wheel covers I think but they aren’t gold and thus look worse than no covers at all.

It’s no Tesla inside either but our readers at CC seem to prefer knobs and buttons so we are all set in that regard, there seem to be a fair number of them and at least there’s no touch screen to go bad.  I’m sure all this stuff works just fine once you hook the battery charger up to it or maybe insert a couple of AA’s somewhere.  That instrument panel has a wood finish under the dust all the way across the cabin.  Hey, just like a Tesla Model 3!  And the vents are hidden here as well, or at least I can’t see where they are.

Speaking of batteries, this one was under the seat, so I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here, they are supposed to be housed outboard as I mentioned above.  That’s perhaps the charging unit to the right of it.

At least there’s a wiper, and the windows are glass sliders. It also apparently had a heater but no A/C.  Here in Denver you can do without the A/C if you have to but no heat would be a problem, although in the winter you’d better have a very short commute, perhaps you wouldn’t have time to get cold anyway.  (Side note: I had a hard time focusing with that sweet little Honda in the background, but it was in a fenced enclosure so I couldn’t get closer.)

Production finally ended once and for all in 1982 with over 2100 Comuta-Cars and some Comuta-Vans(!) produced.  This is in addition to the 2300 or so CitiCars.  Every now and again one pops up at a show or on ebay or the like.  This one below may actually be for sale too but wasn’t explicitly marked as such.  How much?  Who knows but you know what they say: “If you gotta ask….”

Related Reading:

The Cohort has provided a Comuta-Car in fine form

Tesla Model S Commuter Car Rental Review