By Alex Alexandrou
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Videographer / director: Matt Slotemaker
Producer: Alex Alexandrou, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus
Rick Woodbury from Spokane, Washington USA, is the president, founder and sole employee of ‘Commuter Cars.’
The carmaker’s flagship model is the 2005 super slim two-seater Tango T600, a high-performance electric car that preceded Tesla.
Rick told BTV: “I started this company 21 years ago – it was based on an idea that I came up with in 1982.”
He was inspired by the shocking traffic congestion he had to face on a daily basis.
“I used to drive a Porsche from Beverly Hills to Hermosa Beach every day and the traffic was horrendous,” explained Rick.
What really made Rick think about a solution was the fact that in most of the cars he would see in his commute were occupied by lone drivers.
“I noticed that everybody around me was a single occupant in a car, taking up the whole lane,” Rick said.
Living and working in Los Angeles also helped inspire Rick’s unique creation.
“I thought, everyone wants to get from point A to point B efficiently, and in cities like Los Angeles there’s really no centre, there’s no hub, everybody goes everywhere,” explained Rick.
For him, there is a simple solution, and that is reducing the width that vehicles take up on the road so that 2 can fit comfortably in a single lane.
“I don’t think there’s any other answer except doubling lane capacity,” said Rick.
With a length of 102 inches this micro car can be parked just about anywhere, just like you would with a motorbike.
Rick said: “The length is the same width of a semi-truck so I can park perpendicular to the curb.”
The selling point of this vehicle is that it can drive in-between cars better than any other car.
“The coolest feature for me to that it can get through traffic faster than any car in history,” said Rick.
Much like a motorbike, the Tango T500 can drive right up to the stop line of traffic lights.
“You just come up to the stop light but instead of waiting in line behind all the other cars you just go right up to the line in-between,” explained Rick.
Although it may seem like a tight squeeze, according to Rick it’s very comfortable to drive in too, and has as much or more leg, elbow, and headroom of a typical car.
He said: “On the inside it’s very comfortable, you’re right in the centre of the car and you’re on the driver’s side on both sides – you’ve got better visibility than any car I’ve ever had.”
It’s also very safe, as it features includes a roll cage that has four times the amount of impact protection bars than standard production cars.
“The roll cage is certified by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) for 200 mile an hour race car,” Rick said.
Rick claims that the Tango T600 is in many ways safer than any other car in the road.
“It can avoid accidents better than any other – it has the same rollover threshold as a 911 Porsche and it turns instantly unlike a motorcycle which has to counter-steer before it can turn to avoid collisions,” Rick explained.
Though its size may bring a smile to your face, its price is definitely not funny.
“These cars cost an average of $420,000 each to build, including all R&D demonstrations and all expenses over the last 21 years,” admitted Rick.
The cost is down to all the highly specialised custom parts used for the vehicle, and having to amortize the total expense over only 12 vehicles
He said: “It has a Momo steering wheel, a MoTeC dash that’s actually used in race cars, a 4-point shoulder harness, the exact ones used by pilots of commercial aircraft.”
Given its price and specifications, it’s no wonder that this car is pleasant to drive.
“It handles really well as it has a lower centre of gravity than any car we know of.”
And with a top speed of 150 miles per hour, the owners of this tiny vehicle don’t even have to compromise on speed.
“I’ve had it up to 120 miles per hour – the current Tango being built has a 90 kWh hour battery which will give it around 300 miles of range,” Rick explained.
The Tango T600 is so exclusive and expensive that only 12 cars were ever made in its 21-year history.
Perhaps the most famous Tango T600 owner is George Clooney, who famously bought one in 2005.