Meet the women of MicroCar North 2013

Written by on June 22, 2013 in Cars and Chicks, Perspectives, Trends - 27 Comments

Charlene HoughAround the second weekend in June, a parade of perky little cars on trailers sputters along bucolic Line 11 North, just outside of Barrie, Ontario. They’re headed to MicroCar North, an annual event hosted by Ralph and Wendy Hough on their lush green homestead.

Soon, the lawn is covered with the bright little cars in lively shades of blue, red, yellow, green, and orange. Like sparkling baubles on diminutive wheels, they’re oddly evocative of another time, right after the Second World War, when gas was scarce – but imagination and hope were rampant.  With engines of 500 cc and under, and a curb weight less than 1,000 pounds, it seems impossible that grown adults could use these for legitimate transportation.Microcar North 2013

But in post-war Europe, microcars came to the salvation of a population struggling to get back on the road. It’s how you got to work, got your groceries and toured around town.

Nowadays, microcars – and minicars – are popular with car nerds that favour rarefied design over horsepower. They’re not so much a hobby as they are an addiction. And it requires a partnership to keep the little lovelies in pristine condition.

Wendy HoughWendy Hough knows all about it. She’s been co-hosting MicroCar North since 1992 with her retired policeman husband, Ralph, proud co-owner of a stable of Messerschmitts, Isettas, and other vehicular wonders. Every year, she opens up her beautifully turned out home to visitors from all over North America, and the talk flows easily from plant cuttings to microcar specs, over to her purse – which features a hand-pained Schmitt, with wallet to match. Wendy fondly remembers schlepping around England in a Schmitt back in the early 1960s, and she still harbours a soft spot for the elliptical cuties.

Nan Meyers from Ohio is partial to the 1984 Dominos Pizza Tritan A-2 delivery car she owns with her husband. “There were only 10 built as delivery vehicles,” she says. “There was an oven in the back seat to keep the pizzas warm, but they still got 80 miles per gallon. Its unique shape boasts one of the lowest drag co-efficients in the industry – and there are only eight in existence today.”Nan Meyers

At around noon, a flotilla of amphicars comes rolling in, decked out with fishing nets, beach umbrellas and periscopes. Sheila de la Porte, who has also come from Ohio, says her turquoise 1962 Amphicar originally came from Michigan, and she loves taking it into the water. “You have to be in a dead stop to take it into the water,” she explains. “Then you start the propellers and gently drive it into the water. You put the car in neutral and steer with the steering wheel. It’s a remarkably fun thing to do.” The Amphicars have a rear engine, standard marine lights and bilge pump.

Sheila de la PorteMarybeth Abramson from Niagara Falls, New York, has made a fleet of microcar cookies out of Snickers bars, teddy grahams and Smarties that are simply delicious. Outside, she talks about the 1957 Isetta she and her husband bought from Germany. “It was such a nuisance to register it with the DOT,” Marybeth recalls. “The serial number was too short, the weight was too light, and they didn’t have a classification for a one-door vehicle.” Her husband originally wanted a “wow” car like Mustang, but fell in love with the Isetta, which gets its share of attention.Marybeth Abramson

Perhaps that’s why the microcar crowd differs from other car clubs. It’s not horsepower that makes their cars special, rather, it’s an attitude. Because a car should move you on a physical plane and an emotional plane, as well.

Charlene Hough, Ralph and Wendy’s daughter-in-law, steps inside a 1959 Isetta to get out of the sun. “They just make you smile,” she says, and flashes a grin to prove her point.



Microcar cookies




27 Comments on "Meet the women of MicroCar North 2013"

  1. Arleen June 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm · Reply

    My husband has joined a car club and they all meet twice a month. It is an addiction. I asked him why he is so obsessed with watching car auctions and going to car shows, he said it is just a hobby I enjoy. He enjoys the people that are showing cars and he just plain loves cars. Muscle cars has always interested him, but now he drives a powerful sport car and likes to go to those as well. Like anything microcars are a passion.

    • Krystyna Lagowski June 24, 2013 at 12:58 am · Reply

      You know, Arleen, it’s as much about the people as it is the cars. It’s just fun to go and swap stories with people who have the same passion. Who else is going to care about these esoteric details like what kind of radio came standard with what model, how much something’s worth, where to find it, how to fix it, the list goes on and on. I’ll bet your husband has a fabulous time chewing the fat with his car buddies : ))

  2. Bindhurani June 23, 2013 at 7:35 pm · Reply

    Nice to know about the Amphicar. Nice pictures. Nice article. Love it.

    • Krystyna Lagowski June 24, 2013 at 12:52 am · Reply

      That Amphicar was amazing. A few years ago, I drove one into the water and it’s very surreal. Wouldn’t take on any choppy waves, but still …

  3. Debra Yearwood June 23, 2013 at 10:21 pm · Reply

    The strength of the love affair between people and their vehicles is always pretty impressive to watch and its not hard to see why these folks love their cars. They define unique and yet they also give them an opportunity to get together with like minded individuals to celebrate and enjoy their uniqueness. Thanks for sharing their fun with us.

    • Krystyna Lagowski June 24, 2013 at 12:49 am · Reply

      It’s absolutely a love affair – what these folks have done with their cars is amazing. Often, the cars start out as rusted shells and the restoration is a painstaking labour of love. Or the folks have had one in their youth, and it’s a trip down memory lane. The microcar people are definitely a very exceptional club – just like the cars they love so much. Some of the nicest I’ve met, for sure.

  4. Doreen Pendgracs June 23, 2013 at 10:28 pm · Reply

    LOVE those microcars! Too cute! You knew you’d catch my eye with those chocolate microcars. Testing me, weren’t you?

    • Krystyna Lagowski June 24, 2013 at 12:46 am · Reply

      Doreen, I knew you’d zero in on those choco cuties. They were absolutely delish, too. Naw, that was no test – too easy! Howzabout an entire car made of chocolate? I’ll bet it’s been done … somewhere. And if not, well, we might just have to make that a project.

  5. Susan Cooper June 24, 2013 at 12:09 am · Reply

    They are just the cutest thing. I think I could easy become a fan., When I was a college student I owned a Metropolitan Nash. I love that car. But then it became uncool to own one. Boy do I wish I still had it today… sigh. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski June 24, 2013 at 12:43 am · Reply

      You owned a Nash? Wow! Those were one of the few U.S. microcars ever made. I’ll bet it worth be worth a ton of money today. I’ll just bet you had a blast tooling around in that adorable little car.

      • Susan Cooper June 26, 2013 at 9:45 pm · Reply

        I did. I would love to still have it. There is a guy in LA that restores and sells Metro Nash’s but alas they are WAY out of my price range. 🙂

        • Krystyna Lagowski June 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm · Reply

          There was a Nash at the MicroCar meet. Simply adorable, and so sensible too. Time for them to make a comeback!

          • June Valentine July 31, 2013 at 12:53 am ·

            Nash Metropolitans have always had a loyal following and are gaining in popularity these days. They are surprisingly affordable and replacement parts are readily available!

          • Krystyna Lagowski August 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm ·

            Hi June, Those little Nash Metropolitans are quite the cult car, and it’s easy to see why. They’re small, stylish and evocative of another era. But still relevant. Power to the Nash M!

  6. Jon Jefferson June 24, 2013 at 3:17 am · Reply

    I love small cars like these. But I don’t fit in them. My wife is sure that, this is the attraction for me. I test drove a Mazda Miata years ago. They are slightly bigger than these microcars but even then I am squished into them.

    I guess the smallest vehicle for me will always be my motorcycle.

  7. Patricia D. June 24, 2013 at 4:06 am · Reply

    I am completely enthralled by the Amphicar! Of course I have watched James Bond movies with cars that could go from road to water with ease, but I really never imagined this had been brought to market for the general consumer. How interesting! I am not a small car person myself, but I did enjoy reading and seeing the pictures of MicroCars – a world that I did not know existed!

  8. Ashley @MadLemmings June 24, 2013 at 9:10 am · Reply

    Hey cool. I love seeing how creative people were/are with such things. There are so many cars that all look the same on the road, it’s great to see something different. Like the car that guy on the Mentalist drives – old french car from memory.
    What is also interesting about these microcars is that it is a trend that is returning – here in Switzerland they came up with the Smart, and I believe they are “trying” to make a go of it in North America. Sometimes they park sideways in tiny gaps between cars, it’s funny to see!!

  9. Mary Slagel June 24, 2013 at 1:55 pm · Reply

    Wow. I had no idea so many different cars existed. I had never heard of most of them, but now I have a bit obsession with them considering I love cars full or personality and quirkiness rather than power and prestige.

  10. Jeri June 24, 2013 at 10:54 pm · Reply

    Cute indeed, but the whole attitude of such a gathering is enough to make me want to go! One of the things that most stood out to me when I was in Greece was the prevalence of tiny cars. I haven’t been to many car shows, but this one appealed to me immediately. I can imagine the great crowd that would accompany such unique cars.

  11. Becc June 25, 2013 at 1:36 am · Reply

    That has to be the cutest car ever. Just like little jelly beans. I guess that is what draws people to them – colour, fun, different.

  12. Cassi June 25, 2013 at 1:55 pm · Reply

    Never seen or heard of micro cars; they’re cute little cars! Can’t say that this is something I’d get into but would like to see.

  13. Adrienne June 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm · Reply

    I’m so used to sedans and hatchbacks and SUV’s that I’d probably feel like I was riding in a toy! But, I can certainly see the benefit of tooling around in a tiny vehicle that hardly uses any gas. Plus, they are cute, and you wouldn’t see many of them on the road today. you’d always be able to find your car in a crowded parking lot!

  14. Ralph Hough June 25, 2013 at 10:01 pm · Reply

    Hi Krystyna. Thanks for taking the time to come and visit us again this year. Hope you will be able to come again next year.
    Check out our web site at for pictures from previous meets and also check out You Tube for an excellent 6 minute video of this years meet. On You Tube query MicroNorth 2013. Susan should enjoy the brief shot of our Metropolitan
    Thanks again
    Ralph and Wendy

  15. homejobsbymom July 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm · Reply

    I think that little car would drive my husband crazy. He hates cars that look like toys lol.

  16. Garth Dynes August 23, 2013 at 12:44 am · Reply

    Krystyna- Enjoyed visiting your site and especially your report on The Microcar North 2013 meet. I had the pleasure of attending in my little green Figaro and put together a video that you and your readers might enjoy.

    • Krystyna Lagowski August 23, 2013 at 7:09 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Garth, that’s a terrific video. I remember the Figaro, a dashing little vehicle. Looks like you enjoyed Microcar North as much as I did. I just want to take them all home with me. And now I have your video to remind me how much fun it was!

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