Men in the Messerschmitt Cabin Scooter KR 175, developed by Fritz Fend

© Evonik Industries AG, Konzernarchiv Hanau

Perfect view on three wheels

Excellent panoramic view while protected against the elements: The Cabin Scooters KR 175 and KR 200 were equipped by automobile manufacturer Messerschmitt with a PLEXIGLAS® roof.

A small and agile vehicle which is perfectly suited for city traffic and is economic and affordable: In the 1950s, the Messerschmitt Cabin Scooter provided the answer to what many drivers are looking for today. Designer Fritz Fend developed the predecessor of the three-wheeler in 1947 and made an affordable and motorized mode of transport available to the public in the post-war years.

A brilliant development

A desperate situation brought engineer Fritz Fend to his ingenious idea. As an employee at Messerschmitt AG in Regensburg, he originally helped manufacture airplanes. However, after World War II, production was scaled back and Fend had to find a new line of work, which is when he had the inspired idea: Fend developed a manually-powered three-wheeled vehicle with two seats arranged behind each other. This helped create a narrow and aerodynamic vehicle body. The Cabin Scooter KR 175 was produced from 1953 onwards, at which point the manual drive was replaced by a two-stroke engine. The engine was mounted in the rear of the vehicle and powered the back wheel. Thanks to this power source, the vehicle could reach an impressive maximum speed of 90 km/h.

Transparent protection against the elements

The Cabin Scooter was first equipped with a plastic dome made of Rhenalon which could be stored in the trunk above the engine when the weather was good. However, it soon became evident that due to the sun’s UV rays and the heat development in the trunk, the material would become inelastic and tear. The domes were therefore then manufactured from weather-resistant PLEXIGLAS® which had already proven its strengths in the 1930s, for example when used in airplane canopies.

Fantastic panoramic view

Thanks to the brand acrylic glass from Röhm, at the time still Röhm & Haas, the canopy of the Cabin Scooter was not only permanently robust and transparent; the curved allround glazing made of PLEXIGLAS® made the cabin airy, thus avoiding a feeling of claustrophobia which could otherwise quickly arise due to the size of the vehicle. The canopy, which was designed in a similar way to an airplane cockpit, enabled the driver to have a fantastic panoramic view without any frame components to block vision. The canopy made of the PLEXIGLAS® could be opened to the side to enter and exit the vehicle. This model thus gained the nickname “PLEXIGLAS® Full View Coupe”, and was also jokingly known as “Snow White’s Coffin”, “The Love Coffin” or “People in Aspic”. More than 60,000 Messerschmitt Cabin Scooters were produced.

An affordable microcar

An ingenious idea paved the way

Despite production of the Cabin Scooter coming to an end, Fend’s ingenious idea of using PLEXIGLAS® in vehicle construction had proven its worth. Still today, the brand acrylic glass from Röhm is still used in the automotive sector, for example in car headlights or pillar panels.

With the Cabin Scooter, Messerschmitt provided those people on a tight budget, and who couldn’t afford a car, with a weather-proof vehicle with a roof. The Cabin Scooter cost only 2,395 German marks, which was approximately half the price of the cheapest VW car at the time. However, as the economic miracle progressed and the income in Germany increased, people were then able to afford “proper” cars with space for more than two people. This led to a decrease in sales of the Cabin Scooter, and in 1964, production ceased.