A Touch of Dutch Courage - The Carver One


Stelvio Automotive takes a look back at the 2000s sensation that was the leaning Dutch car-bike crossover the Carver One and asks if this oddball which ceased production back in 2009 deserves a second chance of life. 

By Sean Smith

Holland has always been portrayed as a place where free thinking and eccentric individuals can come up with the wackiest ideas and still be considered to be normal and sane to the local population. Their national colour is orange, they created the first major stock market buying and selling tulip bulbs which spiked and crashed horribly in the course of only 3 months in a period known as ‘Tulip Mania’, and then came the Carver One (there may be a couple of other things to add to the list as well).

The Carver One was created by Dutch businessman and designer C.R. van den Brink as a modern mobility solution combining the aspects of a car and a motorbike. The Carver had 2 wheels at the back which remained in place on the road and a single front wheel which leant like a motorbike and had a canopy tilt with the wheel with 2 occupants inside.

The car featured on Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson being reported as calling it the most fun he’s had in a car. Jenson Button and The Gadget Show have also driven the vehicle too and it never got a bad review from any of its drivers. Yet despite this coverage and positive reviews only about 240 Carvers were ever built. The car was about £30,000 when new which was quite expensive for the early 2000s when most family cars cost about half that and cost was pointed at for being its biggest downfall.

The Carver one had a motorbike sized engine, a 660cc (0.66L) 16 valve unit with a turbo attached and produced a modest 65bhp with a top speed of 115mph. Not incredible statistics but as any motorbike rider or Fiat Cinquecento Sporting driver will tell you when you’re in a small vehicle with little visual mass in front of you and you can see the road, speeds seem a lot faster than they do in a conventional car. This means even at low speed, especially with the leaning feature, the carver was very fun and exciting to drive and didn’t suffer from its slightly small engine. The car only weighed 640kg so the small engine would have pulled the car quickly, 0-60 is quoted at about 8 seconds, the same as an average sports car.

The leaning system was called ‘Dynamic Vehicle Control” and as said it allowed the rear wheels to be fixed to the road while the front wheel and canopy tilt. This system was particularly clever because it didn’t tilt directly with the steering wheel input but instead would tilt relative to the force of the steering and grip needed much as you see on a motorbike which only bank to their maximum tilt as speed. The Carver was quoted as feeling quite natural on the handing front once you got past the initial surprise of the tilt experience.

Carver closed their doors mid 2009 but their technology does live on in the states in the forms of the PAL-V, a flying car which keeps the canopy design and leaning feature and also the Pursu which is essentially the same car which is looking at becoming an electric vehicle in the near future. The price tag of the Pursu is around $25,000 or about £20,000, much cheaper than the Carver was which hopefully will give it a better chance of success and the PAL-V comes in at $299,999, about £240,000.

Both of these vehicles are officially in the concept and development stages and I can’t wait to see them on the road, or in the skies, in the near future. It’s a shame though that the Carver itself is no longer in production. That said Carver do still own the rights to the technology and the trademarks, maybe one day it will return, if they could get to the £20,000 price tag and afford the right marketing they could certainly beat the 240 units of the first generation, and with the constant fuel price rises and downsizing of engines there is definitely be a market for the Carver. Let’s see what the future brings.