Three wheels or four? That has been the question since the dawn of the motor age. Henry Ford opted for four from the outset while Karl Benz initially went for three in 1886. Many others have since taken the plunge into the world of three wheelers, most notably Morgan. Our subject today can trace it’s roots back to a 1932 design by Captain Karl V. Martin, the Martinette. A first hand detailed description of how that came to pass can be found here.
The 1955 Tri-Car Suburbanette was designed by H. Roy Jaffe. He had worked at GM, including time at Oldsmobile in 1951 and is credited with crafting the 1953 Olds front end. He had an engineering degree, but his passion was styling. After leaving GM, Jaffe went on to have a successful career in product design but the Suburbanette never got beyond the prototype stage. Today he lives in retirement in New York. You’ll find an earlier unusual design by Captain Martin on The Old Motor. Thanks to Bill Porter, formerly of the GM design staff, for the information about Mr. Jaffe and to Alden Jewell for the photos.