radio host Bob Rivers was driving on Interstate 90
when the low-slung, red three-wheeler with bug-eyed
hot rod headlights caught his eye.
Rivers, seeing the driver in a black helmet and
goggles, thought the red baron had arrived in
Seattle. His reaction: "My wife will say no," he
joked, referring to buying one.
Larsen displays his custom-designed,
three-wheeled ACE Cycle Car, built using a
Harley-Davidson engine, at his shop, Liberty
Motors of Seattle. Larsen was inspired by
the British-made Morgan models from the
Rivers had spotted Seattle designer Pete Larsen
zipping around in his ACE Cycle Car, a motorized
tricycle influenced by the British-made Morgan
models from the 1930s.
"When I drive a regular car, I feel numb," Larsen
said. "When I drive this, I feel alive."
is easy to see why.
rear-wheel-drive prototype sits about 6 inches off
the ground, hugs corners and runs on a
Harley-Davidson twin cam 88 engine.
driver takes off the steering wheel, slides into the
fiberglass-and-steel tricycle -- which can reach
speeds faster than 100 mph -- and sits under the
sky. With a push of the ignition button, the
motorcycle engine rumbles.
While the 1,000-pound ACE can get 40 miles to the
gallon, it was not designed as a daily commuter or
"It's about the romance of driving," he said. "It
drives like a car, but technically, it's a
Automobile enthusiasts will be happy to know the ACE
will go on sale soon.
Larsen, who owns Liberty Motors in South Seattle, is
building six models that he hopes will fetch about
potential customer already called from England to
inquire about it. Another has flown to Seattle to
Larsen, 59, initially tried to import a Moto Guzzi
three-wheeler from England years ago but ran into
too many bureaucratic problems.
similar to other U.S. designers, he thought: "I'll
just do it here."
When he was not building custom sidecars for
Harley-Davidson motorcycles at his shop on Rainier
Avenue South, he spent time behind his drafting
Later he created models from paper, wire and
keeps him going," said Patty Billings, his wife and
business partner. "He loves the challenge."
Larsen attached chrome rearview mirrors and
low-profile glass windshields from an old sports
chrome gas cap sits on top of the turtleback-shaped
rear. Custom fenders cover the front wheels.
he has incorporated parts from a Ford and Honda in
the 58-inch-wide and 128-inchlong ACE.
prototype first ran in 2005, capping about five
years worth of work.
That first test drive had everything he wanted in a
motoring experience: wind, sun, lowness to the road
and the roar of a Harley engine.
Brian Pollock, a Mercer Island resident who owns
original British Morgans, drove the ACE last year.
has a lot more power than my vintage three-wheeler.
The steering was a lot more precise," he said,
giving Larsen credit.
doesn't take shortcuts. If it's not 100 percent,
he'll keep working on it until it's perfected."
the chrome parts, flash of red paint and design make
heads turn when the ACE rumbles down the street.
During a recent test drive to Seward Park, a man
sitting on a bench at Lake Washington stood and
turned nearly 360 degrees to see the ACE.
When Larsen drives the ACE, he is so low to the
ground that he looks up at motorists in MX-5 Miatas,
Mazda's tiny convertible.
lowness to the ground and the acceleration power
also give the sensation that his three-wheeler will
slide around turns.
at Seward Park on this day, it just hugged them.
Larsen is just happy his custom vehicle runs -- and
runs to his satisfaction.
When he was younger, he wanted to build two or three
vehicles on his own. Those projects, though, never
left the ground.
"When I got to 50, I just pressed on," he said.
BUYING AN ACE CYCLE CAR
The Seattle-made ACE Cycle Car sells for about
$40,000. Six models are being built and more will be
made if there is interest. Serious buyers who put
down a 50 percent deposit can go for a test ride.
For information, call the shop
at 206-568-6030 or visit
The company can be reached by clicking on the