One of the most successful of all French microcars was the Arola. First presented in 1976, it was the brainchild of Daniel Manon and had a very simple polyester-and-glassfibre-bodied design. Its single-cylinder air-cooled two-stroke 47cc Sachs engine, mated to a two-speed automatic gearbox, produced only 3 bhp. That was not even powerful enough to propel the 242 lb (110 kg) car to the permitted top speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). A soupier Type 12 version had a Motobecane 50cc engine with a reverse gear. The 12 was good for 40 mph (65 km/h)
Still, its single-seater bodywork looked cute, especially with detachable funky transparent Plexiglass doors fitted. Underneath sat a tubular steel frame with coil suspension both front and rear, plus cable brakes. The driver sat on a flat bench without a back and controlled his cyclecar like a motorbike. General layout met French legislation of the day for permission-free driving.
Three models were available: Type 10, 11 and 12. The basic equipment included an electric starter, windscreen wiper and a chrome-plated exhaust, which could be mounted longitudinally or transverse to the direction of travel. The difference was in the equipment: Models 10 and 11 had neither speedometer nor ashtray. Models 11 and 12 had a storage bag for storing small items. All models had a length of 72.45 in. (1,840 mm), a width of 42.13 in. (1,070 mm), a height of 61.81 in. (1,570 mm).
The Arola was certainly cheap at 7880 Francs in 1978, which partly explains why it sold in its thousands. Model 12 was built until 1982. Production of the Saxonette-powered vehicles ended earlier. Arola also started making four-wheelers in 1979 but the whole enterprise had gone bust by 1983. A new operation called Aixam picked up the pieces and still makes four-wheeled microcars to this day.
- Engine: 2-stroke Sachs engine, 47 cm3, 3bhp (or Motobecane 50 cc)
- Transmission: 2-speed automatic
- Maximum speed: 40 km/h (25 mph) for Type 10 and 11, 65 km/h (40 mph) for Type 12
- Fuel tank capacity: 5 liters
- Drive: rear wheel drive
- Rear suspension: leaf springs,
- Frame: tubular steel
- Braking system: 3 drum brakes and park brake
- Body material: fiberglass reinforced polyester
- Dimensions: 1,840×1,070×1,570 mm (72.45/42.13/61.81in)