Still designed better than LinkedIn

Tricycle? More like failcycle.

I have a treat for you today: The 1951 Hoffmann car. Mind you, I use the term “car” loosely here.

Imagine the crappiest car that you could possibly imagine. Then imagine something crappier. Yeah, the Hoff is even crappier than that. It’s so crappy that it makes the BMW Isetta look like a Rivian.

I have seen people attempt to justify this car by claiming that it came from a war-torn country whose factories were better suited for building overcomplicated tanks than wagens of volk, but that’s hogwash. Thanks to the Marshall Plan, Germany circa 1951 was already prosperous and manufacturing good cars. No amount of mental gymnastics can make sense of this potato on wheels.

It should be clear from the pictures that this was a very deliberately constructed vehicle. A lot of work clearly went into designing and building it. Someone genuinely thought this was the way a car should be designed. And they kept thinking that the whole time they were building it right up until the time they rolled out the one copy ever.

Now that lone car sits in a museum as a reminder to everyone that bad design is always lying in wait, ready to strike even in a culture that prizes good design and engineering, like Germany. Given that your typical tech company does everything it can to create a conducive environment for bad design, there’s no reason to believe that the next Hoffmann couldn’t happen at YOUR company. So print out a picture of this car and put it on your wall. Let it be your south star.

The best way to understand the Hoff is to see its layout. It’s truly special.

The car steers with its single back wheel

You might look at at his car and think “but how do the front wheels steer if they’re blocked in by the body like that? Well they don’t steer because the car steers with the back wheel. Yes, wheel. There’s one wheel, it’s in back, and it does all the steering. Let’s have a look…

The engine is mounted on the rear wheel, yes the one that steers

As you can see, the engine sits on a mount that it shares with the rear wheel. When you steer, the entire structure pivots to the left or right. Yes, it’s not just the wheel that is moving when you turn but the ENTIRE FUCKING ENGINE. In order to accommodate this fever dream of a setup, the car wastes a hilarious amount of space on clearance for the wheel/engine assembly. As if it were not clear, this car is somewhat short on space. Speaking of short…

The wheelbase is shorter than the front axle.

Have you ever seen a car where the left and right wheels were farther apart than the front and back wheels? Probably not, seeing as it makes as much sense as a fingers on a horse. A longer wheelbase makes the car more stable, more capable of moving in a straight line. A shorter wheelbase does the opposite. But a short wheelbase and a wide axle? That’s a revolutionary new kind of stupid.

Now, put all of this together. The car is incredibly hard to turn for being so small. Simply turning the rear wheel takes a lot of effort because you’re not just turning the wheel, but the engine. Even when you do, the two fixed wheels in the front fight your efforts to change direction. But once you actually start turning, getting the car straightened out again is just as much of a challenge because the short wheelbase is so unstable.

Also you might flip over.

So, behind the Hoffmobile’s adorkable exterior lurks a driver-killing monster. But the fun doesn’t end there. No, the Hoffmann is a marvel of brilliantly inexcusable design choices. Let’s have a look at the Hoff’s quirks and features.

The ingress/egress requires a yoga master

When you open the backwards-swinging door, this is what you see. If you can’t immediately figure out the problem, watch this poor sap try to get in:

Yes, that looks painful. That’s because the cabin is as badly laid out as the drivetrain. The foot well is obstructed by the wheel housing, so the driver cannot swing their feet from the outside if they are sitting in the car. So the only solution is an awkward asana as the driver navigates their legs between the steering wheel and the front wheels that the steering wheel doesn’t steer until both legs are finally inside of the car. Yeesh.

You open/close the windows with a belt

Yes. A belt. It is held in place by a peg on the door that goes through an eyelet on the belt. You make the window go up by pulling the belt out, and then hooking it on a peg. You make it go down by unhooking it and letting it drop. This is more proof that clever does not equal good.

The fuel filler tube goes through the cabin

The fuel cap is on the roof of the car. The fuel tank is on the floor of the car. That means that a tube has to go through the cabin to get from the cap to the tank. This means that, when you turn around to see what’s behind you, you have this lovely thing blocking your view. Genius.

The side mirrors are completely blocked by the A-pillars

Take a look at the placement of the mirror, the A-pillar, and where the occupant’s head would be. And below is what you’d see if you were the driver.

Yes, that’s right. You cannot see the left mirror at all from the driver’s seat. They could have placed the mirror pretty much anywhere else and it would have been an improvement. But they didn’t. Because Hoffmann.

The shifter is a straight line and there is a separate neutral between every gear

Look, I know a lot of you reading this probably have never even heard of manual transmissions before, but yes. They’re a thing. And no, I’m not going to explain them to you. Instead of shifting the normal way, where you have an H-like pattern with a neutral in the middle, this car has you shift in a straight line from reverse to third gear. This means that, between each gear, there’s a neutral position. If you think that means you’ll get lost as to which gear you’re in, or if you’re even in gear at all, you’re right. HOFFMANN.

You lock the door with a chain

Why bother locking the car? Leave the doors open, the key in, and the engine running, and hope a thief relieves you of this abomination. Having to drive it will be their punishment.

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This car has the worst UX on 3 wheels was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.