CITICAR and COMUTACAR HISTORY
According to what I have been able to piece together, the Vanguard
Citicar was started in 1974 by a man from Connecticut who set up a
factory in Florida. About 3500 VANGUARD Citicars were built from 1974
to 1976, most being built in 1975. The selling price in 1975 was
about $4500. This was considerably more then the average gas powered
car at that time.
In 1977 the company is believed to have gone Bankrupt and was
sold piecemeal at auction. The principal buyer at the auction was a
mobile home manufacturer from New Jersey named Frank Flowers.
He purchased most of the company in-tact but he did not
purchase the trade name "Vanguard Citicar". In 1978 he
proceeded to build a new version of the car using both new and
existing parts from the Vanguard. He did not have an adequate supply
of older 3.8HP GE motors and axles and he wanted the new car to be
better then the old Citicar so he incorporated a higher HP GE motor
(5HP) as well as a number of electrical improvements.
The required safety and bumper crash standards had increased
since 1974, he had to redesign the bumper and other safety systems on
the car in order to be certified by the National Transportation
Safety Board. Though the overall shape of the new car looked like a
CitiCar, there were many innovations and improvements in comfort
including roll down windows, a hatch back, better seats, a
better heater, and, in most cases, an electronic control system.
Since he did not have the copyright for the original name, he called
the new car the CommuttaCar. As luck would have it, in
1978, America had the second major oil shortage of the decade which
resulted in an immediate desire to have more efficient cars. The 1978
ComutaCar was an instant success and sold over 4,000 vehicles. The
price for the ComutaCar varied depending on what size motor and other
options it had, but the average price was $6,500. This again was
somewhat higher then the average price of
cars in 1978.
By 1980, several things had changed. People were no longer as
interested in fuel economy and, perhaps more importantly, the
National Transportation Safety Board had increased the requirements
for certification. Though the CommuttaCar could have probably passed
the higher standards that all cars in America must pass, the
cost for testing and certifying the vehicle line (from $150,000 to
2,000,000) plus the cost of insuring the manufacturer (from $150,000
to $300,000 plus about $1500 per car sold), proved to be the final
The ComutaCar company continued to sell used ComutaCars, parts
and new cars (for non-road uses such as airports, warehouses and
prisons). I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Flowers a number of
times between 1986 and 1988, the year he passed away.
In 1986 or 87 he offered to sell the ComutaCar company for
$150,000 plus various other provisions. Seabring auto-cycle purchased
the company and started to build a new three wheel vehicle called the
Zzipper which did not require such strict
certification as four wheeled vehicles. I understand that this
vehicle had only limited success. In May 1992, a golf cart company in
conjunction with several electric car enthusiasts purchased most of
the remaining parts of the defunct comutacar.
A book entitled "The Lost Cord" was published several
years ago which covers the period of time between 1973 and
1976. Mr. Robert Beaumont, the founder of the Vanguard Company
(builders of the CitiCar), gives a complete and detailed
history of the vehicle from his perspective. It is an
excellent book and should be read by all electric
vehicles enthusiasts. February 1999 Frank Didik.