With GM Drive Train, the Utah-Built Trike Dances the Rumba with the Best of Them
By Keith Ball. Photos by Markus Cuff
We recently had the stellar opportunity to test ride or drive the new Vanderhall Venice Trike. We couldn’t wait, since the styling appealed to our classic sports car sensibilities— old school Austin Healey or MG.
I’ve been intrigued by the trike market for the last ten years. With the Can-Am design configuration and the introduction of so many exciting models, how could you ignore them? I just attended Daytona Bike Week for 2018 and there were more trikes and baggers on the hot roads than ever before.
Here’s the drill. At 18, you don’t have the funds to buy a new bike, so you build a hot bobber. At 22, it becomes a chopper and by 30, you’re looking for a high performance Dyna Glide or FXR. By the time you’re into your mid-40s, you have the funds to take cross-country trips and as you edge toward 50, baggers are looking good.
You get the picture. Somewhere in the aging mix, trikes speak to all of us. I wouldn’t hesitate to jump into this Vanderhall and hall ass to Sturgis. It doesn’t have much cargo capacity, but it could be accessorized with an available cargo rack.
This turbocharged hot rod is all GM 4-cylinder driveline right up to the steering wheel. Unlikely to break down, but any Chevy dealer could fix anything. Even the disc brakes are through GM vendors.
It has a GM automatic transmission, but the system is designed to give you maximum gas mileage so it’s constantly up-shifting to maximize fuel usage. Fortunately, it also offers you a forward shifting manual experience, which allows you to take advantage of 180 horsepower when you need it.
This company kicked off in Idaho in 2010 and one of the staff I worked with, Dan Boyer, also 6’5” like me, crawled out of this puppy readily. He has been with the Vanderhall Company since the beginning. Trikes are interesting beasts and demand deep engineering research for the handling package.
Since the boss chose this tight, compact car, front wheel driveline package, the handling geometry changed significantly from the rear wheel drive competitors such as the Slingshot or the Campagna.
The handling abilities of all these units are amazing, often much better than any sports car on the market today. But in the case of the Vanderhall, more testing had to be performed to deal with the engine and drive configuration. They succeeded, but it took additional time and effort before the first production unit rolled off the line in 2015.
We’ve ridden in Slingshots and the V-Rod powered Campagna and knew of the amazing handling abilities. As we stepped into this sleek baby, we were already confident in the ability to handle any road.
You may still be of the “Two wheels or no wheels” thinking, but you need to take one of these for a spin. They are transformative. They turn the average clean-cut citizen into an instant Formula One racer. As soon as you wrap your trembling fingers around the lacquered wooden steering wheel, suddenly you’re wearing soft deerskin leather gloves scattered with lightening holes and a silk scarf. Immediately, the hottest redhead on the planet is sitting beside you with her metal flake nail encrusted hand sliding up your thigh.
As you popped it neatly into gear, you realize you’re barely three inches off the pavement. Suddenly you’re darting through traffic, looking at the center of adjacent car doors as you pass them.
The more you drive this sleek sexy machine, the more the adjustable suspension comforts you as if you’re riding in a tight Ferrari. The suspension is firm but not slammed. For the first time in your life, you feel glued to the pavement on the tightest curve.
After I agreed to test ride this road mistress, I was reminded of my height, the same as Dan’s. I knew when he jumped out I was good to go. But the windshield still messed with my view because the edge bounced just about the center of my vision. The Redhead suggested a pivoting windshield, which could be completely out of the way for in-the-wind travel.
This isn’t the top of the Vanderhall line with the Laguna’s carbon fiber hand-laid body, but it still contains creature comforts like a heater, heated seats and cruise control. It also comes with a Bluetooth connection so you can play your favorite tunes through sizeable speakers.
The bucket seats are pure sports car comfort. The turning radius is still front wheel drive sedan configuration at 38 feet and will become tighter as the company grows. The ABS disc brakes are pure magic and it stops on a dime with just 1,500 pounds of weight and almost three feet of rubber on the ground.
We cut into the hills above Hacienda Heights through winding terrain, thick brush and narrow asphalt streets. The more turns I made and the more freeway lane shifting I slipped through, the more I knew this puppy would be a blast on the way to Sturgis.
Although the turbo winding caught our attention from time to time, we could carry a conversation at 80 mph on the crowded Long Beach Freeway. And when I came to a stop at a light, I could reach out and easily pick up a 100-dollar-bill left in the street. I wish.
The Redhead tried the heated seats as we blasted over the Vincent Thomas Bridge and through town as the sun disappeared behind the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Suddenly the dash lights illuminated and the sports-car-styled gauges lit up. Very cool. They do reflect in the laminated windshield, but there’s a cure, a toggle switch on the dash flips to turn them off, eliminating any visual obstruction from the car-like windshield.
I noticed somewhat of a blind spot. I’m sure they will address this with convex mirrors in the near future. I tried the manual shifting and Dan was right. It eliminates any sluggish zones in the power curve. Here’s more tech info on the Venice:
NEW VANDERHALL VENICE AUTO-CYCLE
RE-DEFINES THE THREE-WHEELED AUTOMOTIVE MARKET
At a base MSRP of $29,950, the Vanderhall Venice provides an exclusive entry into the exciting auto-cycle segment
Vanderhall Motor Works recently released the successor to its attention-stealing Laguna carbon-fiber-bodied three-wheeled auto-cycle. The new model shares many of the Laguna’s premium attributes but is positioned with a simplified form, gravitating to an even more timeless way to experience the thrill of auto-cycling.
Like the Laguna, all Venice auto-cycles are hand-built by a staff of 35 at the Vanderhall factory in Utah. This includes the custom mono-aluminum frame, designed by Vanderhall founder Steve Hall. His multi-year Vanderhall development process included eleven major designs and forty prototypes.
Steve Hall hails from a long line of innovators and inventors — his grandfather, H. Tracy Hall, developed the process for growing synthetic diamonds. This tradition carries through to Vanderhall: Many of the Venice’s components and processes are patented, including the tab and slot double-wall chassis and the non-welded cross-hatched front grille.
Components that aren’t built in-house are sourced from top-tier suppliers, such as General Motors. A prime example is the GM powertrain. The Vanderhall Venice is powered by the GM 1.4L turbocharged I-4 Ecotec LUV engine, rated at 180 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to the GM GT40 6-speed automatic transmission. The Venice offers the off-the-shelf GM 6-speed transmission in the base model; an optional sequential manual-shifting mode is an available upgrade. This system uses a prominent chromed bump-shift lever on the driver’s side body rail.
Many of the other components carry over from the flagship Vanderhall Laguna to the value-positioned Venice. The suspension is largely shared by both models. The Venice’s front suspension is a compact, lightweight pushrod system that uses Fox coil-over shocks. A single-sided aluminum swingarm with mid-mounted coil spring serves as the rear suspension. Base-level front tires are 225/40-18s while the maximum-traction rear rubber is 285/35-18 on a wide 18×10.5 wheel. Weight distribution is 70/30 for stability and traction. Rack-and-pinion steering terminates at GM knuckles. Equal-length half-shafts neutralize torque-steer.
Additional technology is also GM-derived. This includes ABS, traction control (which can be disabled), brake assist and steering assist. Cruise control is standard.
Creature comforts are also shared by both Vanderhall models. Prominent are a heater, heated seats, and a 1,000-watt Bluetooth-enabled sound system. LED exterior lighting is standard.
The main difference between the two Vanderhall models is that the Venice uses a cost-effective composite body that is built and assembled in less than five hours. The Laguna’s hand-laid carbon-fiber body employs pre-impregnated mat as well as optional premium weave that requires 400 labor hours to complete.
Vanderhall offers Venice buyers a few factory options. Four body colors are available: Metallic Black, Pearl White, Metallic Gray, and Dark Red.
Additional dealer-installed options include the sequential bump-shift for semi-manual transmission engagement, upgraded tires and wheels, and Brembo brakes. In addition to the standard black V-Tex synthetic leatherette upholstery, two-tone real leather in several color combinations is available. Cup holders, stainless steel foot plates, a rear luggage rack, and instrument-panel overlays round out the currently available options with many more to be released over the coming months, including a roof rack/sun shade.
With a 1,375-pound dry weight, the Vanderhall Venice is built as a comfortable roadster for two. Acceleration from 0-60 mph is manufacturer-tested at 4.5 seconds, with a top speed limited to 140 mph. Its wide 60-inch front track, sticky rear tire, and light weight also make it an exciting open-air canyon-carver. Further, the Vanderhall Venice doesn’t require a motorcycle license in many states. For more information or to locate your closest dealer, please contact Vanderhall Motor Works Inc., (949) 420-9007, or visit vanderhallusa.com.*
*Check your state and local laws for any helmet requirements.