Bernalwood’s Ultimate Anticool Driving Machine

Spotted this curious ride on Ellert not long ago, parked in front a new home that’s been tastefully adorned in the contemporary Dwellian style. I thought the car and the house paired nicely, but the little car is the big attention-grabber.

Electric Modern

It’s a Comuta-Car, an electric vehicle from Jerry Brown’s first term as governor and the Logan’s Run era of 1970s industrial design. The Wikipedia telleth more:

Produced in their Sebring Florida Plant the CitiCar was a small Wedge shaped electric vehicle. Early versions had no extra features and can be considered an experiment in minimalist automotive design; it was as basic a people mover as you could get at the time. By 1976, enough CitiCars were produced to promote Sebring-Vanguard to the position of being the U.S. #6 auto manufacturer after GM, Ford,Chrysler, AMC, and Checker (taxis); but ahead of Excalibur and Avanti Motors. Production of the CitiCar continued until 1977 with about 2,300 CitiCars produced.

Commuter Vehicles, Inc. purchased the CitiCar design, and renamed the vehicle Comuta-Car. Production of this upgraded version began in 1979 and Commuter Vehicles, Inc. produced an estimated 2,144 Comuta-Cars and Vans.

Bernal’s example aged rather gracefully, and those custom white-spoke wheels make it look even more eco-macho. When this Comuta-Car encounters a Prius on the street, it probably chuckles to itself and says, “Poser!” Indeed, this may well be the most Bernal Heights car in Bernal Heights, because it is Ultimate Anticool Driving Machine.

Electric Modern

But to understand how true that really is, you really have to see the CitiCar as it looked when it was new, circa 1975. Notice that it coordinated nicely with bellbottom slacks and pre-ironic sideburns:

If you’re still curious, there’s also a more recent video about a guy who now uses a Comuta-Car as his daily driver. Chaaaaarge!

UPDATE July 29, 2011:

Turns out, the owner of this Comuta-Car is a member of the Bernal Heights literati. (We should have known.) Here’s his article about this very car, written for ReadyMade magazine:

The Comuta-Car, the focus of my dirty-handed frustration, was the first American mass market electric car. I bought mine, a 1980 model, two years ago on eBay from a farmer who had left it rotting in the back of his barn for 20 years. In its own weird way it’s a beautiful thing, a design seemingly pulled from the bad graphics of an old Atari video game, an electric answer to our gas-guzzling woes. But for all its good intentions and Logan’s Run retro coolness, this car, quite frankly, sucks. It’s slow, it’s clunky, it’s small, and it’s wholly impractical for anything but the occasional Why-Be-Normal street fair or trip around the block with chuckling friends.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics. Vintage catalog image via Frank Didik

7 thoughts on “Bernalwood’s Ultimate Anticool Driving Machine

  1. That’s rad! I would imagine it would be really expensive to keep on the road, though, custom suspension/brake parts, no?

  2. Hey, that’s my car! That’s my house!

    Nice research here. I bought this beast on Ebay way back when thinking I could fix it over a few Tecates on a Sunday afternoon. Wrong. Turned out that everyone who had it before me had customized it and so now, in its present state, working on it has become a quantum-like challenge, only more confusing and nonsensical. And dirty.

    Here is an article I wrote about it in my erstwhile column for ReadyMade Mag:

    With all this, I’m close. I just need the brakes reset and looks like I found a local to do the work — he works at Chuck’s liquor store by day. (Maybe I could pay him in Bernal Bucks?)

    What this means: I’ll be cruising up/down Cortland in no time (be prepared to duck for cover.)

    On Ellert,


    • Hey,

      If you want to fix it over a couple of Tecates on a Tuesday evening (tonight?) you’d be welcome to join the Bernal Dads for Wrenching Night. Shoot me an email at fiid ( roundy-a ) fiid ( blob ) net.


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