'Critter' up close
Robert Harting, an equipment specialist with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research Development Command, goes for a spin in his "Critter," a three-wheeled lightweight vehicle that he drives to work whenever the weather permits.

Is it electric' Is it a boat' Where's the rest of it'

Drivers and pedestrians may have noticed an odd shaped vehicle motoring around Aberdeen Proving Ground lately.

The small, white, low-to-the-ground contraption that resembles a car is actually a motorcycle owned by Robert Harting, an equipment specialist who commutes from Laurel, Md., every day.
Harting came into possession of the vehicle labeled the Critter in 2002. He said it was invented in 1990 as a prototype for a commuter vehicle.

"The inventor made three of them and then changed the body to make it more aerodynamic," Harting said. "Most people think that I built it but I can't take credit for it."

Plans for building a similar vehicle can be found on the Web site, www.rqriley.com, Harting said.

"There's no kit, you have to buy the plans and build it from the ground up," he said.

Harting's Critter is a three-wheeled two-seater, light-weight at just over 1,200 pounds with a 100 horsepower Subaru station wagon motor, a five-speed transmission and dual Harley Road King mufflers. It has a fiberglass body with no doors, a Corvette windshield and removable Plexiglas windows.

Averaging just over 40 mpg, Harting said that the mileage, while decent, is not the main reason he enjoys driving the vehicle.

"The great advantage is that it's a motorcycle, but you don't have to abide by motorcycle rules," he said, adding that since he's had the Critter he's been pulled over three times - the first for having only one license plate; the second for not wearing a seat belt and the third for not wearing a helmet.

"Motorcycles only have one tag," he chuckled. He said that although the Critter has seat belts he doesn't have to use them because motorcycles aren't equipped with seat belts and that he's not required to wear a helmet because of the Critter's enclosed cabin.

Even though it looks like a car, because it only has three wheels, two in the front and one in the back, the Critter is officially registered as a motorcycle, Harting explained.

"But I do keep the registration handy," he said.

He calls the Critter "a very basic vehicle" with few frills.

"I only drive it when it's not going to rain because it was made for California weather, so it leaks," he said. "It has no heater so I don't drive it in the winter, and there's no air conditioner either."
He said he does all the maintenance on the Critter but has been a little pressed for time with the recent move.

"It's not in the greatest shape," he said. "It just needs a little T.L.C."

An employee with a branch (C2D) of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center that was formerly located at Fort Belvoir, Va., Harting's job relocated to APG over the summer due to Base Realignment and Closure.

Page last updated Thu September 11th, 2008 at 11:19