WHAT IS A FREE-WAY?
From the article
ON THE FREE-WAY
by Rik Beeson, Santa Cruz, CA
The Free-Way was designed to be a basic, no frills transportation vehicle for one person. It was envisioned by its designer, Dave Edmonson, as the ideal solo commuter car. The body was fiberglass, either 345cc or 453cc. A few were made with electric motors. the drive system was made by Comet, with two variable-diameter pulleys, as used in snowmobiles. final drive to the rear wheel was by chain. Top speed was said to be 65 mph, and initially the cost of the standard model was $3,360, with the deluxe model being $3,595. Gas mileage was the Free-Way's long suit, with 100 mpg at 40 mph guaranteed for the small-engine 340 model, and 80 mpg claimed for the larger 450 model. The electric model was good for 20 miles at 40 mph. The limited range and speed likely explains the lack of popularity of the electric model.
The company that manufactured the Free-Way was H-M-Vehicles,located in Burnsville, Minnesota, not far from Minneapolis. Dave Edmonson, the designer and builder of the Free-Way, began to turn out completed Free-Ways in late 1979. sunrise fiberglass of forest Lake, Minnesota built the bodies, and Mass Machining of Blooming Prarie supplied the steel frame to Edmonson's specifications. All assembly was done at the Burnsville plant. The cars were hand-assembled, and each one took about 30 hours to put together. By August of 1980 the cute little fellows were rolling out of the H-M-Vehicles plant at the rate of about 15 per month, looking like Easter eggs with their bright yellow, red or orange colors. In July, 1981 H-M-V moved to larger quarters (still in Burnsville) and production increased, at one point, to more than 50 vehicles per month. By September, 1981 H-M-V had delivered 380 Free-Ways.
From this point to the end of Free-Way production, my information is sketchy. I know that production continued until more that 700 Free-Ways had been produced, but the company eventually failed in 1982, due to the usual financial difficulties. Another company, D & A Vehicles of St. Cloud, Minnesota acquired the rights to the Free-Way, and in late 1983 placed a two page ad in Bubble Notes for the Minikin, a 2-passenger (side by side) vehicle that utilized the Free-Way frame and running gear, but with a different fiberglass body. The Minikin was a short-lived effort, perhaps because it was rather odd looking... to be charitable. Thereafter, Jerry Kraft, a former employee of H-M-V, sold parts for the Free-Way until mid-1985. Thus ends my knowledge of the Free-Way saga.
Although there were, to the best of my knowledge, at least 700 Free-Ways sold, they are not at all well-known outside the microcar and minicar fraternity. Most people, even those who consider themselves "car nuts", have never heard of it. As far as I know, it was never featured in any of the major automotive magazines--Road & Track, Car & Driver, and the like. This dearth of publicity may help to explain why the company eventually ceased operation. Even now, the Free-Way remains obscure. "The Illustrated Micro & Mini Car Buyer's Guide" doesn't even mention it, even though they do feature many other vehicles that were produced in smaller quantities.