VME Group

VME (the Vulcania Mechanical Engineering company) is an industrial conglomerate founded in 1811 in Vulcania, a city in the fictional nation of Letrastan, initially to produce stationary steam engines. The next year it introduced its first steam railway locomotive, and in the decades to come it would diversity into ropeways (such as mining tramways and ski lifts), tramcars, electric trains, diesel multiple unit trains, and automobiles, the first of which was sold in 1897. In addition to cars, they still sell all of those other products today (even steam locomotives, in limited numbers for clients such as amusement parks and cog railways).

The VME Group’s first cars were powered by steam, and handbuilt and marketed by Apex, their bespoke coachbuilding division that they had recently acquired. When more affordable electric runabouts were introduced in 1902, slated to be manufactured in the same factory as VME’s electric trams and with more machine-made components, the decision was made to sell these less prestigious cars under the VME marque like the company’s railway vehicles. In 1908 a lower-priced steam car was introduced, and also badged as a VME rather than an Apex. It was not until 1916 that the company introduced its first internal combustion engine as an alternative powertrain option in both VME and Apex models, and the next year, true mass-production of VME automobiles in the manner pioneered by Henry Ford would commence thanks to the construction of a large dedicated car factory. Although petrol engines gained popularity among VME and Apex buyers, the company would continue to champion and refine steam technology much as Doble and Stanley did, with their larger cars being steam-powered right up until the beginning of World War II.

After the war, VME’s lineup was completely overhauled and pared down to just two models, both of which were clean-sheet designs using all-metal construction and brand-new engines that employed direct-acting overhead cam technology. The supermini Sparrow with the 1.1L “Mighty-Mite” inline-3 was to be Letrastan’s “People’s Car”; although VME had successfully kept the price low and the Sparrow was by no means a sales flop, the new sub-250cc bikes from various motorcycle companies would be what truly gave the middle classes their first taste of personal motorised travel, as the economy wasn’t quite strong enough for the majority of citizens to afford any car from any manufacturer at that time. The 2.6-metre-wheelbase Antelope introduced the 2.2L “Hi-Ratio” inline-4 and was targeted at wealthier individuals and families, with available options like a radio and a significantly improved Premium-grade interior in the top Blackwood trim.

That is the story of how the VME automobile division as we know it today came to be founded; what happened next will be recounted in car model posts if I decide to make any 40s and 50s cars.

2012 VME Chickadee

In 2012, VME launched a new generation of Chickadee, its beloved ultra-budget sports car that has long been a favorite among young people without much money. Available in both soft-top cabriolet and targa bodystyles, the designers gave it a wheelbase of only 2.1 metres (small enough to be a Kei car in Japan if a compliant engine were fitted) and strongly prioritised driving dynamics over modern convenience features. The resulting roadster is therefore cheap enough to produce that it is competitive in price with the likes of the Mitsubishi Mirage, let alone other sports cars.

Displayed from left to right in the image above, the available trims are as follows:

  • California* ($10,500): The base trim features a 1.5L inline-4 equipped with dual overhead cams and advanced carburation technology, sending 105hp to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox. The all-round unservoed drum brakes with dual leading shoes in the front provide surprisingly good stopping power in a car this small. What is less Jurassic is the inclusion of air conditioning and a radio/CD player unit as standard features, with leather seats also being available as an option. The Targa variants of all trims have a removable rear glass panel, reducing drag in convertible mode and allowing a third passenger to be carried in the detachable rumble seat.

  • Cordillera ($13,700): This trim comes standard with fuel injection, boosting the engine’s output to 122 horsepower, as well as power front disc brakes, alloy wheels and power mirrors. Power windows, leather seats, antilock brakes and traction control, an infotainment system with backup camera, and power central locks are available as options.

  • Turbo ($18,000): New for 2012, the Chickadee Turbo comes standard with a turbocharged engine producing 201hp but still only needing 87 octane fuel, a six-speed manual gearbox, limited slip differential, rear disc brakes and 16-inch wheels with lower profile tyres. To keep the price low, the range of included and optional non-drivetrain features is the same as in the Cordillera.

*Not available in the actual state of California due to emissions laws. PROPOSITION 65 WARNING: This vehicle can expose you to chemicals including lead, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.


Fun little thing, why such a jurassic version though?

The base trim goes from 0 to 62 in 9.5 seconds, has a top speed of over 120mph, gets 29mpg combined and really does have a decent braking distance; since the performance turned out to be perfectly adequate with the carbed engine and front drums I thought I may as well leave them in and pinch as many pennies as possible.

Umm, okay, though I think in real production parts sharing would save you more money :wink: Oh, and I don’t think there would be many markets in which a carbed engine would pass the emissions tests AND a sports car would sell well, even a cheap one. But again, aside from my nitpicks, this is a nice car :slight_smile:

The styling is a long way from period-correct, and the carbureted engine on the base trim is an unnecessary anachronism (as is the fitment of drum brakes on all but the flagship Turbo), but the Chickadee could fill a niche in the under-represented entry level sports car market.

Besides, the whole lineup should be able to run exclusively on unleaded fuel.

Does it look too old or too sparse for the era? The Mazda Miata doesn’t have a busy or angry-looking front end either, at least it didn’t in 2012. And all variants run on regular unleaded; the Proposition 65 warning was a joke referencing the fact that many different products which have miniscule risks but are basically harmless in practice are required to carry it by the California state government.

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The front end is OK, but the taillight fixtures (or rather, a variant of them) are too simplistic for a post-2010 car.

1967 VME Sparrow

The fourth-generation VME Sparrow, produced between 1967 and 1975, is the car that made it cool to drive a compact. Now far from being a vehicle for people who couldn’t afford anything bigger, with deliberately limited functionality to encourage people to purchase larger cars, the new Sparrow boasted an unprecedented range of bodystyles, drivetrains and interior options.

Whilst the Sparrow could obviously be bought as an inexpensive, practical family sedan, like the base model in the first two images with its basic interior and 63hp 1.5L DAOHC inline-4, the top Tourline trim could be ordered with most of the same amenities as full-sized cars. The one in the image above (the blue car) has radial tyres, a well-appointed interior, air conditioning, and a 2.2L dual-overhead-cam inline-4 making a full 121 horsepower, which propels the car to 60 in around 10 seconds and gives it a top speed of 118 miles per hour. You didn’t need to shell out for a high trim level if you wanted a car that both drove well and looked the part, though; all Sparrows had tight-handling, refined driving dynamics, and the sporty liftback and cabriolet bodystyles were available with multiple different trim levels. The red car above is the base Standard trim ordered as a liftback coupe, and with a radio and the 77hp 1.8L DAOHC 4-cylinder added as options.

The comfortable interior of the Sparrow 220TC Tourline

The Sparrow Courier was a commercial variant, available as a panel van or ute, and with an economical 1.2L DAOHC inline-4 producing 48hp as the base engine. This motor was not made available in the passenger car variants as it was deemed too slow for the general public. The other cars in this image are the 220TC Sportline Cabriolet and the 220 Plus Wagon equipped with the 3-speed V-Matic transmission (the numbers represent the engine displacement in CC divided by 10, and TC stands for Twin Cam).

During development, VME decided that there would be two sporty trim levels of the Sparrow - the Sportline, which would have sport suspension and wheels along with 4-cylinder engines, and the Gran Turismo, the fastest trim which was to be powered by an inline-six. However, due to a catastrophic lapse in communication between the engine and body departments, the car’s engine bay was designed with inadequate dimensions that left it simply unable to accommodate the I6. So VME did what any sensible company would do and plonked a V8 in there - specifically the 5.4L DOHC unit from the Valkyrie muscle car, which produced 325 horsepower. Combined with a 5-speed manual gearbox, limited-slip differential and staggered sport radial tyres, the Sparrow GT540 could blast to 60mph in under six seconds and reach a top speed of 162mph. Of course, seatbelts were still an extra-cost option. Disc brakes? Add them yourself!

The powerful V8 engine was also available in the Police Interceptor variant. The yobbo driving this EPIC riced-out Covet with no performance upgrades was in for the surprise of his life when the “ancient rustbucket cop car” he breezed past caught up to him almost immediately.

The full list of models is as follows:

Courier - the commercial variant of the Sparrow

  • Available engines: 48hp 1.2L “Hi-Conomy” DAOHC I4, 63hp 1.5L “Hi-Conomy” DAOHC I4, 77hp 1.8L “Hi-Ratio” DAOHC I4**
  • Body styles: Ute, panel van
  • Features: 4-speed manual gearbox, basic interior, cross-ply tyres, single-leading-shoe front drum brakes
  • Options: Radio

Standard - a solid family car at the lowest price

  • Available engines: 63hp 1.5L “Hi-Conomy” DAOHC I4, 77hp 1.8L “Hi-Ratio” DAOHC I4, 93hp 2.2L “Hi-Ratio” DAOHC I4**
  • Body styles: Sedan, liftback, wagon, 4x4 crossover***
  • Features: 4-speed manual gearbox, basic interior, cross-ply tyres, single-leading-shoe front drum brakes
  • Options: Radio, other miscellaneous interior features

Plus - a more comfortable trim

  • Available engines: 63hp 1.5L “Hi-Conomy” DAOHC I4*, 77hp 1.8L “Hi-Ratio” DAOHC I4, 93hp 2.2L “Hi-Ratio” DAOHC I4, 121hp 2.2L “Flow-Ratio” DOHC I4
  • Body styles: Sedan, liftback, wagon, cabriolet
  • Features: 4-speed manual gearbox, standard interior, cross-ply tyres, dual-leading-shoe front drum brakes
  • Options: 3-speed V-Matic gearbox**

Tourline - Full-sized amenities in a compact car

  • Available engines: 77hp 1.8L “Hi-Ratio” DAOHC I4*, 93hp 2.2L “Hi-Ratio” DAOHC I4*, 121hp 2.2L “Flow-Ratio” DOHC I4
  • Body styles: Sedan, liftback, wagon, cabriolet, 4x4 crossover
  • Features: 4-speed manual gearbox, radio, standard interior, radial tyres, dual-leading-shoe front drum brakes
  • Options: 3-speed V-Matic gearbox, air conditioning

Sportline - The sporty but still practical car

  • Available engines: 93hp 2.2L “Hi-Ratio” DAOHC I4*, 121hp 2.2L “Flow-Ratio” DOHC I4, 140hp 2.2L “Flow-Ratio” DOHC I4 with performance intake and dual carbs
  • Body styles: Sedan, liftback, wagon, cabriolet, shooting brake
  • Features: 4-speed manual gearbox, radio, standard interior, wider radial tyres, dual-leading-shoe front drum brakes
  • Options: 5-speed manual gearbox, air conditioning

Gran Turismo - The ultimate sports compact

  • Available engine: 325hp 5.4L “Howler-Eight” DOHC V8
  • Body styles: Sedan, liftback, wagon, cabriolet, shooting brake
  • Features: 5-speed manual gearbox, clutched LSD, radio, standard interior, staggered radial sport tyres, dual-leading-shoe front drum brakes
  • Options: Air conditioning

*Archanan, Fruinian and Hetvesian markets only
**Gasmean and Dalluhan markets only
***Archanan market only


Finally another brand set in Automationverse and not in the real world


In 1971, the now highly successful VME Sparrow was given a facelift. Apart from the cosmetic alterations, a number of new features were added. A basic radio was now standard in the Courier and Standard trim levels, although buyers of the former could decline the option in return for a discount, and the Standard, Plus and Tourline trims got their first diesel engine option in the form of a 68hp 2.4L OHV I4 sourced from the newly-acquired DeWitt truck division. Also, the Tourline, Sportline and GT trims now had an 8-track player as an option, and the Gran Turismo received optional front disc brakes.

Back in 1970, VME’s luxury division Blackwood had developed a 2.8L DOHC inline-5 engine that produced 155 horsepower. This engine was made available to police buyers of the Sparrow upon its facelift the next year, to help bridge the gap between the four-cylinder engines that had trouble catching up to some cars and the thirsty, expensive V8.

In 1972, VME developed the new Inertio-Tetramatic gearbox featuring four gears and a lockup conventional torque converter. The first VME Tetramatic gearbox, a 4-speed transmission similar to GM’s original Hydramatic, was only used in luxury cars as it was heavy, costly to build and provided no torque multiplication, with the lethargic 3-speed V-Matic taking its place in small cars. Having solved these problems with the new version, the Inertio-Tetramatic was made available as a premium option in the Sparrow above the old three-speed.

Unlike the Valkyrie muscle car, the Sparrow 540 Gran Turismo was sold worldwide, and developed an almost legendary reputation in some countries. The Fruinians and Europeans fortunate enough to be able to deal with the poor economy could, for a fraction of the purchase price, buy a car that rivalled the performance of anything Civetta made - at least in a straight line. In the facelift, the GT and Sportline variants received a different front end to the other trims - with the turn signals being placed where the brake cooling vents used to be, the front fascia needed to be altered to move the indicators out of the way, and VME’s designers took the opportunity to further differentiate the sporty trims from the others and give them a look evoking that of the Valkyrie.

The shooting-brake in the image above was built in 1973, being one of the last GT Sparrows produced. All of the unfinished GTs that were still in the factory when the oil crisis hit were rechristened the Final Edition, and were loaded with every option available and more - leather seats were added, and the enhanced gas mono-tube dampers that were to be introduced as an option on 1974 model year cars were expedited to the assembly line and fitted as standard. Once these last GTs had thundered out of the door, a true high-performance variant of the unassuming little Sparrow would not be built again until the 2000s.

1992 VME Wren

In 1992, VME introduced the third generation of its Wren city car, replacing the previous model that had been in production since 1982. The new Wren introduced styled wheels, a basic radio, a tachometer, radial tyres and heavy-duty ordinary front brakes as standard in the base model. It used a transverse front-wheel-drive layout, as the Wren had done since its introduction and the larger Squirrel hatchback had done since 1962; these cars remained the only FWD models in VME’s fleet as they refused to follow other manufacturers in switching the rest of their non-sports-cars to front-drive.

The previous Wren, pre-facelift (will get its own lore page once finished)

Apart from the new aerodynamic body style, the new Wren had been engineered to allow the fitment of all-wheel-drive, a capability that was going to be reserved for future use in case the company decided to create a very sporty model. However, in response to the introduction of the Subaru Justy, VME ended up putting the AWD parts into production right from the start and allowed buyers to custom-order the system on almost any model.

Another significant introduction was the brand-new “New-Technology-Three” inline-3 engine. Displacing up to 1.1 litres, its use of a 4-valve single-overhead-cam design gave it a significant bump in power over the lethargic old 2V direct-acting OHC engine of a similar size. It was available in multiple configurations and was powerful enough to also be used in the Squirrel.

Full trim lineup (expand)

SR (Standard Rugged): 4-speed manual gearbox, basic interior, grey bumpers, basic radio, other basic accessories minus hubcaps

  • Options: None

S (Standard): 4-speed manual gearbox, basic interior, grey bumpers, basic radio, other basic accessories

  • Options: AWD, basic cassette player

SE (Standard Extra): 4-speed manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, carpeted cloth standard interior, standard radio, other basic accessories

  • Options: AWD, 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox, basic cassette player, standard cassette player, cruise control, power rack steering, power front disc brakes

TL (Tourline): 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, carpeted cloth standard interior, standard cassette player, cruise control, other basic accessories, air conditioning (in most countries), chrome trim

  • Options: AWD, air conditioning (in coldest countries where not standard), power rack steering, power central locks, premium cassette player, power front disc brakes

ER (Ecoranger): 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, aerodynamic undertray, rear wheel covers, low-drag alloy wheels, carpeted cloth standard interior, standard cassette player, cruise control, other basic accessories

  • Options: Air conditioning, power central locks, premium cassette player

SL (Sportline): 5-speed sport manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, power front disc brakes, gas shocks, wider 15-inch alloy wheels with medium compound tyres, standard cassette player, carpeted cloth standard interior, other basic accessories, chrome trim

  • Options: AWD, 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox, cruise control (standard with previous option), air conditioning, power central locks, premium cassette player

Starting 1993 TS4 (Turbo Sportline 4WD): AWD, 5-speed sport manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, power front disc brakes, gas shocks, wider 15-inch alloy wheels with sport compound tyres, standard cassette player, carpeted cloth standard interior, cruise control, other basic accessories, chrome trim

  • Options: Air conditioning, power central locks, premium cassette player, leather seats

Availability of the optional automatic gearbox is indicated in the Engine Lineup section.

Full engine lineup (expand)

45hp 1.1L “Mighty-Mite” DAOHC I3 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction, low-quality fuel tune and no cat (SR-A)
55hp 1.2L “Hi-Conomy” DAOHC I4 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction and low-quality fuel tune (S-A)
55hp 1.0L “New Technology Three” 4V SOHC I3 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction (S-F, SE-A/F)
55hp 1.7L “DeWitt Bantam” diesel OHV I4 with common-rail mechanical fuel injection (S-F, SE-A/F, TL-A/F)
62hp 1.1L “New Technology Three” 4V SOHC I3 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction (S-G/A, SE-A)
65hp 1.0L “New Technology Three” 4V SOHC I3 with multi-point electronic fuel injection (S-F, SE-F)
75hp 1.2L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction (S-G, SE-G*/A/F)
77hp 1.2L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with per-cylinder multi-point electronic fuel injection and economy tune (ER-G/A/F)
85hp 1.2L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with multi-point electronic fuel injection (SE-A*/F*, TL-F*)
91hp 1.5L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction (S-G*, SE-G*, TL-G*/A*)
100hp 1.5L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with multi-point Xactijet fuel induction (SE-G*/A*/F*, TL-G*/A*, SL-A)
106hp 1.5L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with multi-point electronic fuel injection (SE-F*, TL-G*/A*/F*, SL-G/A/F)
Starting 1993: 171hp 1.5L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with multi-point electronic fuel injection and turbocharger (TS4-G/A/F)

Key: SR = Available in Standard Rugged trim, S = Available in Standard trim, SE = Available in Standard Extra trim, TL = Available in Tourline trim, ER = Available in Ecoranger trim, SL = Available in Sportline trim, TS4 = Available in Turbo Sportline trim, A = Archana and other developing countries, F = Fruinia, Hetvesia, Europe, wealthy Asian countries and similar markets, G = Gasmea, Dalluha, USA, Australia and similar markets, * = Can be paired with a 4-speed automatic gearbox in this trim and market

Interior of the mid-range SE model with the optional cassette player fitted

On the left is the 110SR (Standard Rugged), a version sold only in certain low-income markets until 1997. It was the last VME to use the original Mighty-Mite DAOHC inline-3 that debuted with the first Sparrow in 1946, specifically a 1.1-litre version making 45hp with a low-compression tune for substandard fuel and no catalytic converter. It was the only model to have styled bare steel wheels instead of standard ones with hubcaps, but it did receive all of the other previously optional features that became standard in the new Wren. A raised suspension was also considered but not implemented in the end - VME’s core tenet is that every car they make is a pleasure to drive no matter how cheap or basic it is. On the right is the normal S (Standard) trim, in this case with the 1.7L diesel engine.

Left: An American-market Wren SE with the common 1.5L fuel-inducted engine producing 91hp
Right: A Hetvesian-market Wren TL (the most feature-rich trim) with the optional AWD system and a smaller but fuel-injected 1.2L engine producing 85hp

The hypermiling ER (Ecoranger) trim, with its rear wheel covers, aerodynamic undertray, standard overdrive gearbox and technically advanced but detuned 1.2L engine with per-cylinder multi-point EFI had been introduced with the 1987 facelift of the previous Wren, and made a return in the new generation. This time it got a full 53.4mpg combined and 60.1 highway, but the 77hp engine (up from the previous 70) still had plenty of power for keeping up with traffic in such a small car, with the ER reaching 62 in 10.7 seconds and going on to a top speed of over 110mph.

Now we move on to the sport trims. On the left is the SL (Sportline), a cheap and cheerful front-wheel-drive (or optional AWD) hatchback with a 106hp fuel-injected engine, larger alloy wheels with medium compound tyres, tighter suspension with gas shocks and a standard 5-speed gearbox with less overdrive. It sprints to 62 in 8.6 seconds and allegedly reaches 137mph with FWD (I think the top speed estimates in Automation are a bit broken).

On the right is the Wrocket, a limited-production AWD hot hatch modified by the external tuning house Tricolor Works, and made possible by VME’s decision to start building the AWD components at the beginning of production. The partially handbuilt 1.5L DOHC I4 engine, using the same basic block design as in the other Wrens, screams to the tune of 230 horsepower thanks to its twin-scroll turbocharger, per-cylinder multi-point EFI and high-compression tune. 0 to 62 took just 4.9 seconds. Notice the lack of VME badging - for the 1992 model year, VME was on the fence of not allowing TCW to modify the Wren in such a manner to begin with due to the amount of boost, and was certainly not going to let its name go anywhere near such a high-strung “doozy” of a car.

When the Wrockets were subsequently very well received and didn’t immediately grenade their motors, VME not only backpedaled on its decision to withhold their brand name going forward, but decided to get in on the fun themselves. In 1993, the Wren TS4 (Turbo Sportline 4WD, in the middle of the image), a milder mass-produced turbocharged Wren, was introduced to the core lineup. The company’s first proper hot-hatch and first factory-turbocharged car*, its less highly-strung engine with a single-scroll turbo and single-unit MPEFI produced 171hp without the need for premium fuel, and also sent it to all four wheels via a standard AWD transfercase. The exhaust received two glasspacks to make the noise level more liveable than in the Wrocket, which had the turbocharger and catalytic converter as its only mufflers.

*Alongside the GT trim of the larger Squirrel hatchback introduced in the same year, similarly in response to the success of a red-hot Tricolor Works version, and excluding diesels and a few rare offroaders from the DeWitt truck division with a low-boost turbo to improve high-altitude performance.

Inspired by the humorous aftermarket versions of the default BeamNG cars, I have created two of my own for the Wren:

Ricer: A tastelessly blinged-out Archanan-market base model, with purely cosmetic modifications that alone cost more than a proper SL Wren would on the used market. Can you handle ALL 45 HORSEPOWER? As with all other cars, the .car file is available on request if you want to find out.

The Coal Wroller: Yes, somebody actually ordered a base-model diesel Wren with the expensive AWD option. And then abandoned it. One Chinese turbocharger kit and set of new wheels later, and we have ourselves a potent little amateur rally machine with 90hp.


13 engines?! Crazy.

But it only has seven different engine block sizes from five families; this expands into 13 options (not all available in every market) due to the varying use of either Xactijet fuel induction or electronic fuel injection and natural aspiration or turbocharging.