The Beloved BMW Isetta
Initially released in 1953 by Iso Spa, a refrigerator manufacturer, the Isetta hit the ground with the intention of being a small, cheap and reliable "city car". The little Isetta proved to be wildly successful and was licensed for production in several countries including Germany. BMW picked up production from 1955 to 1962. By '55 the market for cheap, basic, weatherproof transport was huge and BMW was in the right place at the right time.
1957 BMW Isetta Sliding Window Coupe
BMW took the Isetta and fitted its own 247cc motorcycle engine into the chassis and proceeded to churn them out. BMW re-engineered much of the Isetta, to the point that none of the parts from the BMW version would fit on the original Iso Isetta. Over time, the engine size grew to 300cc and several upgrades to the running gear were made. The most notable feature of the Isetta (aside from it's size) is the novel hinged front door. To make steering possible, the column is jointed and swings out of the way. The car also came with a rolltop sunroof for the nice days. The Isetta was available in a three or narrow-track four wheeled setup.
The provenance of the Isetta was enriched evern further in 1954, when several models were entered into the Mille Miglia as the unlikeliest entrant of all time. Nonetheless, the Isetta took the top 3 places in the the economy class with an average speed of 43 miles per hour over the course of the event.
Isetta of Great Britain began producing English versions in 1957, and added full convertible and pick-up styles. The three-wheel style was very popular domestically, while the Austrailian, New Zealand, and Canadian markets imported the four-wheeled model.
Overall, this wonderful micro-car scores four out of five starts for reliability and three out of five starts for maintenance costs, parts/support and market appeal. Prices fluctuate depending on condition, but expect to pay at least $25,000 for one in good, driveable condition. We'll find one for sale for you later this week. We're sure it will prove to be easier to find than a old BMW 501.
(Description courtesy of Sports Car Market magazine)
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