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Thomas Mallett2012-09-28 17:22:34

Cars that make me smile: Isetta

With its odd, egg-like shape, it is difficult not to smile at the sight of an Isetta.

Would my friends ridicule me if I turned up at a party in an IsettaBMW-IsettaBMW-IsettaGermany, 1955 > 19626 models
120 photos
2 videos
? Probably.

I suspect the result would be that it would be picked up and transported down the road just like we used to do with anyone who had an unfeasibly small vehicle at university. I’d like to point out that this is hearsay and is not to be recommended. It is probably illegal, even if it was highly amusing (one would think) on the way to a night out at the local sweat pit.

So, the Isetta isn’t everyone’s dream of a first car, and certainly not ideal as an only car. But who can honestly say, now I’ve suggested it, that was one advertised very cheaply or you were to win the lottery that an Isetta wouldn’t find its way to you garage?

Owning an Isetta would make every journey an occasion. Can you imagine going to get a pint of milk in that? You’d get let out of junctions and stopped in the petrol stations for people to peer inside. Not in the same way as if you went in your FerrariFerrariFerrariItaly, 1947 > present233 models
5131 photos
37 videos
or PorschePorschePorscheGermany, 1931 > present43 models
4639 photos
29 videos
, but in a curious and friendly way with no resentment. Lovely.

I better tell you a bit about this little gem now, but I’d like to point out first that this is a strangely relevant car for today, so don’t dismiss it. BMWBMWBMWGermany, 1918 > present87 models
8471 photos
43 videos
of all people, are looking at reviving the brand…and I’ll explain why.

It doesn’t take much in the way of observational powers to notice that fuel economy is at the forefront of most peoples minds. Cars are certainly getting more economical but the targets are getting harder and harder to achieve. Manufacturers have targets imposed on them across their ranges by the EU and even the gas guzzling Americans have signed up to a new bill seeking radically better fuel consumption by 2025.

The new Range RoverRange Rover (modern)Land Rover Range Rover (modern)United Kingdom, 1995 > present3 series
57 versions
102 photos
may well be lighter and the turbocharged Mini Cooper S is definitely a whole lot more economical than the original supercharged one. But they are also a fair bit bigger than the originals so there is a gap for something with a tiny footprint.

The Isetta brand would sit nicely in the increasingly large hole below MiniMINI (BMW)MINI (BMW)Germany, 2000 > present15 models
2211 photos
7 videos
and even in 1955 it was economical, using 3 litres of fuel per 100km. At the time it was even the top selling single-cylinder car in the world, with 161,728 units sold. Hardly shabby.

BMW started producing the Isetta in 1955, two years after it acquired the company from Iso – an Italian manufacturer. So it already owns the name and it has had success in the past. It is in a sector of the market that has an appeal in today’s economic mire. Isetta should be a success.

I can’t say that I am entirely convinced that the new Isetta, should it come, will be a three-wheeled bubble car but it should be radical and that is what we need in that sector of the market.

I think the Isetta is pretty cool for those in the know, and amusing for those who don’t. Next time I see one I’m going to wander over, peer inside, and if the driver isn’t about give it a little push just to see it rock on its axle. I won’t be able to resist.

Other articles from this series:

Cars that make me smile: Trabant

Flat 2
585 cc
Top Speed
100 km/h
4, Manual
Maximum power
20 hp @ 4000 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined)
annual ownership cost
540 €




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