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Image Left 1956 Isetta1958 Isetta 300 Image Right
 

1957 BMW Isetta news, pictures, specifications, and information

Coupe
 
Following World War Two many Europeans needed low-cost transportation. The Isetta, when introduced in Turin, Italy in 1953, looked like something from another planet.

Licenses were granted to several companies to build their version of the Isetta and in April 1955 BMW introduced its version, which featured a redesigned, 247cc, one-cylinder motor that developed 13 horsepower. BMW re-engineered their car so parts were interchangeable between their Isetta Motor Coupe and the Iso Isetta.

BMW ceased production of the BMW Isetta in May of 1962, when they launched the new BMW 700. A total of 161,728 BMW Isettas had been built.
Coupe
 
BMW licensed the production of the Isetta from the Italian firm ISO. They redesigned the powerplant around a BMW one-cylinder, four-stroke, 247cc motorcycle engine which generated 13 horsepower. Although the major elements of the Italian design remained intact, BMW re-engineered much of the car, so much so that none of the parts between a BMW Isetta Moto Coupe and an Iso Isetta are interchangeable. The first BMW Isetta appeared in April 1955.

In 1956, the government of the Federal republic of Germany changed the regulations for motor vehicles. This change in regulations encouraged BMW to revise the Isetta. In October of 1956, the Isetta Moto Coupe DeLuxe (sliding-window Isetta) was introduced. The bubble windows were replaced by longer, sliding side windows. The engine was enlarged to exactly 298cc which produced more torque and made the car much easier to drive.

This car is a very unique cabriolet of which less than 30 exist in the United States. The current owner purchased the car in 1978 at the tender age of 19. His hard driving bargaining skills reduced the price from $75 to $60. When purchased the engine was in the front seat. It took a year to get it back on the road, then the car languished over the next 32 years until 2010, when it was professionally restored to its current condition.
Coupe
Chassis Num: 511136
 
Sold for $29,700 at 2006 RM Auctions.
The Isetta was a micro car built by Renno Rivolta, a refrigerator manufacturer. Sales were slow and after two years sold the rights to BMW. BMW debuted the Isetta at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1955 along with their 505 Pullman Limousine. The contrast between the two vehicles was obvious and generated positive press for BMW.
BMW was a struggling company when the purchased the Isetta. Luckily the market was willing and wanting to own the 13 horsepower vehicle and within a few years helped bring BMW back from the brink of bankruptcy.

The Isetta were tiny with seating for two. Power was from a BMW motorcycle that was 298 cc in size, air cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder, and produced a staggering 13 horsepower. This was enough to carry the 59.1 inch wheelbase vehicle to a top speed of 50 mph. Fuel mileage was exceptional reaching nearly 45 miles per gallon.

At the 2006 RM Auction in Monterey the vehicle was estimated to sell between $40,000 - $50,000. The vehicle failed to meet this mark but was sold due to no reserve. According to the estimated value of the car, the new owner found a bargain at $29,700.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006
Coupe
Chassis Num: 500153
 
Sold for $28,600 at 2007 Gooding & Company.
This BMW Isetta 300 sat in Carmel Valley for a number of years as passers-by assumed it was a broken golf car. In the 1990s, a BMW enthusiast and mechanic purchased the car and treated it to a nut-and-bolt restoration. The result was a period-correct vehicle finished in a two-tone paint scheme of red-an-white enamel. It has the original glass, and a full Palomino leather interior. The car includes a sunroof, correct sliding windows, luggage rack, parking brake, and heater/defroster.

The car has a reported top-speed of 75 mph and is one of approximately 1,000 surviving examples in the US. The single-cylinder 298 cc engine produces 13 horsepower and is mated to a four-speed manual transmission with reverse. The total weight of this 60 mile-per-gallon vehicle is 770 lbs.

In 2007 it was brought to the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, CA where it was offered without reserve and estimated to sell for $25,000 - $30,000. Those estimates proved accurate as the lot was sold for $28,600 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | May 2008
 
A northeast Ohio favorite, Neil Zurchers 'One Tank Trip' car from Fox TV-8 in Cleveland. This car was featured in 1998 and 1999.

Source - Canton Classic Car Museum
Coupe
 
The Isetta was designed and built by Rennio Rivolta, a refrigerator manufacturer. After two years of slow sales Rivolta sold Isetta to BMW (Bavarian Motor Works). BMW debuted the Isetta at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1955. 25,000 Isetta's were produced between 1957 and 1962. Passengers enter the car through a front opening door into a bench seat.

The two passenger 1957 BMW Isetta 300 micro car is a very fuel efficient car getting 45 miles per gallon and is capable of 53 mph. The rear mounted BMW 4-stroke, 295cc, 1-cylinder engine has 13 horsepower. The car has a steel body and Dynastart starter.
Coupe
 
In the aftermath of WWWII, the necessity for Europeans to economize gave birth to microcar. Miniscule by American standards, the typical micro-car provided room for two people and was powered by a motorcycle engine. Numerous automobile manufacturers built microcars and BMW was no exception. The Isetta was designed and built by Italian refrigerator and motor scooter manufacturer ISO SPA. Introduced in 1953, ISO soon began to license the production of the Isetta to other companies. In 1954 BMW became a licensee and also bought ISO's tooling for the car. Instead of reproducing the Italian version, BMW re-engineered the car to their more exacting standards. The single-cylinder 250cc, four-stroke engine from the R25/3 motorcycle was fitted and the entire drivetrain revised. The BMW Isetta 250 went on sale in April 1955. When production ended in 1962 a total of 161,728 cars had been built. The little Isetta had saved BMW in difficult times.

This example was purchased from Bruce Weiner's Microcar Museum after spending 20 years in a German museum. Because it was built in Europe, details differ from those exported to America.
Coupe
Chassis Num: 502242
 
Sold for $38,000 at 2013 Mecum.
This BMW Isetta Cabriolet is one of less than thirty that is believed to exist in the United States today. It has the correct 300cc 13 horsepower air-cooled one-cylinder engine mate to a 4-speed manual gearbox.
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2013
Coupe
Chassis Num: 503831
 
Sold for $38,500 at 2014 RM Auctions.
The BMW Isetta is the world's most popular microcar. Renzo Rivolta sold his Isetta microcar, plans, tools, and equity to Bayerische Motoren Werke, of Munich, in 1954.

The BMW Company was founded on aero engines and later produced motorcycles before moving into sports cars prior to World War II. After the War, the factory was in ruins and cash was short. Their range of large, bulbous cars failed to ignite the interest of the public. Short on options, management decided to take a gamble on something completely different - the Isetta microcar.

BMW re-designed the drivetrain to use their 247 cubic centimeter, four-cylinder motorcycle engine. The gearbox output was coupled to a shaft through a rubber universal joint, which led to the chain case. Inside were double drive chains that rested in oil and attached to the solid rear axle. This setup made the power unit much quieter and reduced vibration. After the re-engineering, the setup was completely new with no earlier Iso parts used. The front suspension was also reconfigured to a swing-arm arrangement. Modifications to the body included raising the headlights above the fenders so that they attached directly to the body. In October of 1956, the side windows changed from the fixed 'bubble' type to sliding panes.

In 1956, the engine displacement was increased to 297 cubic centimeters and compression was raised, boosting power to 13 horsepower. There was an increase in torque, but the top speed remained the same, at 85 km/h.

Through 1962, more than 161,000 examples of the Isetta were produced. They provided BMW with a steady source of income, particularly in 1956 and 1957, when the Suez Crisis interrupted oil supplies to Europe. During the eight years that the Isetta remained in production, more than 160,000 examples were built, not counting Isetta production that continued in France, Belgium, Spain, and Brazil.

This particular BMW Isetta has been driven less than 200 miles since a total mechanical and body restoration. It is painted in correct Coral Red and Sand Dune Beige and has the desirable 'tropical door' with fresh-air vents and sliding side windows.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2014
Coupe
Chassis Num: 501377
 
Sold for $30,250 at 2014 RM Auctions.
This Isetta 300 was given a restoration in 2012 and is finished in Cortina Grey over Bavarian Blue and has blue and white vinyl upholstery and sliding side windows, which were introduced in October of 1956. The two-tone color scheme, with the contrasting color traveling down the door, was a 1957 feature. The car has been driven just 500 miles since the restoration.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2014
Coupe
Chassis Num: 507984
Engine Num: 499476
 
Sold for $37,400 at 2014 Gooding & Company.
This Isetta is finished in red and cream paint over a cream vinyl interior. The current owner acquired the BMW in 2010, from the former owner who purchased it in 2008. The new owner initiated an extensive overhaul both inside and out that included an engine rebuild. Since then, the Isetta has covered only 50 miles for a total of just over 8,900 miles showing on the odometer.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2014
At a time when cheap, short-distance transportation was incredibly preferred by consumers, BMW introduced the Isetta in November of 1953 at Turin. One of the most successful microcars that were produced in the post-WWII years, the egg-shaped Isetta's design originated in Italy. The Isetta received the nickname ‘bubble car' because of its bubble-like windows and its egg shape. Other nicknames for the Isetta were ‘das rollende Ei'; the rolling egg in Germany, along with the ‘Sargwagen'; coffin car, ‘yogurt pot' in France, ‘huevito'; little egg in Chili and in Brazil, the ‘bola de futebol de fenemê'; soccer ball of FNM.

The Iso Isetta originated from the Italian firm of Iso SpA, a company that originally began building compact three-wheeled trucks, motor scooters and refrigerators. In the early 1950s Renzo Rivolta, Iso's owner, chose to build small vehicles for mass consumption. Pierluigi Raggi and Ermenegildo Preti, the engineers behind the design, built the Isetta with a scooter engine. Isetta means little ISO in Italian. The designers came up with the design by taking two scooters, placing them close to each other and adding a refrigerator before shaping the result like ‘a teardrop in the wind'.

Considered by some to be the best microcar of all time, the Isetta caused quite a stir when it was unveiled. More unique than anything out there at the time, the ‘bubble car' was only 7.5 feet long and 4.5 feet wide. The entire front end of the vehicle hinged outwards to allow entry, along with an exit for passenger and driver through the canvas sunroof in the event of a crash. Making access to the single bench seat simpler, both the steering wheel and instrument panel swung out with the single door. There was enough room inside the vehicle for two passengers to sit comfortably, and behind the seat was a spare wheel hidden underneath a large parcel shelf. Ventilation was available by opening up the fabric sunroof, and a heater was optional.

The Isetta came with a 236 cc 9.5 hp two cylinder two-stroke motorcycle engine. Dynastart was a combination generator-starter, and a manual gearbox provided four forward speeds and reverse. The rear wheels were 10-inches, and a chain drive connected the gearbox to a solid rear axle.

The original prototype came with one wheel at the rear, but unfortunately this made the vehicle very susceptible to rolling over, so two rear wheels were places at the rear 19 inches away from each other. Since the track was so narrow, no differential was needed. The front axle was an updated variation of a Dubonnet independent front suspension.

The Iso Isetta achieved a top speed of 45 m ph, and could reach 30 mph in just over 30 seconds. The Isetta featured a small fuel tank that only held 3.5 gallons, and could get somewhere between 50-70 miles per gallon of gas.

Iso introduced two models, the Autocarro; a commercial version with full-width rear axle and the Turismo which had a narrow 50 cm rear track. The Autocarro came in a variety of body styles, an enclosed truck, a tilt-bed, a fire engine and a flatbed pickup. In Italy the Autocarro was immensely popular as that type of vehicle was utilized often.

Achieving an average speed of 43 mph, several Isettas were entered in the Mille Miglia in 1954. The Isetta took the top three spots in the economy classification, a distance more than 1,000 miles that the drivers achieved in more than 70 mph. Even though at first the Isetta was incredibly popular, it began to drop in popularity due to renewed competition from FIAT with its 500C model.

At this time, Rivolta wanted to spend his time and energy on his new Iso Rovolta sports vehicle, and also concentrate on doing license deals. During mid 1954, BMW started talking with Rivolta about not just a license, but in fact the complete Isetta body tooling. Licensing the Isette to BMW wasn't the last thing Rivolta did, he also negotiated similar deals with companies in Brazil and France.

In 1955 the production of Italian built cars ending after the construction of about 1,000 units. It is estimated that around 4,000 Autocarros were built, while Iso continued to build the Isetta in Spain until 1958.

The first car to be produced in Brazil, the Romi-Isetta was introduced on September 5th, 1956. A total of 3,000 units were introduced from the beginning of production until 1961. Iso licensed the Isetta to Romi, a machine-tool manufacturer in 1955. Romi is located in the city of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste, in the State of São Paulo. The Iso design and engines remained ntil 1958 before they were replaced with the BMW 300 cc engines.

The Isetta's powerplant was redesigned by BMW. The powerplant was rebuilt around a BMW one-cylinder, four-stroke, 247 cc motorcycle engine that produced 13 hp. Most of the original elements of the Italian design stayed the same while BMW re-engineered much of the vehicle, so that none of the parts between and Iso Isetta and a BMW Isetta Moto Coupe are interchangeable. In April of 1955, the first BMW Isetta was unveiled. In the following eight months a around 10,000 ‘bubble cars' were produced.

BMW added the Isetta 250 to the lineup. Keeping the same 'bubble windows' as the original Isetta, this version was redesigned to carry a modified version of the 250 cc 4-stroke engine from the BMW R25/3 motorcycle and the front suspension was also updated. The 250 was two-tone colored and featured headlamps fixed separately to the sides of the bodywork.

The cylinder head was made up of aluminum while the crankcase and cylinder were constructed of cast iron. At 5800 rpm, the single-cylinder generated 12 hp. Compared with the motorcycle engine the head was rotated by 180 degrees. The twin-bearing crankshaft was also much larger and came with reinforced bearings due to the heavy Dynastart unit that combined the self-starter and the dynamo. BMW also enlarged the sump for installation in the vehicle and cooled the engine by a radial fan and shrouded ducting. The Isetta 250 had a top speed of 53 mph and in Germany could be driven with just a motorcycle license.

The Isetta Moto Coupe DeLuxe; or Isetta 300 was introduced in October of 1956. Considered to be the ‘sliding-window' Isetta, as longer, sliding side windows replaced the famous bubble windows. The 300 featured an enlarged single cylinder to a 72 mm bore and 73 mm stroke which now achieved a displacement of exactly 298 cc. The compression ratio was already raised from 6.8 to 7.0:1. The engine now got 13 hp at 5200 rpm, while the torque jumped to 18.4 N•m at 4600 rpm. The top speed remained at 53 mph on the Isetta 300.

Produced with the intent to be an enlarged Isetta three-wheeler with even more power, along with a conventional four-wheel configuration, the BMW Isetta 600 was the largest of the BMW bubble vehicles. Though the front end of the 600 looked just like the regular Isetta, the wheelbase was stretched to allow room for four passengers comfortably. All-new semi-trailing arm independent suspension was introduced, while a conventional rear axle was also added. This was the same suspension that would be found on every new model for the next 40 years.

Featuring a much more powerful engine, the Isetta 600 came with a 582 cc twin engine from the R67 motorcycle, and could achieve a top speed of 64 mph. Only 34,000 Isetta 600's were produced in the two years of its lifespan, mainly because of the competition from the entry-level VW Beetle.

After 161,728 units had been built, in May of 1962, BMW ceased production of the Isetta.

An all new Isetta is scheduled to be released in 2010 and will be built on the same platform as the Fiat Topolino. The rear engined, rear wheel drive vehicle is expected to achieve 100 mph.

By Jessica Donaldson
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