CHASSIS NO: 502608
• Fresh restoration now being completed and soon to be ready to enjoy
• Rare and desirable convertible variant
• An iconic 1950s European microcar
• Highly collectible and enjoyable
297 cc air-cooled, single-cylinder engine, 13 HP, four-speed manual gearbox, chain drive, coil-spring independent front suspension, trailing-arm leaf-spring rear suspension, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes; wheelbase: 1,500 mm
The instantly recognizable Isetta originates from Isothermos, the firm owned by industrialist Renzo Rivolta, which achieved great success manufacturing refrigeration equipment under the ‘Iso’ name. Designed by Pierluigi Raggi and Ermenegildo Preti, the Isetta was the product of Rivolta’s desire to produce a small and economical car to help mobilize Italy’s population as it recovered from the devastation of WW II. The result was the 7½-foot-long by 4½-foot-wide Isetta, which translates to English as “Little Iso.” Bubble windows and a single bench seat allowed room for about two people. A single front hatchway door swung open for passenger entry, and steering was made possible by a forward-hinged universal joint with attached instrument panel. While initial versions of the Isetta had only a single rear wheel, later versions benefited from the increased stability of two rear wheels placed closely together, removing need for a differential for power delivery, which was via a four-speed gearbox and chain drive.
License-built by BMW in West Germany, the Isetta quickly became commonly known as “das rollende ei,” the rolling egg. Changes from the original design were few, limited primarily to mechanicals, and the engine was enlarged from the original 250-cc unit to a 300-cc engine shared with the BMW R27 motorcycle by 1956. Briefly, the Isetta’s weird yet charming presence made it a hit on early TV shows in 1950s America, and Germany’s Bundespost used them in significant numbers for mail deliveries in urban centers, where their small size and excellent fuel economy (up to some 50 MPG) made them virtually indispensable. Isetta owners were never at a loss for a parking space, contributing to their strong popularity among city dwellers. While the basic Isetta was certainly practical, the Isetta Convertible, with its roll-back soft top, was purpose-built for fun, economical motoring with a cheeky, avant-garde persona.
Slated to have its fresh restoration completed prior to the auction, 1957 BMW Isetta 300 Convertible is a rare and highly desirable example indeed. Suited to a growing number of shows and concours venues, it is big on fun, benefiting from a strong following, abundant parts supplies, and the support of legions of knowledgeable enthusiasts and specialists.