1960 BMW Isetta 300

The two things you probably know about Isetta bubble cars is that they have three wheels, and if you park too close to the garage end wall you’ll get trapped because the single door is at the front and there’s no reverse gear. Well, you’re wrong on both counts. Only some of the British-made cars had three wheels and a disconnected reverse gear so that they could evade automobile legislation and taxation and be classed as a three-wheeled motorcycle. The rest had a conventional gearbox and four wheels, albeit with a narrow track at the rear.

The Isetta was the brainchild of Renzo Rivolta, head of the Italian engineering company Iso SpA that made, among other things, motorcycles and refrigerators.

Rivolta visualized the need for a cheap and compact town car and introduced the Isetta (“little Iso”) in 1953 with a 237-cc twin-cylinder two-stroke engine. Sales were good and within a few years the design was franchised out to BMW in Germany (which wanted to bolster slow sales of their luxury cars) and Velam in France. BMW first fitted their 247-cc single cylinder motorbike engine, and later an out-sourced 297-cc single.

For a time, the Isetta was a popular mode of cheap and cheerful transport. Stiff competition from the Mini effectively killed the car by 1964, though.

The Isetta 300 pictured here benefits from a recent repaint in a two-tone scheme that complements the lines of the bodywork, and is in period style. It is to correct specification in all major respects including chrome trim and front fenders, and retains the original odometer and gas gauge. The interior is in white and gray vinyl, with the sunroof top in matching gray. Condition throughout is fair, though the chrome brightwork shows some blemishing.

This presentable example of the ubiquitous Isetta bubble car is in good running condition. While not the fastest car on the road, it will definitely elicit attention and smiles wherever it is seen.