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HomeFeatured VehiclesPick of the Day: 1957 BMW Isetta

Pick of the Day: 1957 BMW Isetta

No it's not an egg, but it is the perfect car for Easter

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If you want to make an impression at a local cars and coffee or even a regional concours event there are few cars that make a bigger impression, especially for a tiny car, than the BMW Isetta.

After WWII ended, cars were both scarce and expensive, and as a result many Europeans were using motorcycles and scooters as transportation. Companies were looking for inexpensive ways to put people back on four wheels, an offering that offered more luxury and protection from the elements than a motorcycle and were also inexpensive. In this environment our Pick of the Day was born, an inexpensive and very small car designed for commuting: the BMW Isetta.

BMW in the early 1950s was on the brink of bankruptcy. The motorcycle business was declining and their initial post war cars (the 503 and the 507) were so expensive to produce that BMW actually sold them at a loss. The company needed a car that was both inexpensive to produce and affordable to the average working class European.

BMW found its solution at the 1954 Turin Car Show. While visiting the Iso Rivolta booth, an Italian maker of refrigerators and mini cars, there was a small egg shaped, two seat car with a huge door in the front. It was called the Iso Isetta. The BMW delegation acquired the licensing rights for the Isetta and production began shortly afterwards.

The car was an immediate hit with 10,000 cars sold in the first year. The Isetta was seen all over Germany and other European countries. During its eight year production run BMW built a total of 161,728 Isettas. Production ended in 1962, as by that time the standard of living for Europeans had improved and people wanted full-size cars.

The Pick of the Day is one of these fun cars, a 1957 BMW Isetta 300 for sale on ClassicCars.com located in Springfield, Ohio.

The seller describes this Isetta as an example that received a comprehensive nut and bolt restoration that now is like a fine piece of jewelry. It is finished in a period correct color scheme of teal paint with a with a black rollback sunroof, a white roof and white nose stripe.

The interior is fitted with a black leather bench seat with black and white plaid inserts, black floor matting, a teal-colored three-spoke steering wheel, a heater, sliding side windows and reverse-sweep 60 mph VDO speedometer. The body features the famous front-opening door, which is equipped with vents and dual windshield wipers. Fitted with chrome bumpers and overriders, a chrome driver’s sideview mirror and twin side-mounted headlights.

The car is powered by its correct BMW motorcycle derived 298cc air-cooled, single-cylinder engine with a 4-speed column shift manual transmission.

All the photos of this car show a nice Isetta restoration. The paint looks to be in great condition and well done, the interior is correct and also looks to be in excellent shape.

The Isetta is in no way luxury or even a roomy car, and while two people can fit in the car they better be friends as it is a tight fit. It is possible to seat three, as evidenced in this period advertising photo, but no one will be comfortable.

Driving one of these cars is an experience, as they are both fun and a bit scary behind the wheel. These cars have a reported top speed of only 62 mph. I have driven quite a few over the years but was never comfortable driving any Isetta 300 at anything faster than 45 mph.

if you are looking for something completely different and want to make a huge impression at a car show in with the smallest possible car, this Isetta looks like the perfect choice. In addition, the condition of this example looks to good enough to even take to a regional concours event, as many of these have microcar classes. With Easter being tomorrow you can drive the world’s biggest Easter egg and really get into the holiday spirit.

The asking price of this 1957 Isetta is $39,900, which is a market correct price for a well restored example as this one looks to be. I guarantee that the restoration cost more than the asking price for this car, so think of it as buying a car and getting the restoration for free.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, browse the archives at Pick of the Day.

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Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 carsā€”none of them normal or reasonableā€”as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Deja vu, BMW’s 1st 4 wheelers were British Austin Dixis also made under license, 20 years earlier. 1 of the overpriced V8s was 507, Elvis drove 1 (had to paint it red to hide the lipstick ph. #s scrawled on it every morning) & John Surtees’ auctioned for $5 million recently.

  2. I remember the Isetta from the 50’s. A novelty then and I saw one occasionally as a boy riding around on my bike In Denver. I wonder now how many survived collisions, not to mention their poor drivers and occupants. Gas then was maybe $.25 per gallon so saving $$ should not have been an issue. No one should ever drive or ride one today for obvious safety reasons. A trailer queen at best.

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