By the mid-fifties, the European car industry had still to completely recover from the economic fallout of the Second World War. Legislators were faced with a unique problem, the people needed means of transport to get their lives back in order but there weren’t enough resources to provide for everyone. This is when the unique concept of microcars came about. These were cheap to make and could usually be driven by anyone having a motorcycle license.
The BMW Isetta 300 you see here is a textbook example of the microcar. Produced between 1956 and 1962, this car can be credited with turning BMW’s fortunes around, a company which at the time was faced with an ageing product line and economic distress in its home country of Germany. The design was licensed from Iso Autoveicoli, an Italian maker of scooters and motorcycles. BMW made a few major improvements to this design, the most prominent of which was the addition of two small wheels at the back instead of the original single rear wheel design. The engine was also replaced by a 297cc single cylinder 13hp unit from a BMW motorcycle. The car weighed in at about 350kg and was good for 85km/hr with a 4-speed manual putting the power down on the road.
More interesting, however, is the design of the car. Iso’s heritage as a former refrigerator maker clearly visible with the BMW Isetta 300. The car was strictly a two-seater with a single door in front of the car. The idea behind this was to save costs and to let passengers get out of tight parking spots easily. The interiors were minimal with no instrumentation to speak of, except a speedometer. To facilitate easy ingress and egress, a unique foldable steering wheel was added to the BMW Isetta 300.
The 162,000 unit production run shows this car to be a success even with its borderline comical styling and the fairly basic engineering that it had to offer. This is because it provided a solution to a unique transportation problem that the European countries were faced with at the time, to some extent like what the electric car is set to do soon for the rest of the world. This fine example of BMW’s oddest car ever will go on sale at the Bonhams Padua Auction later in October.