Auctions and Brokerage
The BMW Isetta
First developed by Renzo Rivolta’s highly successful Iso S.p.A. in Italy and license-built in several countries, the Isetta, Italian for “little Iso,” was primarily intended to provide economical and practical transportation for the masses. However, it also enjoys a largely unheralded racing heritage, gained in 1954 when a trio of Iso “works” Isettas swept the podium in the Economy Class at the storied Mille Miglia.
The Isetta was also produced and developed with considerable enthusiasm into several model configurations by BMW in West Germany, where it became known whimsically as “das rollende Ei” (or the rolling egg). While the Isetta sold poorly in Italy against the more conventional Fiat 500, the timing for BMW’s launch of the distinctive “microcar” was perfect, as it provided affordable mobility while delivering some 50-plus mpg – an attribute that would soon become a valuable selling point in the face of the sharp oil-supply shocks gripping the world during the tense Suez Crisis the next year.
Beginning with the Model 250, which entered production in early 1955 with a 247 cc single- cylinder engine, the basic Isetta design evolved into the Isetta 300 with a slightly more powerful 298 cc engine for 1956, which was the standard for several years. Thanks to its ease of operation in dense traffic, the Isetta also enjoyed widespread use with West Germany’s Bundespost (postal service). In the US, the Isetta achieved cult status following several appearances on popular TV variety shows. While small in size, the Isetta’s influence was large, helping to save BMW from being taken over by Mercedes-Benz, its much-larger rival, during the late 1950s.
With its striking red and cream paint over a cream vinyl interior, this Isetta is a premier example of the breed, which the consignor reports has always been “enthusiast owned and well cared for.” The current owner acquired the diminutive BMW in 2010, from the former owner who had purchased it in 2008. The consignor then initiated an extensive overhaul both inside and out that included an engine rebuild by marque specialist Mark Hatten with MPH Specialties of Portland, Oregon. Since then, the Isetta has covered only 50 miles for a total of just over 8,900 miles showing on the odometer at the time of cataloguing. The interior of this Isetta has also benefitted from a thorough refresh and is in top form. The intact jack and handle, receipts for the recent engine rebuild, and correspondence with several previous owners accompany the sale of the car. This is an excellent and running example of BMW’s charming Isetta and is ready for road and concours alike.