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” – 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.
Finished in red, this BMW Isetta is an improved sliding-window, 298 cc variant from 1959 equipped with a delightful canvas sunroof and complemented by nice brightwork and period-style whitewall tires from Coker. It was acquired by the consignor in 2009 after a prior unsuccessful attempt to purchase it from the then owner, Bill Klageman of Michigan, who restored it thoroughly from 1996–2002.
Under the consignor’s care, the Isetta has seen only limited local driving, and has never been shown, allowing its new owner the pleasure of returning it to the public eye. It has been serviced as needed, including a cleaning of the carburetor. Many copies of restoration-related correspondence, as well as parts and service orders accompany the sale of this small but mighty BMW. The perfect choice for the collector who appreciates the fine art of micro-engineering.