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BMW Isetta: The Little Legend

It was an egg-shaped "Motocoupé" with "two and a half seats", powered by a nimble 12 hp engine.

Life wasn't exactly monotonous in 1955. That was the year of Lolita, a work that reflected the personal point of view of Vladimir Nabokov on the generational conflict, the year of the tragic death of James Dean and the long-awaited homecoming of the 9.626 prisoners Germans who still remained in the Soviet Union.

Daily life in Germany he recovered an almost forgotten feeling of normality and the economic difficulties suffered until then began to be overcome. The increase in rents demanded more comfortable ways of traveling and the dream of circulating on the new Federal RepublicAnd even going out on vacation in a vehicle protected from the rigors of the elements, it swept the entire country.

BMW IsettaThat year had a very special surprise in store for the 12.911 drivers and owners of the first BMW conceived for the budget conscious. The Isetta It was an egg-shaped “Motocoupé” with “two and a half seats”, propelled by a agile 12 hp engine installed in the rear.

Its only door opened frontally to the driver and passenger and the distance between the two rear wheels was not even half that between the front wheels. No BMW produced before or after this model has ever been able to boast such idiosyncratic appeal.

Certainly not happy with this unorthodox front opening mechanism, the door also integrated the steering wheel and the dashboard. The driver changed gears using a small lever installed on the ground, to his left, which was reminiscent of the system used by racing cars of that time.

BMW IsettaThe Isetta had arrived… BMW had hit the mark by describing its new model as "The ideal solution for all those looking for an agile and light car with minimal maintenance costs and easy to park or store in the garage". In addition to its technical qualities, the Isetta also offered great economic advantages. The price of just 2.550 marks it was good news for German workers, who earned an average of 90 marks a week. The compulsory third party insurance was 95 marks, while the road tax was reduced to 44 - "less than the price of a dachshund", as the advertising at the time said.


BMW's "egg car" remained a regular on the roads in the 60s, boosting holiday traffic. Your top speed of 85 km/h it was best enjoyed on a trip to Italy, the origin of the Isetta, through the Alps.

It was in the Geneva Motor Show 1954 when a BMW agent discovered what was then a diamond in the rough. The Munich-based manufacturer acquired from the Italian Iso the license to manufacture the Isetta, using a new engine from a motorcycle Single cylinder BMW and remodeling its Italian "clothing", before introducing this new car to the market a year later.

BMW IsettaBut not only Germany fell under the spell of the "rolling egg". The BMW Isetta was delivered to customers beyond its borders and even crossed the ocean "with special protection against fungal and termite attack." Elvis Presley He was photographed with one of these cars shipped to the United States. The King preferred the most regal surroundings of a sports car BMW 507 But, according to legend, he bought an Isetta as a gift for his manager.

Everyone wanted to be seen with the exciting new motorcycle, and celebrities and personalities lined up to share a camera with the smallest member of the BMW family. And even the postwar German film industry would have lost a star without this handsome character.

Sales figures refused to fall after the surprising success of 1955 despite the prophecies of some and, in 1956, BMW added new models to the range. Added to the original 250cc Isetta a more powerful 300 cc 13 hp engine, and both versions were offered in a more comprehensive export model using top-hinged side windows and an improved chassis. BMW also added a range of optional extras, including the drive to the right instead of to the left, a flexible hood and a removable loading platform with a capacity to transport 200 kg, which was complemented by a reinforced suspension.


BMW IsettaIn Germany, only the Glas Goggomobil it rivaled the Isetta in this category. In 1957 - the year in which the motorcycle reached its zenith - BMW sold almost 40.000 Isettas, before the trend towards slightly larger models with four seats and "real" car status tipped the balance to the detriment of microcars. BMW responded to this market evolution with the introduction of the 600, a larger version of the Isetta with Boxer engine two-cylinder installed at the rear.

However, this four-seater was only manufactured until 1959, the year in which it was replaced by the BMW 700, notably more advanced and whose “pontoon” bodywork was consolidated by incorporating, for the first time, the self-supporting structure. The Isetta, meanwhile, continued to be produced and enjoyed great popularity, especially outside of Germany.

The last of his 161.728 units left the assembly line in 1962.



Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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