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When BMW made a bubble car


In post-World War II Germany, micro cars were all the rage.

Former aircraft manufacturers Messerschmitt and Heinkel marketed co-called bubble cars, and BMW built the three-wheel Isetta.

Built under licence by BMW from the Italian scooter and three-wheeler manufacturer Iso SpA, the Cuddle box, as it was nicknamed, came initially in 1953 with the four-stroke 245cc single cylinder engine borrowed from the BMW R25 motorcycle. That motor was replaced by the R278’s 298cc engine in 1956 to create the Isetta 300.

The three-wheel, single cylinder 1962 Isetta 300 micro car pictured was sold at auction by Shannons in Australia for $Au16,000.

With just 13hp, the 300’s acceleration was modest, but it could reach a top speed of 85km/h (if you were game) and sipped fuel at the rate of just 5.5 litres/100km, making it an attractive all-weather two-seater alternative to a motorcycle.

The Isetta had a unique refrigerator-style front-opening door. The steering wheel and column swung out of the way with the door to allow passengers to get in and out.

Iso patented the front-opening door mechanism in 1951 but sold the production rights to BMW in 1955 at a time when the Bavarian company was struggling to develop a new full-sized car.

BMW built 135,567 Isettas in Munich before production ceased in 1962.

The lime green 300 model pictured came with two copies of the original books, documentation of the restoration and numerous spare parts. Later in 2005, Shannons sold a fully restored, left-hand drive, bright red 1960 Isetta 300 for $Au17,500 after solid bidding.

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