One of the weirdest microcars of the post-war era was also one of the most popular, the BMW Isetta, which was just this side of a motor scooter and with a front door that opens like a refrigerator.
But lo and behold, the Isetta worked as an actual automobile, particularly on the narrow thoroughfares of Europe and the UK, and today the little bubble car has achieved icon status among collectors of such things.
“Using a motorcycle engine to power it, the Isetta was embraced by the public and media when it was introduced in 1953,” the dealer says in the ad. “The tiny, egg-shaped car looks like some futuristic craft from outer space and something to play with all at once.
“This Isetta underwent a frame-off restoration. Painted in green with gold pinstriping, the interior is colored likewise with a little bench seat upholstered in black vinyl that matches the black vinyl top.
“Powered by a 298cc single-cylinder engine with a 4-speed transmission. Rolling on little whitewall tires wrapping painted wheels topped with polished wheel covers.”
The Isetta was created in Italy by the innovative Renzo Rivolta, the wealthy owner of the Iso refrigerator company, which also built motor scooters and 3-wheeled trucks. BMW purchased the design in 1955 and became the largest producer of the inexpensive vehicles as the German automaker struggled to survive after WWII.
During BMW’s first year of full production in 1956, 22,000 Isettas were sold. By 1962, BMW had sold more than 160,000 of the them, plus another 40,000 built worldwide under license by other automakers. The humble economy craft bolstered BMW’s bottom line, setting it on the road to become the luxury and performance giant that it is today.
Renzo Rivolta went on to create a line of sporty luxury cars powered by American V8 engines.
Isettas have become strikingly popular in the collector car market, especially those in excellent condition, as this one appears to be. The asking price of $49,900 might seem steep for such a minimalist vehicle, but that’s the going rate these days, according to the Hagerty value guide.
To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.