Thursday, July 26, 2007

everything you want & nothing you don't: Isetta 300

I have a thing for autos and scooters especially from the 50's. I recently saw one of these cars on Balboa Island and had to stop and stare...I thought it might be a new/old looking bmw electric car, was I wrong!

the Isetta began in 1953. According to Cartype: "The peculiar bubble-shaped city car had only been a minor hit since its introduction in 1953, and its days were numbered. Iso wanted to concentrate on mainstream sports cars, and required funding for the forthcoming Rivolta sports coupe. Thus, Iso decided to sell the rights and machinery to produce the Isetta. Along with manufacturers in France and Brazil, BMW acquired a licence, and was to prove most successful in selling the car.

Post-war rationing had been phased out by the time BMW launched the Isetta in 1955, but the European economy was considerably more austere than that of the USA, and the Isetta's 60mpg thirst went down well. BMW had upped the power to 13hp, shaving the 0-30 time to 11 seconds, and giving the car a top speed of 50mph, for the bravest of drivers. With space for two and their luggage, the Isetta was perfect for Britain's urban and rural roads. The first motorway, the M1, did not open until 1959, and more conventional cars such as the Morris Minor could barely top 60mph.

BMW produced 160,000 of the machines until 1964, by which time the bubble-car craze was in decline. The introduction of the Mini in 1959 - a car expressly designed to sweep the bubble-cars from British roads - was the first blow, and, like the Austin A35 and Fiat 500, it was a proper car for little more than the cost of an Isetta. By the mid-1960s the age of austerity was over, and Europe was ready for medium-sized small cars, such as the Renault R16 and the new Ford Anglia. Nonetheless, BMW was happy. As far as BMW was concerned, the Isetta had performed admirably. The car had shored up the company's finances during the development of a new range which, with the launch of the 1500 in 1961, went on to secure the company's future. Although the Isetta was an unusual side-alley in BMW's development, without it, the company might well no longer exist today.

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