Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1956 BMW Isetta 300

Ford's new Fiesta ST is a great little hot hatch. It's also one of the smaller cars on sale today. But compare it to a classic Mini, and suddenly it's not quite so tiny. But can you get even smaller? In a word, yes. Say hello to the BMW Isetta. The first thing you'll notice is that peculiar design. The entire front of the car is the door, and it's design is comparable to an egg. Safety was apparently not one of BMW's primary concerns when this car rolled off the line in 1956. How about some specifications? The motor is a 298cc single-cylinder, very similar to what you'd find in a Vespa. It produces a mere 13 horsepower. Not a car for people in a hurry, then. The transmission is a four-speed manual, and flat out it'll do 53 mph. So, to recap: it's not really that safe, and it's certainly not very quick. So why would you want one? The answer is because it's efficient. It's only 90 inches long and about 53 inches wide, so you can always find a parking space. It's curb weight is 794 pounds, which is extremely light by automotive standards. On top of all that, it will supposedly get 94 miles per gallon, which is significantly better than most vehicles built in its era. So it's designed as a small, practical city runabout. The 1950's equivalent of a Smart car. This particular Isetta is a 300 model, with the older bubble windows and a cabriolet roof. This means it's one of 50 built in that configuration, so it's fairly unique. It's also in great condition. Would it be wise to drive this car? Not on a regular basis, no. But it's so quaint, so perfectly peculiar, that you want to drive it, at least once. Maybe twice.

1956 BMW Isetta 300 Cabriolet

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