1960 BMW Isetta 600

BMW actually did not create the Isetta. It was originally created in 1953 by an Italian firm called Iso. Isetta meant "little Iso". Iso made refrigerators and scooters, and the Isetta is, in some ways, a combination of the two, being a tiny box with a tiny engine. In fact, Iso used their scooter engine in early models.

The original Isetta was just a small three-seat vehicle with three wheels, and a rear-mounted engine that powered the rear wheels. The car had just one door: the entire front of the car opened up for easy access in and out. It was a hit at the 1953 Turin Motor Show, and is an uplifting example of the good ways Europeans can use their technological prowess in the post-war years.

Since post-war Western Europe was still re-building together under the Marshall Plan, a greater sense of community emerged, and the Isetta was licensed for production beyond Italy in several other nations. Which brings us to BMW.

In typical German fashion, BMW thoroughly re-worked the Isetta inside and out. The most significant changes were a new four-stroke, 1-cylinder engine from their motorcycles, some cosmetic touches and new suspension. Sales took off, becoming the the top-selling single-cylinder car in the world.

In 1957, they launched an all-new bigger body style, the 600. This featured a stretched chassis, four wheels, a second row of seating and an additional door on the side to access the rear seats.

Power came from a 582cc flat twin engine that produced 19.5 horsepower. Rear suspension was a sophisticated semi-trailing arm and was used on almost every production BMW until 1984, when it was replaced by the Z-axle multi-link suspension.

Only 34,813 were built until 1959.

This immaculate and immensely charming example is finished in two-tone white roof and pale yellow body. The seller says the only cosmetic flaws are a dash lip seal that does not align to the windshield and a small crack on the door wing. The seller doesn't say if this is all-original or a restoration, but it's amazing either way.

Mechanically, they say it starts, idles smoothly, shifts well and accelerates fine.

This is a unique piece of European automaking history. Not many were made, none were sold in North America, and very few are in this kind of pristine condition. It was an innovative car then, and it still impresses today as a feat of engineering and aesthetics.

Available here on ebay in Laramie, Wyoming with bidding at $17,600 and a Buy-It-Now of $45,750.

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