Monday, 15 June 2015

BMW Isetta

I took this photograph in September 1998 in Heaton Park, Manchester, at the Trans Lancs Historic Vehicle Rally organised by the Greater Manchester Transport Society. Most of the vehicles at these rallies were buses, coaches and commercial vehicles but there were also classes for cars, and this is a vehicle that was entered in Class C which was for Cars Post 1960.
The entry in the programme of the event says:

C14     BMW, 1300 plus Isetta, 1961          HSV 994
             Entered by Charles B Thorpe, Shaw, Oldham
             Mr Thorpe says he bought the car from an optician as it was love at first sight,
             or he must have been blind.

I think the programme entry must have been a misprint - the only BMW Isettas made were the 250 and 300 using the 250cc and 298cc BMW motorcycle single-cylinder engine. They also made the 600 (with a 582cc twin-cylinder motorcycle engine) which, although similar at the front had a more normal looking 4-wheel layout. The 250 and 300 had four wheels, but the rear ones had a track of only 25cm (or 19in). So the car above is presumably a 300.

The BMW Isetta was also produced in the United Kingdom under licence from BMW, but weren't really popular until a 3-wheel version (with a single wheel at the rear) was introduced meaning that they could be classed as 3-wheel motorcycles which had the advantage of lower taxation, and they could also be driven with a motorcycle licence.

The car in the photograph appears to be a German model as the English version was right-hand drive and the door (the whole of the front of the car opened to allow access) was hinged on the right-hand side of the car.

Because of the rounded shape of these vehicles they became popularly known as 'Bubble Cars'.

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