1958 BMW Isetta

300

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1958
  • Car type 
    Other
  • Lot number 
    239
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

  • One of just 3,925 US-market Isettas reportedly produced for the model year
  • Features the most powerful engine available and a four-speed motorcycle gearbox
  • Desirable sliding-window, fabric sunroof example
  • Acquired by the consignor in 1997

The Isetta was a vehicle born of necessity, and it is often regarded as the car that saved BMW. Faced with declining motorcycle sales, the burgeoning middle class in its home market, and the political events of the 1950s leading to oil shortages in Europe, the microcar craze made it ripe for success—a success that BMW desperately needed.

For the second time in its history, BMW built a vehicle under license as a means of kickstarting production. BMW approached the owner of Italian company Iso and its designer/owner Count Renzo Rivolta with the idea of purchasing the rights to build the car. Rivolta sold not only the production rights to the Iso but much of the body tooling as well.

BMW debuted the Isetta at the 1955 Frankfurt Auto Show and fitted it with its own 12-horsepower, 247-cubic-centimeter four-stroke engine, later upsizing it to 297 cubic centimeters with 13 horsepower, as this model has. A clutch-operated, four-speed motorcycle gearbox drove the twin rear wheels, which were placed just 20.5 inches apart. The tubular chassis provided for a light body, which weighed in at just 700 pounds. In combination with the motorcycle engine, it offered miserly fuel consumption and a mere DM 2,580 purchase price, which was just 500 more than the R25 motorcycle with which it shared its engine. Between 1955 and 1962, BMW produced 161,728 standard Isettas (250/300). The little BMW offers genuine 50-mph performance, while also delivering up to a claimed 70 mpg.

This 1958 Isetta is one of just 3,925 US-market examples believed produced for the model year.
Presented today wearing a red exterior over black upholstery, it features many pieces of desirable factory equipment including the most powerful 297-cubic-centimeter engine, sliding windows, and fabric sunroof. A driver’s side mirror, chrome bumper guards, and handsome set of color-matched hubs with whitewall tires round out the charming visage of this particular Isetta 300.
Though its earlier history is unknown, documentation on file shows that it was first titled in the consignor’s state in October 1991, entering their collection six years later.

Surely among the tidiest and most presentable examples available, its desirable factory specifications make this Isetta one not to be ignored.To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/hf21.