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Lot 306: BMW Isetta 300

Automobiles of Amelia Island, RM Auctions (14 March 2009)

13bhp, 298 cc overhead valve air-cooled single-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, front leading arm suspension with coil springs, rigid rear axle with quarter-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 59.1"

Developed by Renzo Rivolta's Iso works in Italy as an efficient and affordable form of motorized transportation following World War II, the Isetta was also licensed by BMW for manufacture in Germany. Introduced by BMW in 1955, the Isetta's unusual ovoid shape brought about the whimsical nickname, das rollende Ei  the rolling egg.

The Isetta debuted in 1955 at the Frankfurt Auto Show alongside a giant BMW 505 Pullman Limousine, which must have created quite a scene at the BMW stand. While the Isetta sold quite poorly in Italy, the timing for BMW was perfect, as the little cars quickly became fashionable, and the Bundespost (federal postal service) used them extensively as well. The Isetta also achieved cult status in the United States, and was featured on a number of variety shows.

It was powered by a four-stroke, single-cylinder 298 cc air-cooled engine that was borrowed from BMW's motorcycle line. With a weight of only 770 pounds, this powerplant was capable of propelling the Isetta to speeds of over 50 miles per hour, while achieving 40 to 45 miles per gallon.

Isettas are only seven feet, nine inches long, including their chrome-plated bar bumpers, and only four and a half feet wide; in all, they are barely larger than a standard sheet of plywood. Owners of these diminutive automobiles were never at a loss for a parking space, contributing to their strong popularity among city dwellers.

Finished in green with a tan interior, the Isetta presented here benefits from an older frame-off restoration, beautifully executed by one of the nation's leading restoration facilities. The delightful BMW also received a complete mechanical and electrical rebuild as well as a cosmetic freshening. It reportedly runs and drives very well and was also fitted with a new Stayfast top and new carpeting.

More than merely an idiosyncratic addition to any automotive collection, the Isetta's historical significance cannot be underestimated, as it saved BMW from being bought by Mercedes in the late 1950s. To this day, it remains one of the most popular and recognizable mini-cars, of which this Isetta 300 is a particularly well-restored and show quality example.

Lot Details
Auction Automobiles of Amelia Island
RM Auctions, The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, Florida
TypeCar
Lot Number306
Estimate$20000-$30000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$22000
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1960
Condition rating0
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis numberA11917
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors