Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Horse of a Different Color

Before scrolling down to find out, does anyone know what this car is? Hint: it was made in Germany in the '50s, nicknamed "the rolling egg," and Elvis once sang in one while stationed here (I say here because that's where I am right now :)

Submitted to Tuesdays Photos for "Travel"

It's BMW's Isetta 250! And isn't it the cutest thing! This site says it's the "micro car extrordinaire," designed at a time when cheap, short-distance transportation was needed.

In the USA, the BMW ads called it "a new conception in vehicle design." It has a one-cylinder BMW motorcycle engine with a 4-speed transmission, a top speed of 53 mph, and 63 mpg. In 1958 (the year Donica was born :) it cost $1,093.

Speaking of Donica! She just happens to have a BMW Z4 (which is another post altogether because it was a reward to herself after her first-year anniversary of quitting smoking). One day in February, while she was in Germany before I arrived, I took her car in for routine maintenance and while there in the showroom, took these photos of the Isetta. Sitting on the showcase shelf it's not too much bigger than the Smart car from my Kinder egg. Well, that's a bit of a lie--it really is quite a bit bigger. But still small enough to cup in both hands and wonder if it really is worth $127! (Do the math! That tiny model today is 1/8th the cost of the real thing then!)

March 2005 was the 50th anniversary of the Isetta. Supposedly it saved BMW from going belly-up after WWII because it offered an affordable way of transport for average-day citizens who were on bikes and motorcycles.

"May we remind you of a certain tiny 2-seater that's currently a hit in Europe and is now being seen on Canadian streets, with a US launch soon to come. The car is called "Smart" and is made by DaimlerChrysler. What goes around comes around."


Saturday (4/22/06) Addendum: Yesterday Donica took this mobile-phone photo of an Isetta that was in her company's parking lot here in Hannover. Someone obviously drives it to work! What a small world! Looks like this one is a three-wheeler.


  1. Oh that reminds me... at our local VHS they had one of these cars as part of an exhibition, and the car they showed was one used to smuggles spies over the border! They had a little plaque next to the car explaining how they did it, in a secret compartment somewhere inside.

    All I've got to say is that must've been the world's smallest spy. Have you seen how tiny these things are? I realize immediately after writing that that yes, you probably have. But wah! Barely bigger than a bicycle! It's hard to imagine people actually drove these.

  2. Looks like a very fun car to drive! :-)

  3. Heh-heh. For years now, we've been told that recycling is smart. First we had VW's New Beetle, then BMW's new Mini Cooper, and now the SmartCar.

    Which unfortunately has a diesel engine.

  4. So..if I were to take up smoking, and then quit for a year, I could buy myself a new car...

    Seems worth it.

    I'm off to get a pack of smokes!

  5. Lisa: How in the world was that possible!!! A secret compartment inside and no one noticed??? But you're right. They were barely bigger than a bicycle and barely more protection?!

    Mei: I'd FEEL more protected than on a motorcycle but don't know if that would be a false sense!

    Gary: You got that right :)

    Mr. Fab: No No No No! That's not how it works. Besides, she had been a pack-a-day smoker from age 13 - 44. 31 years. I would have given her the world but she settled for the Z4!

  6. Aww, those Isetta's are so cute! I used to go to a lot of old car meet-ups with my dad and there were always a couple of those there.

    My mum has an older model BMW convertible which she absolutely LOVES and would not trade for any other kind of car. AND Mr. M also drives a BMW - a big station wagon kind of thing (shows how much I know about car models!) which he also adores. Looks like BMW is the way to go, huh? :-)

  7. Such a cool car. There wasn't any way I could have guess that triva. I guess unless I was a car finatic, I was disqualified from the start - lol... But...

    That reminded me of when I was living in France and we used to see this fat lady driving in a 1.5 passenger car. The girls and I would laugh so hard seeing her drive it because she took up the entire car and it looked not much bigger than that BMW in the pic.

    On the other hand, they are taking the 4 door smart off market because it isn't making enough money to justify it. SAD - really because I loved that car (the looks anyway). And smart is still having trouble.... I don't think they have made a profit yet.

  8. Christina: It amazes me how y'all over here know what these cars are! Well, DUH! I guess they WERE made here! BMWs are like weeds over here (or should I say wildflowers!); more like Birds of Paradise in the States :)

    Gary: Between you and KPK we could have quite a collection :)

    ET: I'm like you--I never could have guessed. In fact, the first guy I asked at the dealership didn't know. Had to ask another guy.

    I didn't know that about the Smart car in N. America. Guess that means it will NOT be hitting the market in the States?

  9. At first glance, I thought it was another Smart from a Kinder...MMMMM.LOL I definitively need to go buy some... HeeHee. And there are more and more Smarts in Quebec those days. The only problem is that you can't be 3 persons in there... :(

  10. Good to know Ginnie... The fortwo will stay I am sure... But really, it's much harder to use here since distances in many places are bigger..., thus requiring space.. Plus most n.a's are used to big cars!! (and fuel consumption)

  11. We may be needing these soon. Why don't you bring a few back with you?

  12. MP: HA. I thought it WAS a Smart car when I first saw it. But you're right about 3 persons! I had to switch my Honda Insight (hybrid) to a Civic (hybrid) for the same reason, once Nicholas was born 5+ years ago.

    ET: You're right about us wanting and needing bigger cars. These little ones are great for gad-abouts in city traffic. I think of Amsterdam and how narrow those streets are, for instance!

    Tim: Even with a sun roof!

    Jeff: Hmm. Wonder how much they cost over here! Well, I'm guessing they aren't made any more but the Smart cars are. Wonder if they're cheaper over here than in N.A.?

  13. Oh my, I remember this car very well! When I was a child my father drove such a thing. You have to enter the car by opening the front (look at the Wikipedia link in your post. There is an Isetta with open front door displayed). Some years ago I gave such a model car (but in other colors) to my father as a birthday present and I also took some pictures of it. When I'm back home (at the moment I'm at work) I'll look for the photos and post them to my blog :-))

  14. Oh KPK! I love it! You are so good :)

  15. Me, too, TO, and we see them all the time here in Hannover! Lots of giggles :)

  16. Very cute car. Never haerd of it, but on the other hand, I don't really know cars.

    I was sondering (because of MP's comment - Isn't the Smart "forfour" out on north America, yet?

  17. Messerschmitt made some cars like that too.
    There were still a few (very few) 1955, Messerschmitt KR200's rulling around in the FRG when I was there in 1978,89 and 80.

  18. CS: I don't believe I've ever seen one in Atlanta, which is where you'd think at least one would be. Apparently there ARE some in Canada! (See Gary's photo above.)

    Paul: Oh wow! I just looked up the
    Messerschmitt KR200
    . Another 3-wheeler. Another German car. I'm guessing they were competitors!