Tiny cars seem without testosterone these days. Small (i.e. Smart, Mini) is cute and fun, but not usually sexy. That wasn’t always the case.
Back in 1958 Cary Grant posed on the cover of a brochure for the BMW Isetta with the statement “the most exciting car on the American highway”.
It was only 4.5 feet wide and 7.5 feet long and 10 inch rear wheels placed only 19 inches apart, but it had style. It was the only car with a single door that opened forward and up.
And it could travel. In 1954 the Isetta completed the famous Italian road race, the 1000 mile long Mille Miglia, at an average speed of 44 miles an hour.
With a fuel efficiency of over 50 miles per gallon, it was advertised as “the worlds cheapest car to buy and run” (it sold for around $1000), but that seemed beside the point.
It was exciting. Even Elvis fell for the Isetta and gifted one to his manager as a Christmas present.
The original was built in 1953 by Italian scooter and refrigerator company Iso SpA (some joked it resembled a refrigerator plopped onto 2 scooters), but they later sold to BMW who finally stopped production in 1962.
In this video, Dave, who owns a vintage Isetta, takes his classic microcar out for a Sunday drive. First, he drops off a 92-year-old friend at church and then heads to the beach with picnic basket strapped to the trunk.