Dimunitive Daily Driver: 1957 BMW Isetta 300 – $16,000

Jul 2020 | Classifinds, Free For All Friday

The Isetta with its single, front-opening door, remains an iconic micro car from the 1950s.  On the rare occasions we come across one for sale, they are usually over-restored examples and not the driver-quality survivor listed earlier this week here on Craigslist in West Haven, Connecticut with an asking price of $16,000.   Checking the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has his BMW Isetta priced $2,400 below the current #4 “Fair” (Daily Driver) estimate of $16,400.  If you are serious about buying this BMW, you can start the conversation by emailing the seller and when you do please remember to mention you saw their microcar featured here on GuysWithRides.com.

Hagerty Insurance provides a nice overview of the Isetta in their valuation guide for these cars:

“Renzo Rivolta was an early adopter of the inventive bubble car style in 1953. The Iso refrigerator magnate created an odd four-wheeled, two-seat Isetta that was powered by a 236-cc, two-stroke twin-cylinder engine. The car was cute and quirky, with a steering wheel that hinged outwards with the front -opening door (a la a refrigerator, naturally).

In 1954, Rivolta sold sold the whole works – tooling and all –to BMW, who was looking for an economical car with mass appeal to combat the company’s bleak financial picture. Out went the two-stroke twin and in went a 250-cc motorcycle engine. In 1956, the first full year of production, BMW sold 22,000 Isettas. Encouraged by the results, the engine was bumped up to a 297-cc four-stroke single, which turned the car into reliable transportation that was capable of 50 mpg at 50 mph. By 1962, BMW had built 161,728 Isettas, with 41,000 more constructed under license in other countries. BMW soon altered the window arrangement to permit sliding side windows and reduce the goldfish bowl effect of sunshine.

Originally designed with rear wheels 20 inches apart to obviate the need for a differential, tax laws in various countries gave a break to a three-wheeled version, and sales of those units predictably soared. British-built Isettas added a pickup version and a full convertible. All Isettas have a sliding sunroof, supposedly so occupants could get out if the front door jammed. Most Isettas are left-hand drive, as moving the wheel to the right side meant that driver and engine were on the same side of the car, impractically necessitating ballast on the left.

Most BMW Isettas sold in the U.S. survive. For many years BMW was embarrassed at such humble origins and did not manufacture spares, stranding survivors. That situation has been corrected, and though parts may not be cheap, they are at least available. Urban practicality and concerns about the price of gas – plus the cute quotient – has made the Isetta a somewhat recent darling. Fully restored examples have topped $40,000 as high-line auctions, but driver-quality cars can still be found at entry-level prices. The Isetta remains a fundamentally sound design, and looks especially attractive in “Easter egg” colors. Unsurprisingly. Isettas must be considered the unlikeliest Mille Miglia entrant, competing twice, in 1954 and 1955, so add event eligibility to the car’s list of attributes.”

The seller provides a driving video apparently taken last October of this former daily driver.  Good luck with the purchase!

While the seller lists a “new” motor and transmission, its not clear whether that means these are truly new, rebuilt, or are used finds from a donor vehicle so you’ll need to confirm that with the seller.  GM’s  700R4 automatic came equipped with an overdrive fourth gear, so the engine will spin much lower at highway speeds.  The transmission is now floor controlled but its clear the steering column originally house the shifter.  This is a nice all around ’69 C10 you can cruise in comfort regardless of the temperature outside.  Personally, we would buff out the owner’s name currently on the driver’s door and remove the tool box as soon as we arrived back at our garage, but that’s just us.  Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“For sale is this used 1957 BMW Isetta 300. This BMW has been a everyday driver up until Feb 2019. It was driven a couple of times last year. It starts, runs, and drives. Excellent restoration candidate. Comes with owners manual. And several extra parts. Was registered up until last year. Have last registration. The price is $16000. If Interested, please email me through craigslist and leave phone #. I will call back promptly. If this ad is still up, it means that the BMW is still for sale.

Cash Only. No Trades. Please be advised that I WILL NOT respond to emails unless there is a VALID PHONE NUMBER in the email. NO DREAMERS OR TIREKICKERS OR WANNABEES Please. Thank you

Do you have an Isetta story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!


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