The Isetta is one of the cutest cars to have ever been invented. An egg-shaped microcar of only 7.5 ft long by 4.5 ft wide was the tiniest vehicle the Italian consumers had seen till then. It even got its nickname “The bubble car” because of the small size and shape.
It was first designed in 1952 by Ermenegildo Preti and Pierluigi Raggi for Renzo Rivolta, the owner of Iso SpA. At that time the company was producing refrigerators, motor scooters, and small three-wheel trucks, but its owner wanted to create a small car for mass distribution. And so “Little Iso” was born. In 1953, Iso SpA introduced Isetta to the auto world, and it was a sensation.
The perks of the Isetta
The most unusual thing about the Isetta was that one had to enter the car through the front windscreen! The entire front refrigerator-like door would swing up and out of the way, taking the steering wheel with it so that the driver could get into the car. Besides that, however, many know the BMW Isetta as the first production car that used less than 3 liters of gasoline for every 100 kilometers. This performance achievement is an ambition for many; manufacturers are only now succeeding in duplicating it.
In the late 1950s, Isetta was the top-selling single-cylinder car in the world with over 167,000 units sold. It peaked from 10,500 units sold in 1955 to more than double a year later. The popularity of the vehicle did not show only in the numbers, but also in the desire of many international manufacturers to get access to the model. Not just Italy and Germany but also France and Brazil received the privilege to produce the Isetta thanks to thoughtful local automakers who acquired licenses to build the unique minicar.
In the early 1960s, however, the vehicle started losing elements of its original design. It now used larger BMW engines and push-buttons instead of handles. When BMW entirely took control of the Isetta production, the German automaker re-engineered so much of the car that none of the parts between the BMW Isetta Moto Coupe and an original Iso Isetta were interchangeable. Soon, the production of the Isetta has entirely ceased.
The return of the Bubble car
Luckily, Little Iso has a chance to return again! The Swiss electric scooter manufacturer Micro has decided to re-introduce the Isetta as a modern electric car. The vehicle would enjoy its comeback under a new name – the Microlino. Similarly to the original model, this one features the same side-hinged front door and slide away steering column.The vehicle is powered by a 12 kW electric motor, which can reach the maximum speed of 54 mph and a range of about 80 miles.
In 2015, Micro developed a prototype of the electric Isetta together with the Chinese car manufacturer Kandi Technologies. The automakers introduced the contemporary version of the Isetta to the public in Geneva in March of 2016. Micro’s website claims it has already reached the limit of the first 500 reservations for its all-electric way back machine. If you want to own a 21st century Isetta now, you will have to be patient and join the waiting list. Oh well, I better put a printed photo on my wall till I get to be that lucky!