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A Diminutive Classic: The Iso Isetta Bubble Car

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On: Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 9:43AM | By: Gary P Garry

A Diminutive Classic: The Iso Isetta Bubble Car

When you think about the things that Italy has brought to the table (no pun intended), certain types of food may come to mind. Then again, maybe that's just me, because it's getting close to lunchtime and I'm hungry.

Anyway, you have to start with some kind of premise, and that's mine, do with it what you will. Now it's time for the seemingly seamless segue.

In addition to the culinary delights, Italy has also produced some fantastic cars over the years. Some of these companies are still alive and well, and a number of them are truly iconic giants within the industry. These would include Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini (though it should be noted that Lamborghini is now owned by the Volkswagen Group).

There are also a number of Italian companies that made a mark before falling by the wayside. One of them is Iso Rivolta, a company that is most widely remembered for the creation of the odd but innovative Isetta bubble car.

Iso Rivolta started out building motorcycles and scooters after World War II. After the war things were tight in Europe, and small, economical motorized vehicles were in demand. They started selling bikes with motors in 1948, including the Furetto, the Isocarro, and the Isosport.

Today we live in an era when exorbitant gasoline prices have resulted in microcars like the Smart Car, and it is natural to assume that we started the trend, but this is actually not the case. Iso Rivolta's Isetta was a true microcar, and it made its debut for the 1953 model year.

Meanwhile, the American auto manufacturers were building the big boats that defined the decade of the fifties. I'll take the American ideology, thank you, but things were different here at the time. To the victors belong the spoils as they say.

When you build nothing but two-wheelers the market share is limited, so the company decided to design a very small car that would be suitable for two people. The single-cylinder Isetta bubble car was the result of their efforts.

Apparently, the company was economy-minded when it came to wheels as well, so the original idea was to design a three-wheel motorcar. As you might imagine, stability became an issue in practice, so they added a fourth wheel.

The Italian Isetta was produced through the 1956 model year, but the Isetta was subsequently manufactured by BMW, the French company Velam, and Romi, a Brazilian auto manufacturer.

The high point for the car was the 1955 model year, when over 161,000 BMW Isetta models were sold.

By 1962 interest waned, and that was the last year of production for the Isetta.

There have been rumblings about a reintroduction of the car, but, for now, all we have is memories.

Very tiny memories.

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