BMW Isetta 250 and 300 (1955 – 1965) Review

BMW Isetta 250 and 300 (1955 – 1965) At A Glance


+Packed with charm and fizzing with fun

-Probably not ideal for a Friday evening on the M25

BMW’s luxury of the 1950s were technically brilliant, beautifully built, fast and elegant - but due to their huge cost and austere times in their home market, they were selling extremely slowly. So, in order to secure more volume, BMW made the decision to acquire the licence to build the Isetta bubblecar - and it proved to be an inspired piece of lateral thinking by BMW management.

The Isetta was just what was needed, and as the effects of the Suez Crisis started to hit, and petrol became a rare commodity, suddenly the motorcycle engine car that could achieve 50mpg all day long made a great deal of sense. Front-hinged door and three wheeled handling were questionable, but buyers loved them. But it was a shortlived honeymoon, and as proper small cars like the Mini hit the market, sales dissolved...

They're cool today, though, and have a considerable following.

Ask Honest John

Would a BMW Isetta be suitable for a sixteen year old with a motorbike licence?

"Would a BMW Isetta be suitable for a sixteen year old with a motorbike licence?"
No. The law changed. He can only drive a 50cc quadruped or a 50cc 3 wheeler such as an Ape. When I was 15 I bought a 1959 Isetta 300 with a blanked out reverse from a scrapheap, got it running and MoT'd, and passed a special 3-wheeler test with no reversing. Unlike a motorbike and sidecar, I had to be accompanied on L plates. Then, soon as I was 17, I had to pass a full car test again. But all that has now been stopped. See:
Answered by Honest John

My first car was a four-wheel Isetta, but now I drive a Hyundai ix20.

"I was most interested to read about your first deal. My first car was an Isetta - the four wheel model. Bought secondhand in 1960 it unfortunately caught fire after a few months and was written off. However I did see it back on the road a year or two later. My current car is a Hyundai ix20. I find it better in all respects than the old shape Meriva and Grand Modus I have previously owned. It is usefully bigger than the Jazz and well worth considering by anyone looking for a vehicle of this type."
I agree. There's also excellent visibility out of an ix20 and Kia Venga. My 59 Isetta was LHD and three wheels. After a particularly hairy drive a girlfriend got out and enthusiastically told me, "That was fantastic. I've never been in anything so unsafe."
Answered by Honest John

Did you have a blue Isetta 300?

"My father used to live in Sidcup and had a blue Isetta 300 right-hand drive. Any similarities to your first car?"
Mine was left-hand drive and had originally been blue. Left-hand drive balanced the engine which hung out on the right of the rear wheel. But my family had moved from Kent to Northumberland, and I bought it from a Northumbrian scrappie called 'Shire Ted'. A 1959 Isetta 300 was recently estimated at £9000 - £13,000 at auction but did not sell.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What does a BMW Isetta 250 and 300 (1955 – 1965) cost?