My Car Quest

February 23, 2024

Isetta – The Big Little Car

by Mike –

The Isetta is known as a BMW but it was designed by Iso (Isetta means little Iso) and licensed to BMW and to VELAM in France and Romi in Brazil in the mid-1950s. It was a successful model for BMW, who produced approximately 161,000 Isettas from 1955 to 1962.

BMW Isetta

The Isetta was also a success for Iso because the financial arrangements allowed Iso to move on to the creation of GT cars starting with the Iso Rivolta GT and then the Iso Grifo along with a few other models.

BMW Isetta

Iso was a manufacturer of scooters after WWII so naturally the first version of the Isetta had a one cylinder scooter engine. The door incorporated the steering wheel and dashboard so that the driver could drive front first into a curd side parking and open the door and step out directly onto the sidewalk (the steering wheel and dashboard moved out of the way with the door). This is a very small car and it takes up less than half of the space of most other cars.

BMW Isetta

These little cars have been showing up at auctions and classic car dealers more frequently in the last few years as they are becoming more appreciated as a part of automotive history.

BMW Isetta and Cary Grant

Isetta and Cary Grant

The Isetta is stylish too, as Cary Grant demonstrates above.

BMW Isetta

This year is the 60th Anniversary of the Iso Isetta. , a milestone worth noting and celebrating.

BMW Isetta

A version of this article was originally posted in March 2011.


  1. georgeg20 says

    I came across a picture of Trojan Microcar built in Ireland under license from Heinkel. Had to do a double take (more like a quadruple take). There was no mention of Iso name anywhere. Upon further research it turns out that the only major difference that kept Iso from pursuing copyright infringement was the fixed steering wheel on the Trojan/Heinkel. It did not move with the door as in Isetta. Also Heinkel did produce the 3 wheel chassis. If I recall correctly Isetta was originally designed with similar chassis but went to a 4 wheel layout after initial testing proved the 3 wheel set up unstable and prone to roll overs.

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