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Isetta

    The '''Isetta''' or "little ISO" was nicknamed variously: the "das rollende ei" (the rolling egg) the "egg on wheels" "smooch-ball" "bola de futebol de fenemê" (soccer ball of ?). The Isetta was one of the more successful bubble cars produced in the post-WWII years - a time when cheap short distance transportation was most needed Vehicles of that type were so-named because of their egg shape and cockpit-like glass surfaces which made them resemble a bubble They were also and more aptly called microcars
    The car was originally built by ISO SpA in Italy Spain and Belgium Licences for manufacturing rights to build the Isetta were sold to VELAM in France to Romi Industries in São Paulo Brazil and to BMW in Germany who also acquired the Isetta body dies Later Isetta's were also built under the BMW license in Great Britain

    Iso Isetta (Italy)

    The car’s origins were in Milan Italy at the scooter and refrigerator company of ISO SpA run by Count Renzo Rivolta The car had caused an uproar at its introduction in Turin in November 1953
    The Isetta was totally unconventional Small and egg-shaped with bubble type windows the entire front end of the car hinged outwards to allow entry and in the event of a crash the driver and passenger were expected to exit through the canvas sunroof A chain dive connected the 95hp two-stroke motorcycle engine to a pair of closely-spaced rear wheels on a solid axle The Isetta took over 30 seconds to reach 30 mph from rest - although in 1955 one managed to finish 267th out of 281 in the Mille Miglia 1000-mile endurance race
    By 1954 despite its initial success the Isetta was slipping in popularity in Italy against the FIAT 500C Count Rivolta wanting to concentrate on his new Iso Rivolta sports coupe decided to sell the manufacturing rights to the Isetta and licences were sold to BMW in Germany VELAM (Véhicular léger à Moteur vehicle with motor) in France and Romi Industries in Brazil

    VELAM Isetta (France)

    VELAM acquired alicense from Iso in 1954 to manufacture a car based on the Isetta Since Iso had sold the body making equipment to BMW VELAM developed their own body but used the original Iso engine The VELAM body was rounder and more egg-like than Iso's Isetta and was known by the French as the ‘yogurt pot’ Instead of a chassis like the Italian and German versions there was a sub-frame bolted to the body at the rear which held the rear tires engine and transmission The front suspension to front of the body The front door was opened by push button instead of a handle and the speedometer was mounted in the center of the steering wheel
    VELAM started production of the car in 1955 at the old Talbot factory at Suresnes France and the car was introduced at the 1955 Paris car show All told five versions of the car were built: the standard Isetta a convertible version a luxury version a one-off "Sport" version and a race car Due to competition from the Renault Dauphine production ceased in 1958

    Romi-Isetta (Brazil)

    In 1953 Iso licensed the Isetta to Romi a machine-tool manufacturer headquartered in the city of Santa Bárbara D'Oeste in the State of São Paulo The Isetta was chosen because it was considered an ideal vehicle for use in the cities by virtue of its size and economy
    Some 3000 of the Romi-Isetta's were manufactured between 1955 and 1959 They kept the Iso design and used Iso engines until 1958 when they switched to the BMW 300 cc engines Romi-Isetta continued to manufacture the Isetta until 1959 and produced spare parts until 1961

    BMW Isetta (Germany)

    BMW made the Isetta its own They redesigned the powerplant around a more reliable BMW one-cylinder four-stroke 247 cc motorcycle engine with 13 hp. Although the major elements of the Italian design remained intact BMW re-engineered much of the car so much so that none of the parts between a BMW Isetta Moto Coupe and an Iso Isetta interchange The first BMW Isetta appeared in April 1955
    Although the major elements of the Italian design remained intact BMW re-engineered much of the car so much so that none of the parts between a BMW Isetta "Motocoupé" and an Iso Isetta interchange

    BMW Isetta 250

    While it retained the the "Bubble Window" styling it differed from the Italian model in that its headlamps were fixed separately to the sides of the bodywork and of course it had the BMW badge below the windscreen The car was also redesigned to take a modified version of the 250cc 4-stroke engine from the BMW R25/3 motorcycle and the front suspension was changed The single-cylinder generated 12 horsepower at 5800 rpm The crankcase and cylinder were made of cast iron the cylinder head of aluminium However the head was rotated by 180 degrees compared with the motorcycle engine The twin-bearing crankshaft was also different in the Isetta power unit being larger and featuring reinforced bearings One of the reasons for this was the heavy Dynastart unit which combined the dynamo and self-starter The fuel mixture was provided by a Bing sliding carburettor In addition to further changes of detail the BMW engineers enlarged the sump for installation in the car and cooled the engine by means of a radial fan and shrouded ducting
    The power train from the four-speed gearbox to the two rear wheels was also unusual: fixed to the gearbox output drive was something called a Hardy disc which was a cardan joint made of rubber On the other side of it was a cardan shaft and finally a second Hardy disc which in turn was located at the entrance to a chain case A duplex chain running in an oil bath led finally to a rigid shaft at each end of which were the two rear wheels Thanks to this elaborate power transfer the engine-gearbox unit was both free of tension and well soundproofed in its linkage to the rear axle
    In Germany the Isetta could even be driven with a motor cycle licence The top speed of the Isetta 250 was rated as 85 kph
    The first BMW Isetta rolled off the line in April 1955 and in the next eight months some 10000 of the "bubblecars" were produced

    BMW Isetta 300

    300 - Sliding Window 4 wheel version
    In October 1956 the Isetta Moto Coupe DeLuxe (sliding-window Isetta) was introduced The bubble windows were replaced by longer sliding side windows The engineers had enlarged the single cylinder to a 72 mm bore and 73 mm stroke which yielded a cubic capacity of exactly 298 and at the same time they raised the compression ratio from 6.8 to 70:1 In this way the engine now generated 13 horsepower at 5200 rpm and the torque rose to 184 Newton metres at 4600 revs The maximum speed remained at 85 km/h yet there was a marked increase in flexibility chiefly noticeable on gradients
    In addition to the quest for better performance there was another reason for the change: It was then still possible to drive the 250 cc Isetta with the old Class IV driving licence Quite a number of Isettas were lovingly maintained by their owners for years and even decades precisely because they possessed no other licence On the other hand from 1956 onwards first-time drivers had to pass the test for Class III if they wanted to drive a car True the Class IV licence continued to be issued but it was only valid for small motorcycles
    A second similar reason for fitting the larger engine was the prevailing tax regime The 250 cc engine did not take full advantage of the tax class which then went up to 300 cc

    BMW Isetta 600

    The BMW 600 was intended as an enlarged Isetta three-wheeler with more power and a more conventional four-wheel configuration
    The front end of the 600 was virtually unchanged from the Isetta but the 600's wheelbase was stretched to accommodate four seats A conventional rear axle was added BMW introduced the semi-trailing arm independent suspension on the 600 This suspension would be used on almost every new model for the next four decades Because of extra size and weight the 600 had a more powerful engine than the Isetta The 600 had the 582 cc twin engine from the R67 motorcycle Top speed was 64 mph
    In two years only 34000 600's were produced partly due to price competition with the entry-level VW Beetle In the late 50's consumers wanted cars that looked like cars and they had lost interest in economy models Sales of the 600 were however aided by the energy crisis of 1956-57
    In May 1962 BMW ceased production of the Isetta A total of 161728 units had been built

    BMW Isetta (Britain)

    British 3 wheeled Isetta

    With space for two and their luggage the Isetta was perfect for Britain's urban and rural roads The first motorway the M1, did not open until 1959 and more conventional cars such as the Morris Minor could barely top 60mph
    In 1957 Isetta of Great Britain began producing Isetta 300 models under license from BMW
    The British cars had right-hand drive with the door hinged from the right hand side of the car andthe steering column moved across to the right as well Right-hand drive meant that the driver AND the engine were on the same side so a 60lb counterweight was added to the left side to ompensateDunlop tires were used and Lucas electrics replaced the German Hella and Bosch components with a different headlamp housing being used Girling brake components replaced the ATE brake parts
    The Isetta was not popular in Great Britain until a three-wheeled version was introduced although three-wheelers were more prone to rolling-over there was afinancial advantage: if the reverse gears were disconnected they could evade automobile legislation and taxation by being classed as three-wheeled motorcycles and could be driven with a motorcycle license Isetta of Great Britain continued to produce four-wheeled Isettas but only for export to Canada New Zealand and Australia
    In 1962 Isetta of Great Britain also stopped production of the little cars but continued to produce Isetta engines until 1964

    Manufacturing Statistics

    Iso only made about 1000 Isettas
    Romi-Isetta manufactured about 3000
    Velam produced about 5000 cars
    Isetta of Britain produced about 30000 carsJust 1750 three-wheelers were built
    BMW built 136367 IsettasOf the cars made by BMW about 8500 were exported to the US of which it is estimated 1000 still survive

    Misc

    Elvis Presley bought a red Isetta as a Christmas gift for his manager "Colonel Tom" Parker
    The Isetta 300 was a semi-regular feature of the sitcom "FamilyMatters (TV series)|Family Matters" where it served as SteveUrkel's vehicle

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