Please tell me this car model


#1

When I was a kid back in the 60s my grandmother’s brother had a cute little car and I’m struggling to remember the make and model. It was tiny. It had no doors on the side. Rather, the whole front of the car swung open as one big door. The steering wheel was on the inside of the door. Hopefully that’s enough information to trigger some recognition. Thanks for any pointers.


#2

Sounds like a BMW Isetta


#3

Seconded.

Look familiar?


#4

I think FoDaddy is right. Steve Erkel (Family Matters TV show) drove one. Look at the picture and see if it stirs your memory.


#5

That’s it! Thanks for clearing this up for me.


#6

Also this vehicle has only one rear wheel. Since it only has one door it is not street legal in the U.S.


#7

“Also this vehicle has only one rear wheel”

Only if it lost one of the original two rear wheels!
While the rear track was very narrow in comparison to the front, the rear of these cars most definitely had two wheels.

"Since it only has one door it is not street legal in the U.S. "

If it was street-legal as of the date of its importation to the US, then it is still legal. To retroactively declare a vehicle non-street legal when new safety legislation goes into effect would be an example of Ex Post Facto law enforcement. I can vividly recall seeing some of these cars on the streets in the late '50s/early '60s. If they were street-legal then, they are street-legal now–assuming that any of them are still operational.


#8

I think there was another very similar vehicle on the market…It had fore and aft seating as I remember…Italian made??


#9

Aside from the Isetta (which was designed in Italy and produced in several different countries by several different manufacturers), there were no other comparable micro-cars from Italy.

I believe that you may be thinking of the West German Zundapp Janus, which had back-to-back seating, doors on the front and the back, and a tiny 1 cylinder, 2 cycle engine under the seats. However, that car never went into actual production and was only seen in very small numbers at car shows.
Was this it? http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.richhelms.ca/richhelms/wp-content/uploads/2006/07/s%20rich%20w%201958%20zundapp%20janus%20about%20to%20get%20in1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.richhelms.ca/richhelms/%3Fp%3D16&usg=__yO8Ki_nWTviLWPnmqp-7e2_oPWg=&h=430&w=600&sz=100&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=rt-wB2a5HnlnGM:&tbnh=154&tbnw=182&ei=zMsPTrekAbCq0AHl_P2xDg&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dzundapp%2Bjanus%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DX%26rlz%3D1T4DKUS_enUS283US283%26biw%3D1152%26bih%3D614%26tbm%3Disch%26prmd%3Divnsu&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=643&vpy=232&dur=4271&hovh=190&hovw=265&tx=83&ty=216&page=1&ndsp=13&ved=1t:429,r:11,s:0&biw=1152&bih=614

Or–you might be thinking of the West German FMR, which was better-known as the Messerschmitt Cabin Scooter. This one came in both 3-wheel and 4-wheel variations, and featured seating for two–1 in front, 1 in back. The “closed” model featured a clear plastic bubble roof, and was powered by a small 2 cycle engine. Here is a photo of the Messerschmitt: http://www.everyfoto.com/index.php/english/Photos/Cars/Vintage-Cars/Messerschmitt-Cabin-Scooter/Messerschmitt-Tiger-Cabin-Scooter-3583.html

Other than these two tiny German cars, I can’t recall anything else from that era that was comparable to the Isetta. However, there was also the so-called long-wheelbase Isetta, known as the BMW 600. This one did have seating for 4 people.


#10

The Messerschmidt KR175, YES! An Italian company made an even nicer looking Messerschmitt copy, called a Mivalino…

http://www.google.com/search?q=Messerschmitt+KR-175&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=HRX&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&prmd=ivns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=D8sPTt2VLqS10AHizqicDg&ved=0CDMQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=562

http://www.darkroastedblend.com/2007/08/worlds-smallest-vehicles.html

Scroll down to pix


#11

I think he’s thinking of the Messerschmitt. Which, btw, is a car that I have really wanted for a long time.

BTW if I recall the Isetta came in both 3 and 4 wheel versions.


#12

And Nader thought the Corvairs were “Unsafe At Any Speed”…He never rode in one of these things…


#13

Admittedly, I probably would avoid interstates in it. . . If I needed to go far I could always just put it in the back seat of my daily driver :wink:

BTW interesting trivia about the Isetta - it’s moderately famous as a car used to get a bunch of people across the Berlin Wall from east to west. They put a little compartment in the back over the rear wheel. The wall guards thought the car was too small to hide anyone in there, so they never checked.


#14

VDCdriver
Only if it lost one of the original two rear wheels!
While the rear track was very narrow in comparison to the front, the rear of these cars most definitely had two wheels…

Very good. I stand corrected.


#15

You can see those microcars and many others at the Microcar Museum in Madison, Georgia. If you can’t make it, take the virtual tour here:

http://microcarmuseum.com/index.html


#16

3 wheeled Isetta:

http://microcarmuseum.com/tour/isetta-3wheel-special.html


#17

Good find!
However, IIRC, the 3 wheel version was not sold in the US.


#18

shadowfax 3 wheeled Isetta:

http://microcarmuseum.com/tour/isetta-3wheel-special.html

VDCdriver Good find!
However, IIRC, the 3 wheel version was not sold in the US. …

I knew I was not nuts. I knew I had seen them in the past.


#19

If I remember right, it was sold in England and other Euro countries where it was financially advantageous to register a motorcycle rather than a car, and where anything with less than 4 wheels was a motorcycle.


#20

Microcars were popular in Europe after WWII because there were essentially no factories to build anything in. Building small, simple cars was a way to produce something that many could buy.