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1959 BMW Isetta Barn Find

1959 Bmw Isetta Before

While in Monterey this last week we had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people. One such person was reader Barry P. When we met Barry he mentioned a barn find he had discovered back in 1995. The story sounded interesting so we asked him to send in more information. Well, he just did and we wanted to share his story about how he dug out this 1959 BMW Isetta.

“Long ago, back in 1995, I was talking to my then San Francisco inventor German landlord about old cars. He said, “I have this old ’59 BMW Isetta in my barn up in Clearlake. I’m thinking of rebuilding it to run electric.?Ç¥ I dropped to one knee and asked him not to and to let me come up and see it! He agreed and I was up there the following weekend.

I’d loved these cars since I was a kid in the ’60s but really only saw them as scale models and ads – Corgi, Popular Mechanics, etc. This would be my first sighting and I was very excited! I saw the car and its promises and then made him an offer. He accepted my offer, after a few weeks, and I was back north to claim the car.

This was one of the most exciting periods of my life. I was now joining car clubs and meeting people who also had the fever I had. This was at the dawn of the internet, so most of my parts contacts were through friends, references, club newsletters, ads, car shows, and a wing and a prayer.

I spent the next two years taking the Isetta apart, categorizing, photographing, researching, and doling out parts I did not have the experience working on and then putting it all back together. I spent many a weekend, evening, Thanksgiving, and Christmas working on this car in bliss.

1959 Bmw Isetta After

Finally, in 1997, I finished the car and my work was done. For the next 3 years I drove this car, showed this car, met people, and had barrels of fun.

In 2001, or so, I sold the car to buy my first home. I often think of this car. I made the new owner promise to call me if he decides to resell, but I have not heard from him. My guess is he’s still enjoying it.

Thanks Barry for sharing your find. We are glad to hear you had such a good experience with your little Isetta and we hope you will be reunited with it sometime soon. Please keep us updated.


  1. Richard Lewis

    The Isetta is an iconic Microcar. People think of them as a cute economy car but they are a tough little race car winning their class in the Milia Miglia. This is a great story. I’m so glad you didn’t let him do the electric conversion. I wonder how many of these cars people tried to convert to other engines and gave up after the car was cut into pieces. Nice job. Here are pics of mine – now also sold. http://www.rallyisetta.com/

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  2. selahcop

    A car in which if you are sane, you will never be tempted to tailgate anyone.

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  3. Roamic

    My 30 year old daughter and I went to the Bob’s Toluca Lake Cruise nite when we were in LA a few months ago.One was there. Painted like a German police car with toy stuffed police dog in passenger seat. She’d never seen or heard of one before and I explained their history.

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  4. Bill Shaw


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  5. Jim Rizer

    There used to be a dealer in my home town for these. I love these little jewels. Thanks for the pics. Great love story.

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  6. Richard Lewis

    My Isetta at Barrett – Jackson Scottsdale 2010.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcRWxmJ0vXA

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  7. Jim Rizer

    WOW!!! That is awesome. Thanks Richard.

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  8. Roamic

    I guess I’m slow, I never realized the connection between Iso and Isetta.

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  9. Richard Lewis

    Yes – Iso made many things including refrigerators. If you look at the Isetta front door and think about it being straight upright without a windows in it – it is very much like a period frig front door.

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  10. Roamic

    Now I have visions of making an Isetta into a fridge.

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