In Storage Since 1961! 1959 BMW Isetta 300


1959 was a great year: Alaska became a state, Hawaii become a state, and Bozo the Clown appeared on tv for the first time. Yes, those are all important, historic milestones, but what’s really important is that this 1959 BMW Isetta also appeared in the same year! Did any of you first appear in 1959? This great little car is in Clarklake, Michigan and is on eBay with a current bid of just over $3,000, but the reserve isn’t met.


1961 was also a very good year, that’s when this little gem was parked in a previous owner’s workshop and it’s been there ever since. It looks like it has picked up a couple of dings sitting in that workshop for five decades but I’ve picked up more than a few dings over the last five decades myself. The tires are brand new and those wide white walls really add to the fun, cartoon-like character of this car. There is no rust on this car, believe it or not! Here is a restoration guide for you Isetta restoration buffs.


If you look up the word “cute” in the dictionary I’m reasonably certain that you’ll see a photo of an Isetta, right next to a fluffy puppy. We probably all know that the Isetta was actually an Italian-designed car by the Iso SpA company and it was made by several companies from several different countries. Renzo Rivolta, owner of Iso Rivolta, wanted to concentrate on his new Iso Rivolta sports car so he licensed the Isetta name to others, including, of course, BMW who really made it famous. 1959 was also the year that Herbert Quandt and the Quandt family bought a controlling number of shares and took BMW back to being an independent car maker again, rejecting an offer from Daimler-Benz at the last minute; a very wise move. That’s not an insignificant piece of 1959 history by any means, especially for car folks.


This car looks like it’s mostly complete and intact, but it will need a full restoration unless you’d rather just get things working perfectly again and drive it as it looks here. As cool and fun as it would be to drive a somewhat tired and beat-looking Isetta around, not worrying about door dings and things like that, a car like this deserves to be restored back to its former cuteness.. I mean, back to its former glory. The interior, with the famous swing-out steering wheel and controls, looks like it’s pretty much all there, other than a missing handbrake grip and I’m guessing that the fabrics and plastics are somewhat brittle and delicate after this many decades.


The BMW Isetta 250 was their first model with a BMW motorcycle 250 CC single-cylinder engine. It also had the classic “bubble windows” of the Iso, where the term bubble-car came from. In 1956 the tax classification changed that allowed the Isetta to use a 300 CC engine and that’s what this one is. But, as you can see it’s not in the car. As the seller says, the engine “was pulled 1395 miles when parked. Engine was pulled to replace the gasket but this was not done. The gasket kit comes with the car as does several other extra parts including an additional engine and trans.” If a person were looking for a solid Isetta project, it would be hard to find a better one than this car. “No rust” is the clincher on this one for me. I almost bought a nice one back in the late-1980s for $2,500; what a mistake that was to pass it up. Have any of you owned or driven an Isetta?


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  1. RX-7 Turbo II

    I am not usually a negative Nelly, and I will be the first one to say something positive about a listing instead of saying something negative but this is the first car I truly have to say no way on! A two year old car that looks this bad? I just find it hard to believe.

    • Rick McKee

      What are you looking at?

    • Stuart Spates

      I see exactly what you are saying, $15,000? No freaking way.

      • streamliner

        RX-7 Turbo nailed this from the outset. Spend 5 min doing an online search and you see market value for completely restored 1959 Isetta 300s. The finest example with fresh restoration sells for around $35 – $40Gs. Many older restored examples available in mid-$20s range. The story that this 1959 Isetta has less than 1500 miles and was garaged in 1961 when only 2 years old is obviously nonsense. This car has been driven plenty. Why else the 4 new tires? Engine was pulled but never worked on. Huh. No, the seller is a dealer who got this car and is flipping it. Why not just tell the truth? That would be a better story. Sold for $15,100. — top dollar. Add another $25,000. for complete restoration and it’s worth maybe $40Gs — which is what you’ll have into it. That’s the math. Eh hem.

    • Gerald

      No RX-7 Turbo II,,, it’s an almost 60 year old car that looks that good.

      • RX-7 Turbo II

        No, it’s a 1959 car that was put away in 1961 which makes it a 2 year old car just like I said the first time!

  2. Vince Habel

    It is at 15000

  3. Ernest Zoller

    I would Love to have this The BMW Isetta . I am of the 1949 vintage myself. I remember that in High school, (San Lorenzo High, San Lorenzo Ca, Grad 1967), we had a swimming coach who drove a The BMW Isetta . He parked it in front of the School pool. The parking spaces had railroad ties for parking stops. One day, four of us grabbed a hold of the The BMW Isetta, picked it up and put it on top of one of the Rail road ties, then laughed our asses off!!! Funny how things come around to you. Now I would like to have this one.

    • CarNut from Winnipeg Member

      Had a friend in high school who would sometimes drive his brother’s 1976 Mini to school. We did the same thing to it.

  4. JW

    I always wanted one of these just to have it, so cool but in todays distracted drivers world I would be hesitant to drive it out of my town of 11K and then I might be risking my life even doing that.

    • Metoo

      I would love to have it. But it would end up being a trailer queen, hauled to shows. Driving one in today’s traffic with today’s vehicles would be a form of suicide.

  5. D. King

    I wasn’t hatched in ’59 like this little egg, but as a young girl I was fascinated by the Isetta when I saw one. I’m guessing it was on my first trip to Europe in ’63. There’s something about that door set up, especially compared to the blimpy cars of the ’50s! I’ve always wanted to drive one, but will probably never get the chance.

    Neat find!

  6. jcs

    This is NOT a vehicle that was only 2 years old with 1300 miles on it when it was put into a dry shop. The dings, dents and nicks it shows are traffic related, not shop related. The finish and bumpers are in terrible condition for a car that hasn’t been out of a dry shop in years. This story is very not believable.

    • RX-7 Turbo II

      Gee…sounds exactly like what I said in the first Comment but I got all kinds of negative thumbs down for it. Lol.

  7. bcavileer

    15k already. Someone believes the story. MAybe if Monroe herself was swinging out of the front door… otherwise no thanks.

  8. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Wow, I never thought it would get to $15,000!

  9. Gerald

    It’s a 1959 Smart Fortwo!

  10. DW

    That top pic makes it look like it’s only a 3 wheeler :)

    Just curious if it actually had a differential back there or whether, with the rear wheels that close together, if it was necessary?

    • 4-Doors-for-my-Tuba

      No differential. The wheels have a narrow solid axle between them.

  11. Rex Kahrs Member

    There is a dead-perfect example of this car on craigslist Tampa for 35K . It’s been on there for a year probably. I am surprised this car is getting so much bidding interest.

    Personally I find the car interesting, and have seen other restored examples, but as a collector car that you’d actually drive on occasion, I’d be terrified. That’s the reason I sold my Renault Caravelle…too small and under-powered to enjoy the drive. I used to joke that if I died in the Caravelle, they could simply just leave me inside and bury the car.

  12. Barry

    I owned one of these from 1959 to 1966 when I sold it to a navy man when
    I lived in long beach ca. I did a few engine mods to it. Increased the oil
    Pan from a little over 1 quart to 5 quarts, lowered the oil pick up, enlarged
    The valve ports installed sodium cooled valves with an additional set of
    Valve springs, bigger carb and larger exhaust. It was a fun car to drive as
    A work car. Sorry to say I sold it for $250.00

  13. John B

    I myself made a stately bow upon my late 1959 entrance to the world, and I saw a few of these when we were stationed in Germany in the mid ’60s. I do seem to recall one that had its rear wheels very close together like one half of a dually! A motoring experience like no other…

  14. Martin Sparkes

    My dad had one and took my mom on their honeymoon in it. We have a great wedding photo of them setting off with her gown filling the drivers compartment. I has thoughts of buying them one as an aniversary gift once but did not follow through and now they are unobtanium.

  15. Oingo

    I am guessing that it was put away after 2 years is possibly because something failed and there was no local resource to repair it. in the late 60s I remember seeing what I believe was one of these sitting in an auto wreckers yard on my way to and from school every day and always wished I could get off at a nearby stop and go look at it.

  16. Howard A Member

    I don’t buy the claim either. There’s no way a 2 year old car, any car, would look this beat. I had a friend in high school, that him and his old man put a snowmobile motor in one of these. It wound up on the front steps of the school more than once. This is one of the times, you really have to wonder where our hobby is going, if they get 15g’s for something like this. Maybe in NY ( just kidding Eric)

  17. Rock On Member

    Howard A – I always thought that all the big money was in California not New York. Most people with big money run away from the cold weather!

  18. Eric Dashman

    Mike Wolf paid $12,500 for a much nicer one than this a couple of years ago. This one looks like it spent its life parked on a NYC street. Have you ever noticed in NYC that there isn’t a single car, including the new ones, that don’t have dings all over them. One of the reasons I moved away, other than the big money (some guy wanted $5 to help me push my car out of a snow drift…so much for the milk of human kindness, eh). The South ain’t that cheap any more either. I can attest to that! Please don’t leave Texas and Florida out of contention for the big $$$ champs.

  19. angliagt

    I still try to imagine a Father,after buying a new Isetta,
    excitedly tells his Family – “Come out & see our new car!”.
    Hard to believe they sold as many as they did.

  20. chad

    ?Isetta 300? I thought I remembered it as (3000 ) three thousand?
    Must B dyslexic…

  21. Ward Hagenaar

    There is a concours example for sale in the Netherlands at Gina Collector cars at 35K Euro.

  22. Patrick

    I got to drive one of these a few weeks ago. It was a fun little car. I was just putting it around in a small town. I was told it would go 55 mph but I barely got it up to 35 mph. It took a while to get to that speed! These are about as primitive as a car can get. What really surprised me was how large the turning radius is! Here’s a little video from my drive.

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