Rare Drop-Top: 1957 BMW Isetta 300 Cabriolet

The average home garage is not the ideal location for a restoration project. This is especially true when the object of your desire is of a larger size. While a ’59 Cadillac is desirable, restoring one in that environment would be challenging (to say the least!). However, a vehicle like this 1957 BMW Isetta 300 Cabriolet could be the perfect alternative. Not only will it fit into the garage with plenty of room to spare, but its relative rarity means it would be worth the effort as a long-term investment. The Isetta is listed here on Barn Finds Classifieds in Bentonville, Arkansas. You could give this little gem a new home by handing the owner $12,500.

I admit that this is only the second Isetta 300 Cabriolet I have ever seen, and as you will see, this could be for a good reason. As a restoration project, it has no shortage of positive attributes. The seller indicates they have performed rust repairs on the floors and luggage shelf and have welded in a new battery box. That work has seen the vehicle return to a rust-free state. Its red paint looks tired, and it is peeling in a few spots. Given the potential value of this classic, spending the time stripping the panels to bare metal should be worth the effort. It would allow the buyer to address any panel imperfection, and they could then apply a fresh coat of paint to the standard this Isetta deserves. The original Black soft-top is present and shows no evidence of rips or tears. The glass is in good order, with the trim and chrome also looking nice. The BMW wears its original luggage rack, which is a practical consideration in a vehicle of these dimensions.

The interior of an Isetta is hardly going to be mistaken for a Cadillac, but these cars are incredibly practical. Despite an overall width of fifty-four inches, they can seat two adults across their bench seat. Space remains for a small child, which is impressive. The seller includes a seat frame, although it requires padding and upholstery. Several companies offer complete kits, although feedback across several forums indicates that one of the best is Isettas R Us, located in Woodstock, Georgia. They hold complete kits that should return the interior to its former glory.

The Isetta was not renowned as a high-performance model, but it performed its stated role with style and flair. Power came from a 298cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine producing 13hp. The power feeds to the road via a four-speed manual transmission, allowing these cars to cover the ¼ mile in 28.5 seconds before hitting a top speed of 50mph. The seller indicates this BMW isn’t numbers-matching, but it has few mechanical needs. The engine and transmission are rebuilt and are ready for refitting. They also rebuilt the brakes and wiring, and everything works as it should. That suggests the buyer won’t face any challenging tasks returning this Cabriolet to a roadworthy state.

Various resources indicate that the 1957 BMW Isetta 300 Cabriolet is a rare beast. They suggest that only around 360 examples of the Isetta 300 Cabriolet found their way to North America and that a mere nineteen are known to exist today. That means once the new owner restores this classic, they are unlikely to park beside an identical vehicle at a Cars & Coffee. The rarity of these cars is reflected by the fact that neither Hagerty nor NADA offer a valuation. However, I found a couple of recent successful sales, and both changed hands for more than $50,000. That gives some idea of the potential value of this beauty and why it is worth considering as a restoration project.


  1. Jim

    As an owner of a cabriolet, I have to believe there were more than 360 shipped to N.A.
    If there are only 19 left, I must have seen half of them.

    Like 5

      i have heard these numbers left in the teens pronouncements for years , it isn’t even true of the bubble window cabriolets .

      360 imported is a new one , did they get that from the bmw records ?

      i have seen far more than 19 isetta s-w cabs
      and own one myself .

      the isetta registry lists over120 serial numbers for them . that includes all ranges of cars from parts cars to
      concourse but 19 is a number pulled right out of the air .

      Like 1
  2. Big C

    Cue the “You could make this into an EV” crowd.

    Like 1
  3. Gerard Frederick

    $50.000 for a restored one? That reminbds me on the movie ¨The Gods must be crazy¨. I have plenty of experience with Isettas, having driven one all over San Francisco and once even all the way to Santa Rosa, fully loaded, a one time terryfing experience. So I can say without fear of informed contradiction, that an Isetta in top notch shape is good only for going to the local 7-eleven, or as a show car.

    Like 4
  4. Jimmyzee

    I am with you on the numbers.

  5. Emel

    Seems like the perfect vehicle for the wives. Yep 13 mph.

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