Rare Soft Top: 1957 BMW Isetta Cabriolet

This tired 1957 BMW Isetta is a rare cabriolet model that featured a small soft top at the edge of the roof panel. Not very many were made and they rarely pop up for sale, particularly in project car form. While you can find restored ones at the big auction houses for many thousands of dollars, ones like these needing complete restoration offer a lower cost of entry for the Isetta enthusiast on the hunt for a rare model. Find it here on craigslist for $2,800 or trade for English, German, or Italian sports cars.

The Isetta is a collectible model regardless of the soft top configuration, although their appeal is limited to a group that either appreciates vintage BMWs or is passionate about micro cars. In other words, while a restored one may be worth a fair amount of cash, finding someone who wants one badly enough to invest in a top-shelf Isetta can sometimes be a challenge. Fortunately for this example, its prodigious amount of floor rust and overall state of repair is keeping the price low for any closet Isetta enthusiasts.

While it may not look terrible from this angle, the craigslist photos reveal that the floor is barely there and will need significant patch work. The cabriolet top is also missing, and who knows how hard a replacement will be to find. Some estimates claim just 300 Isetta convertibles were made, but I’ve not been able to verify that. Regardless, these cars were not made in big numbers, which means finding spared could be a challenge for the next owner.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes to move a project along. I know with my departed 1988 Subaru XT6 project, the scarcity of parts and unwillingness of Subaru dealers to help track down the rare bits I needed led to it being a total turn-off, not to mention the horrible driving dynamics. Given the seller’s garage has more than one pure sports car in the back, I can easily see his energy running out when thinking about this very needed Isetta cabriolet project. Would you take it on for the asking price?

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Comments

  1. Badger

    BMW are absolutely commited to keeping these cars going (they even bought one from the Wheeler Dealers TV in the UK for the BMW UK collection). Parts are available in Europe and the only challenge will be the roof, but a decent trimmer will be able to deal with that. Don’t let parts scare you, there’s a place in GA that can help here too.

    Like 1
  2. Rex Kahrs Member

    This car puts me in mind of the ’66 Renault Caravelle I once had. It was cute, but too light and flimsy, and simply not meant for modern traffic. I’d be terrified driving this Isetta, as I was driving the Caravelle.

    Bob in Bexley might recall that Flippo the Clown drove an Isetta.

  3. Classic Steel

    Does using a forklift seem like the best transportation or moving device here if this is such a rare car?

    Just saying that the forks isn’t a one size fits all on frame and metal supports with a weak Rusty floor where warpage seems easy 🤔

    Find the parts is almost non existence and may require finding the other convertible car owners to get
    measured convertible schematics to machine shop the parts or find a similar etc with the price should one go down this path🤔

    Like 3
  4. Butch

    My Aunt won one of these brand new back in the day from a local meat packing business. It was quite the conversation piece in and around the local coal towns for some time.

    Like 4
  5. Texas Brit

    I am aware of this seller…a car flipper. He tried to buy one of my cars but really low-balled me with an insulting offer. Where he finds them is beyond me, but to the best of my knowledge, he has never restored any of the cars. That tells me he’s only in it for the money and not a true enthusiast. Quite the opposite–only serves to drive the prices up for the rest of us who truly want to preserve history with our limited budgets.

    Like 6
  6. Ken Cwrney

    Now before anyone comes after me with
    pitchforks abd torches, let me say that this would be a great start for a really
    wild EV project. Since you’d be a real fool
    to drive it on the interstate anyway, an EV
    conversion would definately be the way
    the way to go here. With EV technology
    evolving daily, it just makes sense to convert the car to an electric layout–
    especially since Washington is doing its
    best to outlaw the use of gasoline powered engines in motor vehicles since
    2010. With this car, it seems that a lot of
    hard to find parts are missing, but could
    fabricated if schematics of these parts
    still exist. Your top bows and seat frames could be 3D printed and any good
    metal shop can solve the case of the missing floorpans by whipping up a set
    in no time at all. And since this thing is
    basically a glorified motorcycle, any
    cycle shop could mix and match the
    parts you’d need to redo the mechanicals
    with no trouble at all. So what’s the
    problem here? This is America! We’re .
    known for a great little thing called Yankee ingenuity–at least my generation
    was anyway. Just dive right in, fix what
    needs to be fixed and be the envy of your
    neighborhood when you zip around town
    in your newly completed Isetta!

    Like 5
  7. Werner Rogmans

    All Isetta’s have a soft roof, “escape route”,
    parts available @ various clubs.

    Like 1
  8. jocaj

    Newly designed version of electric Isetta already exists:
    https://microlino-car.com/en/microlino.

    Like 1

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