Certainly the most popular ‘bubble car’ ever built, the 1955 Iso Isetta didn’t find much success in its home Italian market, but was soon built in Germany, by BMW no less, under license, where it proved to be very popular, competing with other Messerschmitt and Heinkel bubble cars. Most Iso Isettas had four wheel, although that was occasionally trimmed down to three in certain markets to avoid taxes. One of the most distinctive features of the car is that passengers entered through the front of the vehicle, through a large door that pulled the steering column with it when it was opened.
While the Iso Isetta was certainly very useful about town, on account of its tiny size, it didn’t perform quite as well on the highway, with a top speed not exceeding 51 miles per hour. Considering that this tiny car was powered by a 247cc, single-cylinder engine producing 12 horsepower, it isn’t entirely surprising. Another version had a 297cc engine, which added some torque and a single extra horsepower. Acceleration figures are not available, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t anything to put on the front page of the sales brochure!
Regardless of their lack of performance, the 1955 Iso Isetta and its successors (it was built until 1962) developed quite the cult following, and it’s not rare (but it’s uncommon) to see one on the streets during the summer.