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B-but…but…it’s a BMW!


Another one from a weekend fête. This here’s a bubble car, and yes it’s a BMW. A three-wheeler. Many bubble cars were.

See, ten years after the war — as you might imagine — Germany’s heavy industry was still in a spot of financial trouble. Bayerische Motoren Werke was no exception. They considered closing shop, but then decided to buy the rights to build this car from an Italian company. It’s called an Isetta and it saved the day. The motor was a modified version of a BMW motorcycle engine.

It wasn’t an original idea. The German airplane makers Messerschmitt and Heinkel (and others) were doing a roaring trade in bubble cars to fill a demand for affordable personal vehicles. They were dubbed bubble cars because Messerschmitt used airplane-style clear cowls on theirs. They were tiny.

Britain’s Austin Mini is widely thought to have killed them off, on account of it had four whole wheels and could seat more than one adult.

The descendant of the bubble car lives on in parts of Europe, though. In some countries, micro-cars are taxed and insured at the motorcycle rate, making them attractive to casual drivers.

And in a few — notably France — you don’t even need a license to drive one. The French call them VSPs, or Voiture Sans Permis (literally ‘car without permit’) and they have an awful reputation as a loophole for old ladies and people who lose their license to DUI.

I will leave you with this completely unrelated but fun link: bog butter.


Comment from Timbo
Time: June 14, 2016, 9:17 pm

I has one of those in 1970. Slow, noisy and perilous. I loved it. My father in law gave it away without asking me!

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: June 14, 2016, 9:18 pm

ack! The link to bog butter won’t!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 14, 2016, 9:23 pm

Sorry ’bout that, Deborah. Fixed now.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 14, 2016, 9:25 pm

I can’t see one of those without thinking of the rappers’ love affair with Beamers.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: June 14, 2016, 9:56 pm

Friend of mine had an Isetta when we were in high school.

Vietnam had three wheeled cyclos that carried passengers like a bus, and anything else you wanted to load onto the thing.

Comment from Bob B
Time: June 14, 2016, 11:02 pm

When I was growing up in Florida, one of our neighbors had one of those and kept it in nice condition. He used to take us for rides in it.
Then came the fateful day that he bought a newer car, and the BMW was parked outside at night so the new car could be parked in the garage. The rust quickly ate the BMW and he sold the remains.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: June 14, 2016, 11:27 pm

I see these little cars and think “Oh how cute, but not for me.” I want a LOT of metal between me and thee, and a lot of horsepower, too. And I don’t mind old either.

My favorite “car” was a 1960 Ford F-150 pickup, which I commandeered when my father died. It smelled like dirt, and Goodyear tires, and Texaco oil, which it burned like crazy. I was fourteen and taught myself to drive the stick. Can you believe the State of Texas used to let to 14-year-olds drive legally. Imagine my shock when I came home from school and found out my mother had sold it! Wah!

Comment from Timothy S. Carlson
Time: June 15, 2016, 6:00 am

Ah, damn. I was hoping that the bog butter spontaneously appeared in the bogs for unknown reasons. Knowing that they are just butter caches buried by humans eons ago just make them gross.

Hmmm, 5000 year old dairy product. Have any of the whacky scientists put some on toast and tried eating it yet?

I haven’t owned a car or driven in almost 7 years, but a bubble car would be handy around here (the traffic is terrible in Manila). I’d hate to get into an accident with one, however. Driver and vehicle would look less like a bubble and more like a popped zit. Ouch.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 15, 2016, 7:51 am

Timothy: a nutty chef tried some, if I remember the article aright.

Comment from peacelovewoodstock
Time: June 15, 2016, 11:17 am

Cuter than a turtleneck sweater on a chicken

Comment from F X Muldoon
Time: June 15, 2016, 1:23 pm

Point of order – the BMW Isettas came in three and four wheel types, the German ones (250, 300, & 600) being four wheeled, and later UK ones being three wheeled for licence reasons.

Comment from technochitlin
Time: June 15, 2016, 2:08 pm

The modern iteration is the Polaris Slingshot

Comment from technochitlin
Time: June 15, 2016, 2:15 pm

Not sure what went wrong- try http://www.polaris.com/en-us/slingshot

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: June 15, 2016, 2:43 pm

Soon, soon, you will have one of these of your very own, citizen – and it will drive itself wherever we, ahem, you tell it to.

Comment from Caravan Doors
Time: February 17, 2022, 5:31 am

Yes, It is BMW and i think it is 70s model

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