The BMW Isetta

The BMW Isetta
is a favorite of mine
in the field of classic
vintage cars …

.. despite the rarity
of them on American


an Italian design,
it was produced in
small numbers by
Iso SpA, an Italian
refrigerator company,
before licensing to
manufacturers in Brazil,
France, Spain, Belgium,
and to BMW
in Germany

BMW took the basic
design, remodeled it,
and then applied German
engineering ingenuity
to create something much
better —
and more popular.

In a year,
BMW had sold
ten times (10)
the number of cars that
Iso SpA ever sold.

Soon, the car became
available in the U.S.,
and they sold over
12,000 of them here.

The little 3 wheeled car 4
made quite an impression
with buyers, was low
maintenance, and excellent
on gas- getting an average
of about 60 miles per gallon.

Actually, BMW made
three models of the Isetta:

In 1955, the “250”
had a R25/3 250cc motorcycle engine, a four speed gearbox, and a top speed of 53 mph. It was only produced for about 8 months.

In 1956-1962,
the “300” featured a
four wheel option and
a more powerful 298
cc engine.

In 1957-1959, the “600” was a larger four seater, with four wheels standard, and an R67 582cc flat twin engine. It’s top speed was around 80 mph.

the “600” found itself
in direct competition
with the VW Beetle,
….. and did not sell well –
— only about 35,000
were ever built.

The “300” Isetta continued
to improve and sell well
into the early 1960’s.

Despite that, the market forgiannacanale
small cars was shrinking,
while the competition was widening,
…. and in 1962, BMW built the last Isetta.

I heard a rumor, however….
…. that BMW was using the
Isetta as the basis for it’s
new cutting edge electric
I-3 .

If so, the Isetta may yet
make a comeback of sorts.

I hope so-
it’s a cool little car.

HOY !!


Muscleheaded’s Top Four Classic Motorcycles

motI always love to
make our wonderful
Muscleheaded readers
happy if I can…

Today, I had a
unique opportunity
to do that in
this post.

And me, too —
’cause I LOVE to ride, —

You see,

sidecarthis is a post on four —

(count ’em- four!)

(and which probably
explains the ridiculously
long title)

— it’s about gorgeous vintage (old) motorcycles.

One of my readers
had sent me an email
mentioning a post I did
some time ago called:

fastThe Best of Vintage British Motorcycles“.

The writer asked if I liked any other kinds of sleds other than Brit ones….

and, further inquired what I thought of German ones,

since she was …

… well..,

from Germany.

And truthfully,
although I’m obviously a
huge fan of English and American bikes,

— my all time favorite bike
was made in Germany, in the 1930’s.

Here it is.

Motorcycle of the Week -- 1934 BMW R-7 Concept

It’s called the 1934 BMW R-7.

This one-of-a-kind concept bike was made by BMW in 1933, and designed by the renowned German engineer Alfred Böning.

It’s striking appearance draws from the Art Deco movement, with it’s aero-dynamic wrap-around body,

——– but it’s beauty was much more than skin deep.

It featured a pressed-steel frame, and the first telescopic forks ever featured on a motorcycle.

r7The power plant, based on a 800 cc Boxer engine with hemispherical combustion chambers, made only about 40 horsepower,

….but could reach speeds of almost 100 miles per hour.

An automotive style shifter, controlling a four speed gear box, was mounted under the right handlebar.

The design was so cutting edge, that the bike is still winning awards today…

Perhaps, that’s because until 2005, the bike had been sealed in a container in the BMW warehouse…

It hadn’t been seen by the public since before World War II.

It had been a prototype for a new model, and with all the ‘excitement’ going on in Europe during the time, it was ‘put on ice’ until later.

Like, much later, man.

It’s currently valued at over 1.2 million dollars,
……. and resides at the BMW museum near Munich.

Nice, huh?

It’s a damn shame I won’t get to ride it…

A bike that doesn’t get ridden, especially by ME, isn’t really living up to it’s cosmic potential, but it sure is pretty, anyway.

I’m sure there’s other stuff I could say the same about, now that I think about it.

Next !

My second favorite is kind of singing the same tune as far as aerodynamics is concerned….

But it’s a British design
from the late 1950’s.


This motorcycle, called the 1958 Ariel Leader, was a beautifully thought out machine, with wrap around panels that concealed much of the workings, and had an ultra-modern sleekness to it –

The modernity extended even to the finishing touches,

For instance, it came with full advanced instrumentation including a clock, and an integrated windscreen.

Of course,
arielthe wrap around enclosure panels themselves were not new to English motorcycle design-

(and the Germans had pioneered the idea in the R-7 …. )

Vincent’s “Black Prince” had also used a very similar setup.

But, the Ariel promised a sharper, sleeker look, and offered an interesting array of colors, including red or blue offset with gray two tone paint schemes.

This bike might have done well
if plans for models with larger
displacement engines had come to fruition…

…… as it stood, it won the award
for 1959 “Motorcycle of the Year“.

It was a really cool look .

I can’t help but think that a
1000 CC size “Leader” would
have taken the American
market by storm, if it could
have been marketed and
engineered properly….

Which brings me,
….. to this bike.


You probably think of Ducati
as a manufacturer of exotic Italian racing bikes.

And, despite my pick isn’t
a crotch rocket, you’d still be right .

This one, although it doesn’t
look like it, I guess, would
literally accelerate until the
tires came off.

Developed to directly compete
with Harley Davidson, especially
in the United States market,
it never made it into mass production…..

The bike–
the full name of which was the:
1964 Ducati Berliner 1260 Apollofestival

— packed a 76 cubic inch (1250cc) 90 degree V-4 punch—

and it would actually accelerate faster than it’s tires would tolerate…..

Yep… to over 120 mph

…… at a time when motorcycle
tires weren’t sturdy enough
to take speeds over 90.

Yoooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwweeeeee — that’s for me, man.

Only two were made before
the whole project went up
in black smoke.

( Is that rubber burning, or
are you just happy to see me ? )

Now, I know a couple of my fellow
1%ers are responding to my choices
so far with some skepticism and
probably more than a little profanity
about the lack of an American bike
on this list.

Hey, so be it, shovel head….
I’m getting there, brother,
I’m getting there.

Don’t rush me, s’all.

‘Cause my last choice is sure
to make the whole read worth it.

No, it ain’t a 1929
Henderson Streamline K-J
or a 1930’s Super-X —
— too hard to keep in tune for
an incompetent mechanic like me.

No, it ain’t a 1945 Harley Davidson
WLA , although I’d kill for one of them.

No, it ain’t even an Indian,
………… and I’m a huge fan,
especially of the Indian Chief.

It’s this bike, right t’yere.


A 1937 Crocker Hemi 91 cubic inch V-Twin

For fifty years, it was the largest displacement motorcycle engine to ever have been produced… up until 1993.

It was available in three colors– blue, red or black.

You did have three choices in trim color too….
…. black,
or ,,,,, ummmm… lessee….
oh, yeah, black.

It was built at 1436
Venice Blvd, in Los Angeles, USA–

… by the Crocker Motorcycle Company, crocker
a year after they
started making V-Twins,
and only four years before they went belly up completely.

Their production of motorcycles had, at one time, been third behind Harley Davidson and Indian,

But now, even
simple parts for them,
like gas tanks–
—- are very expensive,
and even harder to get than a
date in the lobby of the V-D clinic.

You don’t see one of these bad boys
running on the road very often,
…. and when you do, the waxer
that’s riding it has got more
money than Elvis.

Which kinda ruins it for me, but still.



(Art by Enoch Bolles )

The Micro Car Revolution

wetOccasionally, I’ll have someone
ask me why I ride my motorcycle all year round.

Most of the time,
I don’t tell them about the freedom
one gets on a motorcycle…

… the feeling of the wind in your face,
the road under your 2 wheels,
the bugs in your teeth.

Or about how I can be through the next light
before their car gets up to speed long enough to stop for this one.

Or never having to worry about finding a parking place.

Or just how friggin cool (I think) I look riding one.


I tell em about FUEL ECONOMY.

My Harley gets about 35 MPG, and my VTX gets more like 45.

Everytime I fill up my tank for ten or twelve bucks,
………. I thank the good Lord above that
such a thing as a motorcycle was invented.

But ya know…..

Those same advantages I mentioned above–
— the wind in your hair,
the road under your 2 wheels,
the bugs in your teeth thing–

……… gets positively negative
when the weather turns nasty on ya.

And on those days, 1
when I’m soaking wet, shivering,
and worrying about dumping it
on the first patch of ice I hit, I haveta wonder …..

Is there a form of personal transportation
that might combine the efficiencies of a motorcycle with those of a car,
without 4000 pounds of metal to go with it ?

And then I get to thinking about microcars.

Now, if you’re thinking about cars like the Cooper Mini ,

……… you gotta think smaller.

Fiat 500?

that might as well be a limo compared to a microcar—-

…….. like the Peel Trident, or the Corbin Sparrow.


Peel Engineering Company of the U.K.
can take credit for marketing the world’s smallest production automobile in 1962, with the Peel P-50; at 54 inches long, and 41 inches wide.

Designated by the company as a “City Car”, the P-50 had three wheels, one door ( on the left), one windshield wiper, one headlight and one very small 49 cc ( that’s about the size of a mini-bike engine ) engine that would make 35 miles per hour with a tail wind and a light driver.

The P-50, according to Peel Engineering, was capable of seating “one adult and a shopping bag” , and was so lightweight it could be toted away by an average size person.

( it weighed 130 pounds, but then, it WAS on wheels…).

It’s portability was probably a good thing, too…
……….. since the car didn’t have a reverse gear.

Three colors were available– Daytona White, Dragon Red and Dark Blue.

They were originally manufactured on the Isle of Man,
but sales were slow, and they ceased production of the P-50 in 1964.

Peel also made a slightly lighter car called the ” Trident ” …
….. a two-seater with a very cool plexiglass bubble top.

It also would make a bit more speed….
………… getting you up to a very hairy 40 miles per hour.

Alas, Peel stopped manufacturing cars altogether on the Isle of Man in 1969.

But, take heart ,
microcar fans —-

The Peel P-50 and Trident are back on the market…
at least in India and Britain.

Made in the north of England, two colors have been added, and the interior updated somewhat.
They’ll sell for somewhere around $15,000…

And best of all, they’re now ELECTRIC.

Hey- who knows…
It might not be too long before you can one where you live.

( If you’re interested , find Peel Engineering’s web site here. )

I know one thing..

If these catch on, I have some buddies in Philadelphia
who are gonna have to cut back on their Cheesesteak and Tastykake consumption.

Come to think of it,
I may have to lay off the pastrami, too.



The Champion Motor Car Company
made the “Champion 400” in Paderborn,
near Dusseldorf, Germany between 1951 and 1953…

It was an interesting looking two door sedan,
with a 397 cc engine that got about 60 miles per gallon….

The company produced cars from 1949 to about 1952.

Although not many of these cars survive,
the “400” was one of the cars that influenced
the development of the Isetta,
and I figured it was worth a mention.


The Corbin Sparrow ( now called the Myers Motors NmG ) is a more contemporary, electric powered, three wheeled microcar …..

It is a one passenger ‘city’ car,
intended for short distance commutes and urban driving.

It was offered in two body styles,
the coupe nicknamed “Pizza Butt ” because it was originally designed for use by a large pizza concern,
and a single door nicknamed the “Jelly Bean”.

It would run approximately 30 miles on a charge,
although the company recently upgraded the NmG to lithium batteries,
which should almost double the range.

It very well might prove to be a popular choice for city dwellers,
but the last I heard on pricing was somewhere over $30,000
— so, the jury is definitely still out on this car.

It is cool looking , though.

Two items more on the subject of microcars —mess

I know some of you are wondering
where the heck are all the
Messerschmitt KR-201’s and Tigers…..

I did a separate post on em,
so just go read it if you want.
( pushy, pushy, pushy!!! )

FYI: The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum,
the largest museum of microcars in the world,
which was located in Madison, Georgia,
(at Dubble Bubble headquarters),
closed and sold their entire collection the year before last.

Sad news, indeed.

I hope those beautiful cars
went to somewhere people
can actually SEE em.

But so far,
no sign of ’em.

Just gonna have to keep my eyes peeled, I guess.