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						Vw Isetta
VW-Powered Isetta Pulls Wheelies

Volkswagen-powered BMW Isetta 300

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, BringaTrailer.com

“Everyone runs past the Chiron at the car show to check out the automotive version of Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. LOVE this thing.” — Commented by Metubajohn on https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1957-bmw-isetta-29/

It’s a rare occasion when a 1,600 cc VW engine swap is a performance upgrade, but when you’re talking about a 13 hp microcar, a 60 hp flat-four is about the same as swapping a 427 into your Miata. Crawling on all fours, this Volkswagen-swapped BMW Isetta 300 emerges from the deepest depths of the internet to shake your Wednesday up a bit. Is this thing a match made in heaven or creepy bubble-headed monstrosity? Let’s dig in.

In a prior life, this modified microcar lived as a 1957 BMW Isetta 300, a popular economy car powered by a motorcycle driveline with a single rear wheel. The design for the Isetta was actually born at the Iso facility Bresso, Italy. Iso’s Isetta sold well enough for a thousand units or so, but owner Renzo Rivolta soon noted strong competition from FIAT was affecting sales, and Rivolta was also looking to put more resources into the Iso Rivolta sports car. So he negotiated several licensing agreements, and eventually worked a big deal with BMW that included the tooling for the Isetta.

BMW revamped the entirety of the Isetta before its debut in 1955 with a 250 cc engine from the BMW R25/3 single-cylinder motorcycle. Cooling and lubrication were improved through the use of a larger oil sump and a large cooling fan with ducting. The initial iteration of the Isetta boasted 12 hp for a top speed of 53 mph. Those specs were improved slightly in 1956 with an upgraded 300 cc engine, good for 13 hp and improved mid-range performance.

But of course all this motorcycle engine business is totally irrelevant when a mad man graphs the business end of a VW Beetle where all the bike bits used to be. But I suppose why have a 300 cc single-cylinder when you could have a 1,600 cc four-banger instead?

From a horsepower standpoint, if none other, you can easily see the merit in this swap. 60 horse where you once only had 12? I’d take that any day, and I’d assume the VW transmission would push the car around better than an aging motorcycle transmission, at least to a higher top speed right? But of course, there’s a couple other factors at play here, namely the wild visual transformation when you tack on a rear-engine driveline with a considerably wider track width on a microcar.

In terms of the final product, dramatic sounds a bit blasé, wild is just plain insufficient, and in fact the only suitable descriptor that comes to mind is cartoonish. Fitting then that a commenter on the BringaTrailer.com auction site coined it as the vehicular incarnation of Mike Wazowski from Disney’s Monster’s Inc.

I’ve paraphrased a bit there, but the resemblance to the round, one-eyed monster from the Disney flick is uncanny, if not intentional. Even down to the green color scheme used on the body, wheels, steering column and engine shroud.

But most important is the fact that this machine will lift the front tires clear off the ground when you rough house it a bit, which has to be just about the best party trick out there. Possibly a bit overconfident in his driveline, the seller has even shared a video of him doing it, by first reversing and then dumping the clutch in first gear.

Overall I’m just stoked this thing exists and that we’ve got the internet channels these days to buy such an item — what a time to be alive.

See the VW-powered Isetta here on BringaTrailer.com.

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