Originally produced by the Italian motorcycle manufacturer Iso, the Isetta (little Iso) Coupe was first produced in 1953.

Due to the fact that the Isetta, nicknamed Das Rollende Ei (the rolling egg) was only a marginal seller, and Iso wanted to concentrate on sports car production, he decided to sell the rights to the Isetta. BMW, which was in dire financial straits at the time and facing the prospect of a buyout by Mercedes-Benz, was in need of a fast-selling product, and was one of three purchasers of the rights. Its fuel economy of 60-63 miles per gallon was comparable to that of today’s hybrid-electric cars. Some British models were produced with three wheels, allowing it to be registered as a motorcycle and avoiding taxation and licensing requirements. Introduction of the Mini in 1959 signaled the end of the Isetta’s popularity, but the rolling egg had achieved its purpose, bringing BMW back from the brink of financial failure and securing its future.

Specifications: Isetta 300; 13 horsepower, 18.61 cubic inch, one-cylinder, motorcycle engine. Price new, $1,093. Weight 770 pounds; total production 160,000.

Accession no. 1999G002

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