Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 11°C

min temp: 8°C

Search

My First Car: Small was beautiful for my Isetta – a lovable bubble car

12:27 29 October 2015

BMW Isetta.

BMW Isetta.

Archant

It was only small but Helen Armstrong’s Isetta bubble car was a huge hit with her young niece and nephew.

My first car was a ‘bubble car’ – nickname given to them in this country.

It was an Isetta, made by BMW – so I later told people that my first car was a BMW to impress!

It was made even more distinctive because this mondel had four wheels – the rear ones were close together – whereas the usual models were three-wheelers. The four-wheeler version was more stable, so I was advised, but the disadvantage was that it had full road tax, rather than the much cheaper tax on three-wheelers.

This was in about 1957, after I had been on holiday in Germany and Austria where they were all the rage – not only Isettas, but Heinkels and Messerschmitts as well – all bubble cars.

The latter two models had few sales over here, as they of course were the names of makes of German aircraft and wartime memories were still vivid.

I loved my Isetta – the registration was WBJ 213 or 216. It could carry two adult passengers – just – but it was most popular with my young nephew and niece, Katie and Simon, one of whom usually sat on the back shelf. The pictures show how we fitted in and could carry stuff too.

This was in London and the bubble car was easy to park as you simply drove frontwards up to the pavement opened the door in front of you and out you stepped as the length of them was the same as the width of a conventional car.

I used to drive home to my family in Suffolk at weekends, going the backway by Epping, Dunmow, Sudbury and Hadleigh and it would take under three hours or so. I think it took less than two gallons of petrol to do the round trip.

Bubble cars were hideously dangerous of course – hard to see among traffic, slower and there was nothing except a thin door to protect your legs and body if you collided with anything. I would be terrified to drive one now but I’m 85 now and gave up driving four years ago.

Tell us about your first car – email your first car memories, with a picture, to motoring@archant.co.uk

2 comments

  • I bought a 1957 Heinkel 175cc bubble car in 1963, as I wasn't getting much joy with the opposite sex with my AJS 650cc motorcycle. Trouble was that it broke down on several occasions and it took ages for the parts to come through, so it didn't really help my situation. I once had five people in it on a trip from Felixstowe to Ipswich - 3 in the front including me and two crouched on the engine cover behind us. When the battery went flat, I'd push start it in reverse gear, with the front door open and then have to jump on board when the engine fired! Mad or what! My dear mother asked for a lift into Ipswich one day and was terrified by the huge bus that I followed rather too closely. She never asked again. I sold it to a mate at work who, despite my warnings, would rev the engine in first and second gears, with the inevitable result that the crankshaft broke up and FPV was no more.

    Report this comment

    RhondaK

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • my first car was a Trojan bubble car.[ about 1964]I still drive a reliant robin and go to devon on holiday every year [ used to go to cornwall as well , but have now got lazy driving legs]I am nearly 82 years old.

    Report this comment

    TERENCE MANNING

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Police at the scene of the stabbing close to Wherstead Road in Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Shocked neighbours have tonight expressed their fear and concern after a man was stabbed in Ipswich.

Gritting teams in Suffolk have completed 100 runs. Picture: Simon Parker

Gritting teams in Suffolk have treated enough miles of road to travel around the world more than four times.

Suffolk Constabulary actually received 1,865 abandoned 999 calls in 2016 (stock image)

Suffolk Constabulary has apologised after it provided wildly incorrect data about how many abandoned 999 calls it has received.

Peter and Sylvia Stuart. Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE

Fingerprints taken from a man arrested on suspicion of murdering Weybread couple Peter and Sylvia Stuart were found on a car which had the couple’s DNA in it, it has been alleged.

Lola, a pet cat from Ipswich who has had her ears cut off. Picture: RSPCA

Police and the RSPCA are urging residents to come forward after a cat was found near her home with both ears cut.

Baroness Murphy of Aldgate

An East Anglian peer has warned advocates of a second European Union referendum that they are “playing with fire”.

Launch of Suffolk Armed Forces Weekend at Felixstowe - members of the team orgainsing the event gathered on the seafront after a meeting to look at the latest programme for the event being staged on June 24-25

A Suffolk seaside town is to hold a double celebration with a military theme this summer – a two-day spectacle of music, battle re-enactments, food and fireworks for all ages to enjoy.

Dean Stansby pictured with his former partner Haley Phair and their son Rocky, five. Picture: Brendan Taylor at Taylor Made Portraits

The heartbroken family of a father-of-five who was killed near Ipswich railway station have paid tribute to him.

Elvis Fair leaving Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: Archant

A Suffolk hairdressing salon owner gave hundreds of pounds to an alleged conman she met on a dating website after he offered to help her with her financial affairs, a court has heard.

Beacon House, in Ipswich, where the inquest took place.

A 21-year-old woman who collapsed at a mental health hospital in Suffolk died of natural causes, an inquest has ruled.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24