My First Car: Small was beautiful for my Isetta – a lovable bubble car
12:27 29 October 2015
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.
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