A very small car belonging to one of the country’s biggest motorsport icons will go under the hammer in November, and the winning bid is expected to be relatively large in contrast to the vehicle’s dinky dimensions.
The motor in question is a 1957 BMW Isetta 600 – better known as the ‘bubble car’.
It was previously owned by the late F1 legend, Sir Stirling Moss, who used it for nipping around London and even taught his son, Elliot, to drive in it.
The comically small model will be offered to collectors at a classic car event in Birmingham and is predicted to make a big impression, with the auction house placing its estimate at £50,000 to £60,000.
Moss’ motor: It’s not often you can say you own a car previously belonging to a motor racing legend, but that is the case with this particular vehicle, which was in Stirling Moss’ collection
The tiny car will be sold as part of the NEC Classic Motor Show event during the Silverstone Auctions sale on 12-13 November.
The motor recently featured as part of display of Moss’ greatest racing cars at the 2021 Goodwood Revival to celebrate the life of the Mille Miglia winner and 16-time F1 race winner who died at the age of 90 in April 2020.
The Italian-designed Isetta microcar was built under licence in a number of different countries, including Spain, Belgium, France, Brazil, Germany, and here in the UK and famous for its incredibly small dimensions, three wheels and frontward opening door.
Italian brand Iso debuted the vehicle at the 1953. The Isetta measures in at 2.29 metres (7.5ft) long and 1.37m (4.5ft) wide, making it one of the smallest road legal cars of all time.
The tiny car will be sold as part of the NEC Classic Motor Show event during the Silverstone Auctions sale on 12-13 November and is estimated to sell for £50,000 to £60,000
The car recently featured as part of display of Moss’ greatest racing cars at the 2021 Goodwood Revival to celebrate his life, Sir Stirling died at the age of 90 in April 2020
The fifties Isetta ‘Bubble Car’ was designed in Italy and is famous for its incredibly small dimensions, three wheels and frontward opening door
With the tiny 9.5bhp 236cc two-stroke engine slotted behind the bench seat, there was no need for a bonnet – though that’s never a good thing if you’re unfortunately enough to be involved in a head-on collision.
Produced in the post-World War II era, it was perfect for motorists wanting cheap transportation for regular – but short – distances, and went on to become one of the most successful and influential city cars ever created.
Because of its egg shape and bubble-like windows, it became known as a ‘bubble car’, a term later used to encompass a wide variety of similar vehicles.
However, because it had only had room for the driver and one passenger it wasn’t suitable for all customers, particularly those in Germany.
As a result, BMW went about extending the Isetta to create the 600.
The three-wheel original only had a single bench for a driver and passenger, which wasn’t suitable for many customers in 1950s Germany. That’s why BMW created their own
As a result, BMW went about extending the Isetta’s chassis and bodywork to create the 600
BMW Isetta 600s were powered by a 700cc ‘boxer’ engine from the BMW R67 motorcycle that was relocated to the rear of the vehicle. Moss fitted an even more potent motor to his car
It was powered by a bigger 700cc ‘boxer’ engine from the BMW R67 motorcycle that was relocated to the rear of the vehicle thanks to a redesigned chassis that allowed for a second row of seats and the addition of a conventional fourth wheel.
The longer body – extended to 2.9metres (9.5ft) – also meant BMW could install a right-hand side door in addition to the now-iconic one at the very front, though the steering wheel was always on the left, to the frustration of UK buyers.
With its bigger engine and extra wheel, performance was a major upgrade on the tripod Iso Isetta, though the reproduction costs were extremely high – and made the BMW version more expensive new than a comparatively larger Volkswagen Beetle at the time.
As a result, it sold in limited numbers until it was replaced in 1959 by the 700.
The redesigned and elongated chassis allowed for a second bench seat and the addition of a conventional fourth wheel, which instantly transformed its road handling
From inside, you can see just how small the car is. As was the case for all BMW Isettas, this is a left-hand-drive version
While the original Isetta only had a bench up front, the BMW versions had a second bench at the rear to seat another two passengers
The former Sir Stirling Moss example is one of the earlier BMW Isettas, which he bought at a Beaulieu auction in a rather sorry state.
The racing legend set about a restoration with an Isetta specialist, which included a number of performance and practical upgrades to make the car unique – something Moss often liked to do with his road cars.
He installed a more powerful BMW motorcycle engine with 30bhp, with letters accompanying the history file sold with the car showing his back and forth with the German car and motorcycle maker to negotiate the replacement powerplant.
It has 88,432km on the odometer, suggesting it has covered 54,949 miles in its lifetime, though how many of those are with the current engine have not been disclosed
The car going to auction even has Moss’ signature on the rear emblem, which also says the logo ‘MOSS 600’
The BMW Isetta 600 is 2.9metres (9.5ft) in length, which is 61cm longer than the original three-wheeler
Once the rebuild was complete, Sir Stirling used the diminutive silver car to get around Central London where he lived.
It even has Moss’ signature on the rear emblem, which also says the logo ‘MOSS 600’.
Incredibly, this is also the car that his son, Elliot, learned how to drive in, with the father and son moment captured in the accompanying photographs that are part of the auction lot.
Once the rebuild was complete, Sir Stirling used the diminutive silver car to get around Central London where he lived (pictured with son Elliot, right)
Incredibly, this is also the car that his son, Elliot Moss, learned how to drive in
Moss was a big fan on owning ultra-small cars for getting around the heavily-congested roads of Central London, where he grew up and lived until his death two years ago
‘We understand that over £30,000 has been invested over the years on its restoration which we wouldn’t doubt given the sheer quality of the result,’ Silverstone Auctions says.
Sir Stirling Moss pictured in 2015 with his bespoke Renault Twizy
It has 88,432km on the odometer, suggesting it has covered 54,949 miles in its lifetime, though how many of those are with the current engine have not been disclosed.
Earlier this year, this very car also made an appearance on ITV television show ‘The Car Years’, in which it was selected to argue the case for the best city car in 1957 against a rival Fiat 500.
Sir Stirling’s love for tiny cars for getting around London continued into his latter years, with the former racer owning an electric Renault Twizy to nip around Central London.
In fact, in 2015 This is Money visited his home to take a spin in the car, which he had also converted with better handling, windows and an internal heater – features that were never available as standard with the Twizy.
Jaguar E-Type Roadster raced by Sir Stirling Moss also going to auction
This Semi-lightweight 1965 Jaguar E-Type Roadster, pictured here with Moss at the wheel at the Isle of Man in 1991, will also go under the hammer in November
Moss competed in the car in the ‘Mountain Challenge’ race organised to commemorate the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, and the 30th Anniversary of the E-Type
Sir Stirling reportedly said after the event: ‘The car was pretty good but it needs to be damped down a little, made more taught if we were going to try really hard! It handled nicely, behaved quite well, and was comfortable’
Also being offered to collectors at the November auction is this Semi-lightweight 1965 Jaguar E-Type Roadster, which was raced by Sir Stirling in a special event at the Isle of Man in 1991.
Built to ‘semi-lightweight’ specification complete with an original ‘Works’ aluminium bonnet reputedly from one of the two factory special order semi-lightweight cars. And now lightly restored and in ‘fast road’ tune.
Sir Stirling Moss piloted the Jag in the early nineties alongside former Jaguar Le Mans driver, three-time British Touring Car Champion and winner of the prestigious Bathurst 100 and Spa 24 Hours endurance races, Win Percy.
The race itself was called the ‘Mountain Challenge’ and was organised to commemorate Britain’s greatest road race, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, and the 30th Anniversary of the E-Type.
In its current spec, it has a 4.2-litre engine, a roll bar, uprated springs, lowered suspension, vented boot, alloy radiator and header tank, and internal rear brake access panels
Silverstone Auctions estimates it will achieve a winning bid of £120,000 to £160,000
Sir Stirling reportedly said after the event: ‘The car was pretty good but it needs to be damped down a little, made more taught if we were going to try really hard! It handled nicely, behaved quite well, and was comfortable.’
In its current specification, it has a 4.2-litre engine, a roll bar, uprated springs, lowered suspension, vented boot, alloy radiator and header tank, and internal rear brake access panels.
It also features an FIA-type foam-filled tank and a five-speed gearbox.
Silverstone Auctions estimates it will achieve a winning bid of £120,000 to £160,000.
CARS & MOTORING: ON TEST
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