1958 Iso Isetta Convertible

Europe was desperate for transportation in the years after World War II and the more economical it was, the better. Several creative innovators responded to the opportunity with a generation of microcars.

Powered by 1- and 2-cylinder 2- and 4-stroke engines with displacements measured in fractions of a liter, they put Europe back on the road and have become favorites of collectors for their imagination and cute, sassy presence.

One of the most successful was Renzo Rivolta whose Isothermos company branched out from refrigerators to make scooters and eventually the 1954 Isetta, a diminutive two-seater powered by a single-cylinder two-stroke engine with two pistons that miraculously got 9 1/2 horsepower from just 236cc displacement.

Iso licensed Isetta manufacture to companies in a number of countries including France, Spain, Brazil and, most memorably, Germany, where BMW adapted its motorcycle engines to the Isetta and largely on account of its success survived to become the luxury car juggernaut it is today.In Spain, a separate company, Iso Espana, S.A., assembled Isettas largely from components manufactured in Italy.

This 1958 Spanish-built Isetta is one of those cars. It has had a sympathetic restoration to creditable microcar standards in two tone blue with a plaid cloth and vinyl interior and black vinyl folding sunroof -- a safety feature of Isettas in case a front-end collision blocked the Isetta's single front door.

It has the more desirable bubble Plexiglas windows, hinged front quarter windows for ventilation, wraparound rear window and Isetta hubcaps on wheels that match the roof's darker blue color. The bumpers are unusually substantial, a feature of the Iso Espana built cars, and it has four wheels (some British-built Isettas had three so they could qualify for reduced taxation as a motorcycle) and is powered by the Iso single cylinder, double piston 2-stroke engine.

Its restoration is to good driving standards, a little car that can be driven proudly and shown at the end of the day in a friendly context. Extremely popular with collectors, this unusual Iso Espana Isetta will get plenty of attention even from microcar collectors.

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