Bringing Back The BMW Isetta For The 21st Century

Remember Steve Urkel? How could you forget Mr. “Did I do that?” from the show Family Matters. He was the ultimate nerd, wearing suspenders, thick glasses, and full of useless knowledge. He was also the proud owner of a BMW Isetta, a popular mircocar that had just one door, on the front of the vehicle. It was an awkward car for an awkward individual, but I never did forget about the Isetta (or Urkel for that matter).

The Isetta has been out of production for decades (though there is a cult following of kit cars). These days though, the Isetta might make a big comeback in a small way, what with the focus on fuel efficiency. A Dutch designer has drawn an Isetta for the 21st century… and it looks a lot better than the original.

Ralph Panhuysen penned this modern Isetta, which doesn’t look much like the original at all. He improved on every aspect of the original Isetta by making his contemporary model light, aerodynamic, and able to fit an extra passenger. Indeed, many companies have brought back iconic nameplates, so why not the Isetta too?

Panhuysen’s Isetta would use a composite flax-fiber skin with a drag coefficient of just 0.16, thanks to its skinny, sleek shape. Passengers would sit in offset seats, and this Isetta would be a three wheeler (the original was often mistaken for a trike, though it actually had four wheels; the two rear wheels were just very close together). Power would come from a super efficient two-cylinder gas engine, which would get an estimated 80 mpg while still being able to go as fast as 90 mph. Why not electric, you ask? Well all those batteries are both costly and heavy. killing the new Isetta’s love for light weight.

Sounds like a winner to me… though I’d like a turbocharged version for a bit more “oomph” as it were.

Source: Wired | Images: Ralph Panhuysen

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.