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Submitted by By Lou Tul

It was the summer of 2008 and I was in need of a project. After having recently finished restoring two Model A Fords and being retired, I had a little time but did not want a large project. So I began to search for a small project. I began by reviewing the Micro car market. Several makes and models attracted my attention, but I finally chose the BMW Isetta.

I found a nearly complete example in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. A quick road trip to Detroit and this untouched, original-condition Isetta was all mine.

The tear down of the Isetta began in July, 2008. With my digital camera in one hand and tools in the other I jumped into my small project. One of the real assets was that most all the parts were still on/in the car. Pictures were taken as each part came off the car - parts were tagged and placed in plastic bags.
The Isetta soon reveled 50 years of decay. The actual work involved old rusty parts, chunks of old dried grease, frozen nuts and bolts, wiring that was all there but in rough shape, and floor and body sections that needed replacement. Having the original parts as reference made finding replacement parts much easier.

The Internet proved invaluable. I was easily able to locate parts suppliers, the history of the Isetta, and a site by two guys in Texas who were restoring two Isettas. I even found a workshop manual and a book detailing an Isetta restoration!

With the car torn apart the next step was stripping and refurbishing the frame and all its component parts. The frame was then primed and painted, including all suspension parts, all brake parts, and the steering assembly.

Next came the engine, transmission and the chain drive unit. Isettas were built with a BMW R26 motorcycle engine, one-cylinder, 300cc with a "huge" 13 horsepower. The transmission is a 4-speed with reverse. The rear axle is a solid shaft connecting the two rear wheels. Connecting the engine/transmission to the rear wheels is a 2-inch chain. The gearshift lever is on the driver's sidewall under the sliding window.

With the frame and drivetrain complete it was time for the body to be sandblasted inside and out. A welder friend of mine replaced all the rusted areas with new sheet metal. The bodywork was the standard routine, filler and sanding, and a coating of the primer, and a final application of custom yellow paint.
Why the Yellow Taxi? The Isetta is so small Deb (my wife) asked me to paint it a color that people would notice.

I asked about yellow, and she gave me her stamp of approval. I reasoned that if it's yellow why not a taxi. The checks are hand painted, not a decal. The
compound curves of the body made this a real challenge. Finishing touches included a taxi light on top (yes, it works) and a taxi meter inside.

With the assistance of my wife we picked up the body and placed it onto the chassis. I then installed all those little things that take up so much time: brake lines, wiring, choke, gas pedal, glass, and all the replated chrome.

I took the Isetta to an upholster who could not find the material he wanted. So, he cut out 500 white and 500 black rectangles and sewed them together, two at a time, to produce the inside material.
In summary, restoring the Isetta was a huge amount of fun and I met some very nice people whom I now consider great friends. If you ever get the urge to restore an Isetta don't hesitate just jump in and have fun doing it.