With the aim of contributing to loe complete information about "Microcars" carry some additional information.
1) Autobianchi "Bianchina". It is built on the same floor and with the same engine of the Fiat 500, which were built millions. Bianchina was considered the luxury version of the 500. There is also a wagon version of the Bianchina and of the 500. They differ, as well as for the body, also for the motor that is constructed in flat ("sogliola") version.
2) "ISETTA". The first version of this microcar was built on autonomous design, by Italian company: ISO MOTO, which ceased all business about 40 years ago. The car produced by BMW is identical to the original version, differing only by the engine, of course; is not ISO MOTO but is BMW. Even the original door back to the first version of ISO MOTO
3) I had time to touch with my hands when I was a kid, the first ISO MOTO cars, a family friend had one and I also had the pleasure of short trip with that car.
4) "Mickey Mouse" is the Italian name of Miky Mouse. This car was built in three different series, referred to as A, B and C. There was also the station wagon version, in two series, called "500 Belvedere". The first car of my family was a "Topolino C", convertible version.
5)My first car was just a "Multipla" with 750 cc engine and 6 seats; the 4 rear seats could be folded to form a single cargo. I have also driven and owned some version of Fiat 500.
This post brought a raft of memories. I owned and drove a red 1951 Fiat Topolino, a yellow 1968 Isetta, a blue 1968 beetle, and now a 2007 Prius. It looks like a trend that I never really thought of before. I have to admit that the Prius is the first car that didn't need constant servicing. The Fiat and Isetta were in the shop for repair weekly if not more often. I recall that the Fiat had a "Brake horsepower" rating, the actual power making it to the drive wheels, was 8.5 HP. Problem was that I couldn't drive it on those new freeways being built. It took about 45 seconds to get up to it's top speed of 50, if I was luckey.
Kid in my High School had a BMW Isetta. Standing joke was to find the owners of the two cars parked to either side of it and then turn the Isetta around sideways. The length of the car was not much more than the width, so six or so guys could do that. The owners of the two adjacent cars were given a ride home and then brought back to the school around 8 or 9 PM to retrieve their cars. Meanwhile, the Isetta owner was out of luck.....
At the Studebaker Museum?? How appropriate. It didn't take microcars to obtain fuel economy. The only successful entry on the market in the postwar 40's and 50's was the Crosley. Meanwhile 'full size' cars had something to offer. The 1952 Studebaker I learned how to drive in would be considered remarkable in economy today. Featuring a 170 cubic inch flat head six with a 3-speed manual and a Borg-Warner electromechanical overdrive I obtained 45 mpg highway when I was a college student and keeping track of my pennies. The problem was that nobody was keeping track. With the price of gas less than 50 cents a gallon, nobody needed to. For that reason, 'economy' cars never caught on too well. The Kaiser-Frazer Henry J and Aero Willys were examples that briefly strutted the stage and were gone before the second act.
What happened? Big v-8's pulling two tons of car and geared with a ridiculously low (high numerically) final drive sucked gasoline like a drunkard. Then the price of gas went up. The concept of 'overdrive' gearing is slowly returning to the fore. The horribly inefficient 'slush pump' two and three speed automatic transmissions have been replaced with multi-speed units with locking torque converters in top gear.
But the question remains, why can't we build a 2700 lb. full six passenger car with a 2.8 litre six cylinder engine that gets 45 mpg highway? We did in 1952! The Studebaker standing joke was telling the gas station attendant, "Fill up the oil and check the gas." Maybe it was the oil consumption that gave the car that respectable fuel economy......
About wavers for less safe vehicles. If someone make the decision to get one of these vehicles and signs the waver, they have also made the decision for their children. Does this mean that the rescue squad should also do less for these people after an accident because these people chose the less safe vehicle? Should these people not be allowed disability or life insurance payments because it was their choice to be less safe? Should their bosses not give them the sick leave needed to recuperate? Should the Red Cross not supply blood for any surgery? Except for a few people who have committed suicide, I never heard of anyone who truly took full ownership of their decision to be less safe.
I remember the winter of 1957 when a friends father received an Isetta for a Christmans gift as a joke from his wife. Soon all the shipyard engineers were gathered to find out why the little funny car was getting around through the Sturegeon Bay snow with no problems and the American iron was not comapring so well.
Low power engine over the narrow track rear wheels appeared to have a true advantage in power to the ground in packed snow and ice winter conditions.
Stupid drivers is exactly why I don't own a motorcycle. You need crash protection! Now that I'm later in life, and can see light at the end of the "work every day" tunnel, and I'd love to live long enough to enjoy some retirement. You can buy a Nissan Leaf, commute for pennies a day, and have 5 star crash protection. I live on a street that motorcycles love to travel, and while many bikers obey the speed limit, many also exceed the limit by about 30 to 50 MPH. It's nice to ride a bike I suppose, but my blind driveway will kill a speeding biker one of these days, regardless of how careful I am to look and listen. 5 star crash protection beats a helmet every time. Yes it stinks paying for all those air bags, but when one saves your life, it is priceless!
During my teen years, I had a 58 VW bug - all of 36 BHP, only got about 32 mpg. Fun car, but had little quirks - no gas gauge - used the motorcycle method of a fuel reserver valve, little heat during the winter, a lot of heat during the summer. I wouldn't consider it unsafe in a crash - the front end had enough distance between the front bumper and the driver's pedals to absorb impacts.
I also obtained a 58 VW Kombi - that was under powered beyond belief - 36 BHP, top speed of 60mph (down hill, wind at my back), up hill - 25 mph in 2nd gear. No heat, and no functional lights on the engine.
MG Miget 65 - all of 65 BHP, most fun to drive because you were next to the road when traveling - Unlike most British cars, started in all foul weather (rubber bootie on distributor), and during one artic blast of -10F, was the only car in my family that would start.
Austin America - used that British Leyland engine that the miget used only with the gear box acting as the the engine oil pan. Interesting air over hydraulic suspension, rode smoothly no matter what the road was like. It lost (while parked) to a drunk driver at 2 in the morning, still wish I had it longer.
If our military people are willing to risk getting shot or blown up in far off countries fighting for petroleum to power the present fleet of gas-hogs, I certainly am willing to take on a small incremental risk driving a microcar to reduce the need for such conflicts.
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