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Diecast Delights: A BMW Isetta in 1/18 scale.

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In last week’s trip into the 1:18 garage we looked at a Porsche Carrera GT with working lights and acceleration which, if scaled up proportionally, would be of the steam catapult variety. Today’s Diecast Delight is somewhat more down to Earth, and is devoid of any electronic novelty functions.

It’s a BMW Isetta 250, bubble car, a vehicle that has intrigued me for a long time.

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I remember when I saw one of these for the first time. It was metallic blue and in pretty hopeless condition, and I was eight years old. It was at a farm museum in Cornwall, on display between gently decomposing tractors and farm implements. It was my Mum who pointed it out, spotting the BMW emblem. I think I paid it pretty short shrift at the time – all I wanted was an ice cream.

The Isetta was the result of BMWs brief dalliance with minimal motoring immediately after WW2, joining the Messerschmitt KR200 in the bubble car boom. There were actually various Isettas before the BMW version; designed by the Italian refrigeration specialists Iso, the initial version was built entirely in-house, then there was an Iso-powered, but VELAM designed (although still along the original lines) version made in France. The Isetta was also licensed for build in Brazil. But it was when BMW took over the body presses that the most famous version of all appeared.

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The Revell model we have here depicts a later “sliding window” Isetta, and it’s a rather joyous little thing. It fits in the palm of your hand but manages to avoid feeling toy-like. Performing a full inspection the body is very well cast with barely any excess of flash or sinkage of any of the metal parts.

The paint is good, too, and separate details are nicely applied. Additional lamps are individually modelled, the chrome is well handled and there are no nasty bits of quality control SNAFU. The only gripe I have is that the windscreen wiper occasionally swings down away from the glass under its own weight. No biggie.

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There are only two opening parts to this model; an engine cover which is released by way of a spring-loaded catch on the chassis, and the front door, which we’ll see in a minute. The latter actually doesn’t quite sit entirely flush when it’s closed – the slight gap would make for hideous wind noise on the road.

Behind the engine cover is mainly the flywheel for the 250cc BMW engine. There’s not a colossal amount of detail, but enough that it looks mechanical and purposeful. I really like the look of the Isetta when this panel is removed, by the way. If I had one I’d totally drive it like this.

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Inside the Isetta is a snug two-seat bench and the most minimal instrument panel you could imagine. I’d love to have a go in an Isetta, with that big single-cylinder BMW engine throbbing away while sitting in an airy, bright egg-shaped capsule, with the love of your life snugly installed next to you…

…providing they’re willing to travel in such an oddball contraption.

dsc_5948And it’s that front door that makes it all the more oddball. This is also my favourite feature of the model. The steering column incorporates a knuckle joint and a swivelling pivot to allow it to swing out of the way when the front door is swung open. It’s a mechanism I could play with for hours.

This model is available in many different variants. There’s a fire service liveried one, versions with luggage on that chrome rack out back, even one towing a matched teardrop-shaped sleeping trailer. I was tempted by the latter, but put off by the fact that there’s a 1:18 scale dude modelled slumbering under the covers. If you like the look of the above, as always eBay is where you need to go.

(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)