Body Installed Richard Lewis                              

What is your name?  Richard Lewis

Where are you and your car located? Riverside, CA USA

How long have you owned your Isetta?  Three years – purchased off eBay in 2004. Charles Gould was seller.

What other information can you tell us about your car? My car was found in a barn in Massachusetts. It has 23,700 miles on it. When I got it the car had a lot of rust – mostly in the chrome parts but the body was not too bad or so I thought at the time. There was bondo up to ½” thick in places and parts of the body looked like they had been beat with a hammer.  

What inspired you to make a Rally Isetta? I purchased a 1956 Bubble Isetta from Charles Gould in the Boston area. I got involved in stripping it down and at about that time I attended the Microcar Nationals in Long Beach. There were many really beautiful Isettas there and I felt that I wanted to do something different with mine. It would be tough enough to do a restoration but I decided to make my car look like a rally competition car from the late 50s to early 60s. I did a bit of research and discovered that the Isettas had placed well in the grueling Mille Miglia rally and that was an important part of why BMW decided to purchase the rights to manufacture the Isetta.

What are some of the more unique period parts you have acquired for the project?  Probably my favorites are the Notek spotlights, a Helphos windshield spotlight (held on windshield with suction), Halda 100th mile cable drive Tripmaster odometer and a set of 10” Minilite magnesium wheels. Also, Wipac fog and backup lights, a Wipac gooseneck map light and a vintage trouble light with built-in cord reel.

What are some of the smaller details you have incorporated into the car?  Well there are towing eyes on the front of the car and an oil sump bottom skid plate with more towing points on the rear of the car. There are rock guards for the headlights and more mini skids under the steering and pedal cover. I added a steering damper. I fabricated a period correct manila tow rope with turnbuckle ends and the loops on the end were spliced marlinspike style. The shift lever and turn signal knobs are turned aluminum and the shift knob has an inset BMW logo in it that was originally a BMW tie tack pin. The ignition coil mounting has been moved to the firewall to cut down on engine vibration transmitted to the coil. There is a push button starter solenoid mounted in the engine compartment which allows the engine to be started from the engine compartment. There is a spark plug holder for two spare plugs and an optional metal dash with full instrumentation including a fuel gauge, voltmeter, head temp and tachometer. These VDO gauges were repainted to match the Isetta speedometer. There is a miniature Monza fuel filler cap for the fuel tank.

What has been the response from Isetta owners to your project car?  I have had a number of people express an interest in the project. One of my original fears was that the car would be shunned by those that strive for exact originality in their cars. I have tried to be faithful to the original car but have fitted better tires and wheels and other options that might well have been seen on cars in the era. So far I think the response has been very favorable. I’m sure there might be someone out there that will see what I’m doing as restoration “heresy”. I want to remind them that these cars, and others like the Mini I raced, were seldom completely “original” or even painted in stock colors after a few years of life.   

Where are you currently in the project?  The body recently returned from the body shop after an almost two year stay and it is mounted on the chassis now. The engine and chassis had been completed earlier and the engine started and test run while the body was off. The main things left are the interior and getting all the parts I’ve collected installed. Werner is helping get the upholstery done for me and the interior. I have had a blue wire fire from a bad starter relay/regulator unit and this helped me identify areas of the harness that were also frayed or the insulation was questionable. I have a new harness on order. I would imagine that there is another 6-8 months of work left given my limited schedule to work on the car. I hope to have the completed for the Unique Little Car Show in the Spring of 2007.

Before Chassis For additional pictures please visit:
Tar Removal Body Installed

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