The BMW 700 was a small rear-engined car produced by BMW in various models from August 1959 to November 1965, and was the first BMW automobile with a monocoque structure. The 700 was a sales success at a time when BMW was close to financial ruin, and was also successful in its class in motorsport, both in its stock form and as the basis of a racing special called the 700RS. The first variant of the 700 to appear after the original coupe and saloon was the 700 Sport in August 1960. Available only as a coupe, the Sport used an updated engine with a pair of Solex carburetors and a 9.0:1 compression ratio bringing its power output to 40 horsepower (30 kW). The Sport also had a rear anti-roll bar and a ribbed oil pan that was used to reduce the oil temperature of the more powerful engine. BMW introduced a 700 Cabriolet shortly after the 700 Sport, featuring the Sport’s 40 horsepower engine and a body Karosserie Baur of Stuttgart. More than a total of 188,000 BMW 700s were sold before production ended in November 1965, and only 2,592 were cabriolets. Upon discontinuing the 700, BMW left the economy car market and did not return for many years until 2002, when they began to reproduce the Mini-Cooper.
-On loan from The Mike Malamut personal collection
The 700 marks an odd chapter in BMW history, but it was also a lifesaver for them.
Like a lot of European cars in the post-war era, the 700 featured a rear-mounted engine that powered the rear wheels. Only one engine was used: a tiny 697cc flat 2-cylinder. Fortunately, with the balance and handling that a rear-engine provides, coupled with a relatively low curb weight of just 1,500 lbs., these were capable little cars. They were used in motorsport racing and did very well.
Styling is courtesy of Giovanni Michelotti, who would later design the iconic BMW 2002. Although the grille-less front is slightly off-putting, the overall shape is nicely handled. Note the ever-so-slight tail fins, rare on European cars. Europeans were never keen on the American styling cue. The compact “bathtub” proportions, thin pillars and plentiful greenhouse glass are signs of good things to come from BMW, however.
Inside, the interior has a minimalist deco-mod vibe, with a matching body color dashboard and neatly detailed steering wheel.
The 700 rescued BMW and provided much needed sales of 188,000 units, breathing new life into the company and guaranteeing them a future in the auto making business. Building upon the microcar 600 chassis, the 700 was actually BMW’s last economy car before they produced the MINI Cooper. It was the last economy car with their name on it. This New Class cars of the late 60s had a better profit margin and moved the whole brand upscale.
The final development of the 700 was the 700 LS Coupe of 1964. This was a long-wheelbase coupe with the Sport engine. 1,730 LS Coupes were built.
-Part of the Mike Malamut Collection
The Glas GT was a sports coupé produced by Hans Glas GmbH at Dingolfing. The car was first presented as the Glas 1300 GT in September 1963 at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
With the BMW acquisition of the Glas company, the GT was refitted to accommodate the 1,573 cc BMW engine already fitted in the BMW 1600. The BMW “new class” models introduced in 1962 had attracted press comment concerning the fact that the engine was canted over at an angle of 30 degrees from the vertical plane, permitting a lower bonnet/hood line. This feature was retained when the engine was fitted in the Glas GT body to create what was now branded as the BMW 1600GT. By using the BMW engine, the car also acquired a further increase in power output, now up to 105HP. Handling was improved by applying the BMW’s relatively sophisticated semi-trailing arm rear axle with coil springs in place of the more old fashioned rigid rear axle and leaf spring configuration previously employed by the Glas GT. BMW also took the opportunity to fit “new” round rear lights from 1966 featured on the BMW 1602. Front grill as also reconfigured to incorporate the BMW “twin kidney” grill.
-Part of the Mike Malamut Collection
During the 1950s, the BMW line-up consisted of luxury cars with displacements of two litres or greater, economy cars powered by motorcycle engines, and motorcycles. With their luxury cars becoming increasingly outdated and unprofitable and their motorcycles and economy cars becoming less attractive to an increasingly affluent society, BMW needed a car in the 1.5 to 2 litre class to become competitive.
In 1960, Herbert and Harald Quandt invested heavily in BMW, and gained a controlling interest in the company. That year, the “Neue Klasse” project was begun. Led overall by Fritz Fiedler, the project had Eberhard Wolff in charge of chassis design, Wilhelm Hofmeister in charge of styling and body engineering, and Alex von Falkenhausen in charge of engine design. The team was to produce a new car with a new engine, which BMW had not done since the 303 in 1933. The term New Class referred to the 1.5–2–liter class of automobiles from which BMW had been absent since World War II.
Intended as an upscale version of the 1800, the BMW 2000 featured distinct wide taillights, more exterior trim, and unique rectangular headlights. The American market 2000 sedans could not have the rectangular headlights due to government regulations. A different grille with four individual round headlights, similar to the design that BMW later used in the 2500 sedan, was offered in the US. A more luxurious 2000TI-lux (later “tilux”) featured the sporty TI engine with a more high-grade interior and accessories, including a wood dashboard and optional leather seats.
In a 1967 test, Road & Track felt that the 2000 sedan was “the best performing 2-liter sedan in today’s market and the best handling and best riding as well.”
-On loan from the Mike Malamut personal collection
The car originated with the Italian firm of Iso SpA. In the early 1950s the company was building refrigerators, motor scooters and small three-wheeled trucks. Iso’s owner, Renzo Rivolta, decided he would like to build a small car for mass distribution. By 1952 the engineers Ermenegildo Preti and Pierluigi Raggi had designed a small car that used the motorcycle engine of the Iso Moto 200 and named it Isetta—an Italian diminutive meaning little ISO.
The Isetta caused a sensation when it was introduced to the motoring press in Turin in November 1953, it was unlike anything seen before. The Isetta was small, only 7.5 ft long and 4.5 ft wide. With an egg-shape and bubble-type windows, the car would later be known as the bubble car.
The entire front end of the car hinged outwards to allow entry. In the event of a crash, the driver and passenger were to exit through the canvas sunroof. The steering wheel and instrument panel swung out with the single door, as this made access to the single bench seat simpler. The seat provided reasonable comfort for two occupants, and perhaps a small child. Behind the seat was a large parcel shelf with a spare wheel located below. A heater was optional, and ventilation was provided by opening the fabric sunroof. The Isetta took over 30 seconds to reach 31 mph from a stop. Top speed was only about 47 mph.
Renzo Rivolta wanted to concentrate on his new Iso Rivolta sports car, and was extremely interested in doing licensing deals. BMW began talking with Rivolta in mid-1954 and bought not just a license but the complete Isetta body tooling as well.
BMW made the Isetta its own. They redesigned the powerplant around a BMW one-cylinder, four-stroke, 247 cc motorcycle engine which generated 13 hp. Although the major elements of the Italian design remained intact, BMW re-engineered much of the car, so much so that none of the parts between a BMW Isetta Moto Coupe and an Iso Isetta are interchangeable. The first BMW Isetta appeared in April 1955.
In 1956, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany changed the regulations for motor vehicles. Class IV licenses issued from that time onward could only be used to operate small motorcycles and could no longer be used to operate motor vehicles with a capacity of less than 250 cc. At the same time, the maximum capacity allowed for the Isetta’s tax category was 300 cc. Class IV licenses issued before the change in the regulations were grandfathered and allowed to be used as before.
This change in regulations encouraged BMW to revise their Isetta microcars. In February 1956 a 300cc engine was introduced.The engineers enlarged the single cylinder to a 72 mm (2.8 in) bore and 73 mm (2.9 in) stroke, which gave a displacement of exactly 298 cc; at the same time, they raised the compression ratio from 6.8 to 7.0:1. As a result, the engine power output rose to 10 kW (13 hp) at 5200 rpm, and the torque rose to 18.4 N·m (13.6 ft·lbf) at 4600 rpm. The maximum speed remained at 53 mph, yet there was a marked increase in flexibility, mainly noticeable on gradients.
In May 1962, three years after launching the conventionally modern-looking BMW 700, BMW ceased production of Isettas. A total of 161,728 units had been built.
-On loan from the Mike Malamut personal collection