BASF updates 1953 BMW "bubble car" with modern materials and electronics


October 30, 2013

The BASF MySetta project includes foam, paint and interior lining pulled from the company's product line

The BASF MySetta project includes foam, paint and interior lining pulled from the company's product line

Image Gallery (3 images)

It must get boring and lonely spending your days in a lab, mixing up slightly different plastics, epoxies and composites. Perhaps that's why BASF is making a push to get out in front of the world and show what these materials can really do. Prior to the Concept 1865 plastic bike, the German company updated a 1958 BMW Isetta "bubble car" with some of its materials and coatings. The car, which makes the Smart ForTwo look rather roomy, also gets a unique home entertainment system.

BASF selected the BMW Isetta because the front-hatched microcar from the 50s and 60s is still a head-turner today. It makes the perfect canvas for making auto materials and coatings seem way more interesting than they really are. Nicknamed the MySetta, the 1958 Isetta 250's chassis, body and interior have been refurbished.

BASF doesn't mention any type of mechanical tuning, so we're led to believe that the MySetta is still powered by the original 13-hp 298cc one-cylinder motorcycle engine. Unless BASF's upgrades cut significant weight, that means the car still tops out just north of 50 mph (80 km/h).

No matter how you look at it, the Isetta's interior looks painfully cramped and uncomfortable. BASF didn't solve this problem completely, but it attempted to alleviate it with updated materials. The two seats were gutted and re-cushioned with Elastoflex W polyurethane foam, the same brand of foam used on the Concept 1865's saddle. The company classifies the material as firm yet comfortable. The seats and interior lining were trimmed in a soft-touch material based on BASF's Steron.

BASF ran the body through its Coatings’ Refinish Competence Center in Münster. There, it reached into its Glasurit paint portfolio, refreshing the Isetta's look with a metallic Bluetta and Big White exterior.

Ironically, the most interesting part of BASF's Isetta update is the one that has nothing to do with its products. In order to give folks a little extra incentive to enjoy that modernized interior, it added a "home" entertainment system inside the car.

"The parcel shelf is equipped with stereo speakers and a video projector, which allows any picnic excursion to be expanded into an open-air movie night," BASF explains in its press release.

The little microcar gives the Mini Movie Campy a little competition in the custom, drive-up summer theater segment. From its brief description, we gather it projects the film straight out the front hatch onto an external screen.

BASF revealed its completed MySetta to shareholders in April and detailed it to the media last month.

Source: BASF via Car Design News

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

I always wanted an Isetta by BMW! It broke milage barriers in the 1950s! Yes, a SmartForTwo has much better seats and modern engineering but that would be expected. The Isetta was a great design from a utility standpoint as an urban or small town commuter. It got hammered when people tried to use it as an all-around car including long-distance high-speed driving. It was never designed for that like the other engineering genius, the VW Bus. Both were designed for low-speed European town use and then were critcised because they didn't work on 1000 mile 70 mph trips! That is like faulting a P-51 Mustang because it can't go supersonic! By the way, over here in America, a restored Isetta is worth lots of money.

History Nut

2 words: Steve Urkel

Derek Howe

I think retro is cool. I like the Isetta.

I believe Steve Erckle had one in the Family Matters television series.


When you park infront of a wall or somethinng, you'll have to climb out thru the roof because it has no reverse gear.

Johan Swart

I owned one of these little tools back in the day. I wish I still had it. It was the 250cc version. It did around 65mpg and it would do the same mph with three people onboard. It was great fun . Wish I still had it. I now have a zero threewheeler(seeutube Blackjack zero Moto Guzzi engined.

Sandy Hewlett

I wonder when they will revise the little two-seat (tandem layout) Messerschmitt? That was reversed by making the two-stroke engine work backwards, which meant that you could go backwards at top speed, if you could keep it between the kerbstones, of course.

@Johan Albertus Swart - Originally, there were stories of people being stranded in car parks because they had parked up against a wall, How true those stories were is open to conjecture. Certainly, later models had a reverse gear, which I assume this model will, too.

Mel Tisdale

With every new motorshow I watch in anticipation, hoping that somebody will revive this class of vehicle, unfortunately all OEM's still seems to be obsessed with creating larger and larger vehicles, with more and more features. They are bringing in hybrids and whatever for conserving fuel, but it still boils down to having to take 2 tons of metal and plastic with you to work everyday and back.

I would love having something compact, even a one seater would be good enough. Something safer and more weather proof than a motorcycle, but not much larger.

I personally prefer the Messerschmitt KR200, but bubble cars are definetely cool!


It's not important.. but... (I'm italian :-) )


Sorry Johan Albertus Swart, a bit of an urban myth, it did have a reverse gear. (C'mon, it's a BMW!)


I would love to have one now so I could go to BMW meets and show off the logo to all the high-priced owners! By the way, it had a reverse gear. The trans was a typical "H" pattern with 3 forward and one reverse gear. Even then if you parked up against a wall all you had to do is back up a couple feet to open the door. Since the Isetta was so short, it would have plenty of room to do that. BMW and Isetta advertising even showed off how one could park nose-into a curb between conventionally parked cars, open the door and step directly onto the sidewalk!

History Nut

Nice to see that the engineers kept the steering mechanism from the 1950's so any front end impact will crush the rib cage of the driver.


BSAF selected the Isetta because it is still drawing attention? Just because people give it a second look doesn't meant it is sexy, practical, or even pretty. I would approach this ugly, badly designed machine out of curiosity for the unusual, nothing more.

This cannot be aerodynamic. With computer modeling a new platform could be generated easily (see Aptera) with very low drag, and not look like a squashed junk yard relic. I predict this will fall on its face.

Don Duncan

For those of us who like these bubble cars, there is a company in the UK that is making replica bodies and chassis for both the Isetta and the Messerschmidt. I believe that they both use scooters as donor drive trains.

And for those of us who are interested in small fuel efficient affordable cars, be aware that the ELIO is supposed to go into production in less than 12 months, and they already have almost 5,000 reservations. See for all of the details. I for one hope that the ELIO actually makes it into production, as I have two on order.

Fred Smith

Don Duncan,

You predict what will fall on its face? You seem to be in such a hurry to hate on the Isetta that you don't seem to have read the article. BASF isn't producing an updated car. This was a one-off design project to restore an original Isetta to showcase their modern-day materials. They're not going to spend milions of dollars building a new concept car to do that, mainly because they're not a car company.


I rode on of this when I was about 5 to 6 years old with my mother and another person going to El Tamarindo in the skirts of Santo Domingo where she bought 2 tareas of land. I still remember how thrilling riding this car was. I treasure these memories.

Ramon Acosta

At BASF, we don't make the crappy little car, we make the crappy little car look less crappy.

Gregg Eshelman

As an eight year old I saw one of these when a friend of my parent's drove it to our house. I remember thinking, even back then, how dangerous that car could be. Haven't changed my mind one bit.


There was going to be a new BMW Isetta but nothing seems to have come of it. It had doors on the side and a bigger engine with safety features. Its styling was reminiscent of the original. It is a shame they did not make it. It would have been a modern micro car.

I like it because it is so unique. There were variations of it from different countries. One was the Heinkel.


The Elio car is a modern 3 wheeled 2 seater. If they get it into production, it will be cheap to buy and get great fuel economy. It will have Messerschmitt like seating too. Check it out at

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles