When we talk about “bubble cars” we tend to refer to types of micro-cars (being a car with a 700cc engine or less) with a spherical shape. They have no reverse gear meaning they can only turn to navigate a small space. It’s very easy to get them stuck in a small space.
They were mainly produced in Europe and used canopies of aircraft such as Messerschmitt and Isetta, the Messerschmitt production being focused on Germany.
The Isetta is one of the few bubble cars which crossed the Atlantic, if only in places such as Argentina and Brazil. It had both rear wheel engine and rear wheel drive, its front consisted of the door for entry; no hood, radiator, or anything you tend to associate with a vehicle. Despite its small shape it was based on the design for a van.
Because of its micro size it is still the ideal car to improve and you can still buy original parts through the BMW website.
Isetta originated in Italy through Iso before being taken over by other companies, such as Iso. This type of vehicle had four gears and a reverse, so it was an improvement on the Messerschmitt. You could also escape through the sunroof if you were completely boxed in.
The Isetta has had its imitators, the company Zetta created its own Isetta lookalike, consisting of a motorbike engine and manual transmission. Bubble cars are a gift for the hobbyist mechanic and as you can imagine companies enjoyed cashing in on this.
Rust especially affects such vehicles, which makes it harder to read chassis numbers and so on. This means it’s even harder to find the correct part. Indeed, it’s always a good idea to deal with rust whatever car you have.
Related slightly to the bubble cars was the UK produced Peel car – one of the smallest cars ever produced. Unlike the Isetta they don’t have to be factory built, you can choose to build them yourselves, also it has three wheels, rather than four. It’s not quite a bubble, its design is a squarish cube above a more rounded shape.
The top speed of these vehicles varied, the Turbo reached 50 MPH. The Tridents look more bubbly in shape and run on electric motors. Again, production was sadly short-lived, designed for tiny roads not huge freeways.
There could be something about bubbles which makes for niche cars, such as the bubble top car. The Forcasta, not a micro car by the way but a full-size one, was a modified version of the Cadillac and it isn’t helped by the psychedelic upholstery which can be seen under the sphere.
Another change was now the front half could be raised by hydraulics. As with many modifications it was evidently made by someone who was a fan of the car but felt it was too factory-built. It is a shame that other cars didn’t have the Forcasta treatment, but there may have been economic reasons why not.
Even China has a bubble car although we don’t know much at this moment, beyond that it costs about $750 equivalent, it’s top speed is 30 MPH and a range of 60 miles.
The next question one might ask is…will there be a future for the bubbles? Several people seem to have taking up the call by blending the old idea of the bubble with the newer idea of EVs. Seen below is a possible bubble of the future.