Microcars, bubble cars & the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum
May 3, 2003 7:28 AM   Subscribe

The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum ia an automotive jewel of a site. Post WW II, a war ravaged Europe became mobilized in part due to the efficient and affordable design of micro or bubble cars. Today, fans still pay loving tribute to brands like the BMW Isetta and the Messerschmitt Tiger. Interested in learning more? Join a club or register to attend upcoming meets. (via gordon.coale) - more -
posted by madamjujujive (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some info on upcoming non-U.S. microcar meets:
Great Britain
Ontario, Canada
posted by madamjujujive at 7:31 AM on May 3, 2003

[this is good]
posted by yerfatma at 7:33 AM on May 3, 2003

Wow, I didn't even know france was fuel-free during WWII and produced a line of pedal-powered cars. It's also funny to see the the kinds of cars produced by aircraft companies.

I love looking at these vehicle oddities, but there's an amazing history of how they came to be, as most designs seem to be a response to the war's rations and aftermath. Fascinating stuff.
posted by mathowie at 8:58 AM on May 3, 2003

I saw my first Isetta recently and fell in love. What a great city car that would be.
posted by padraigin at 9:40 AM on May 3, 2003

I will be at the next meeting at Bruce's museum (Memorial Day weekend), in case anyone around these parts is thinking about coming down. I dig microcars, but it's also the VCOA (Vespa Club of America) 2003 Rally.

Old stuff rocks.
posted by zpousman at 11:59 AM on May 3, 2003

I always wondered where Mr. Lowry ("Mr. Lo---ahem" [lowers voice] "--will Mr. Lowry step into my office") got his car. Thanks!
posted by cps at 1:00 PM on May 3, 2003

Yes, this is good (thanks madamjujujive!). I remember being a big fan of the bubble car as a small boy. :)

And yes, fuel, along with most other things was heavily rations during WW2 and for some time afterwards. My mother didn't see a chocolate bar or a banana until about 1952 !
posted by plep at 1:01 PM on May 3, 2003

zpousman: Vespa, you say?

I've gotta be honest and admit that while I admire the mechanical ingenuity and minimalist resource usage of these, I find most of 'em hopelessly silly looking. Although the Fuji Cabin does look nicely Jetsons-ish. Microcars weren't strictly a post-WWII thing, either; see prewar cyclecars like the early Morgan three-wheelers, all the way to modern revival attempts like the (sadly defunct) Corbin Sparrow or the Mercedes F300. The Japanese have cars that, while perhaps not microcars per se, fulfill 150% of your daily requirement for small and cute as well. (I believe they have different tax rules for sub-1000cc cars, anyone have more info?)
posted by arto at 1:33 PM on May 3, 2003

Yeah, I've been in an Ape (The "ah-pay" not the "ape"). But not the 400 (But I did almost buy a fiat 500, which is pretty similar.) There was a Vespa *scooter* importer here in Atlanta who'd bring back all sorts of goodies.

I ride a Vespa Sprint Veloce 150 (1976).
Nice find on the Mercedes F 300. Seen this other weirdo benefits-of-a-car-and-motorcycle-in-one ?
posted by zpousman at 4:18 PM on May 3, 2003

zpousman: Well, that thing *almost* looks like a Tron bike. Lovin' the looks of the Fiat 500's, but I wonder if they're a bit too big to be considered microcars? All a matter of perspective, of course, something like a Ford Focus probably looks huge in Europe or Japan, but tiny next to a Lincoln Navigator or $hugeSUVofyourchoice.
posted by arto at 2:34 AM on May 4, 2003

When I was a kid, our first house was a bubble car.
posted by plep at 5:12 AM on May 4, 2003

We need more microcars!
Do I have to start a company of affordable miniscule cars with a price tag more reasonable than the exorbitant (yet vastly appealing) Mini Cooper?
posted by hama7 at 5:40 AM on May 4, 2003

Matt, the car you pointed out by Hitachi aircraft does look like a plane. Here's another by an aircraft engineer. And that Mercedes Life Jet that Arto points out certainly looks like the bastard child of a jet and a motorcycle. They look fun. Zpousman, that BMW Scooter is a great find - apparently a guy in Britain recently won his case about not having to wear a helmet while riding one. (Thanks arto, zpousman for the cool links.) And hama7, fun Mini site - the microcar vision lives! Or at least it does outside of the U.S. But those do seem pretty dear at about $17 to 20k per.

plep, my parents talked about rationing here in the states too during WWII, but it never reached the proportions it did in Great Britain. My mother mostly talked about the rationing of silk stockings - apparently quite the hardship. It spawned the birth of leg make-up. To look really authentic, they even used eyebrow pencil to simulate a seam!
posted by madamjujujive at 6:11 AM on May 4, 2003

Madamjujujive - Did you realise that the moat around the Tower of London was turned into allotments for part of the war? People quickly got used to the privations of the time - including sleeping in tube stations etc. Amazing really. Human beings are incredibly resilient.
posted by plep at 8:05 AM on May 4, 2003

MJJ - about silk stockings. Wasn't that also something that took place during the Depression too? I think there's a famous Dorothea Lange photo which features hand repaired silk stockings.

Here it is Dorothea Lange: A Sign of the Times - Mended Stockings.

This photo is a rather wry look at the privations of the Depression. It's also quite amusing to me because my mother mended her own stockings and other clothes until well into the 1970's. ;)

In WW2 Britain, silk stockings were converted into parachute material.
posted by plep at 8:11 AM on May 4, 2003

Great photo plep! I think the difference between the war and the depression was that people couldn't afford them in the depression and they couldn't access them in the war. But it is funny, my mother always talked about the stocking thing. And the scarcity paved the way for nylons, which gave way to the dread pantyhose.

I have read a fair amount about wartime London, tho I am not sure I knew about the Tower's moat. Fascinating time to read about. Thanks for the info!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:01 AM on May 4, 2003

Along the same line, the superlative 3-Wheelers.com.

Small is beautiful.
posted by mark13 at 11:58 AM on May 4, 2003

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