The terminally cute but underpowered Isetta had no place on freeways unless it was hitched to a tow bar or riding on a trailer.


However, these cartoonish cars were a huge hit with kids when they crossed the pond from Germany and showed up in North America.


I know because I was a young kid who was introduced to the Isetta in a very roundabout way all those years ago.



I was in Grade One and in the early stages of an education-some of it in the classroom and some of it on the school bus.




I started Grade One as a five-year-old with no kindergarten or pre-school experience on my wafer-thin life resume. To say I was naïve was a massive understatement at the time.


There were plenty of kids in my age group on the bus, including one junior con artist who knew a pigeon (me) as soon as he spotted me on the bus. He must have heard the flapping wings as soon as I got on the bus for the first day of school.




The only other kid on the bus as naïve as me was my twin brother Jerry ( co-publisher of MyStar). The young con artist was about the same age as us, but he was already miles ahead of us on the road of life.




He concocted a pretty sophisticated birthday party scam in which he befriended us and then invited us to his celebration. He told us the party would have everything from cake to unlimited supplies of candy, chocolate bars, potato chips and every flavor of soda pop in the known universe.




The only requirement to attend his birthday celebration was a tasteful gift that was bought from a toy department. We were pretty excited about his party because it was our first major social event in life and it had everything that could make a young kid happy during a less indulgent era when potato chips and soda pop were not a common part of our routine.




My parents were happy to oblige on the gift part of the party equation and chose an unusual scale model friction car as our birthday offering for the young scam artist on our bus.  The toy car was an Isetta and I was immediately taken with its oddball but kid-cool style.




The Isetta resembled no car I had ever seen in my very young life-and I had already seen almost every version of fin car by that point. But the little 3-wheeled Isetta was in a league of its own in the style department.




Here was a tiny car- even in its full-sized form. Here was a car with only one door that opened at the front of the car. Here was a car that looked small enough for a kid my age to drive it and cute enough for a kid my age to hug it.




It was a puppy dog of a car and I was smitten with the Isetta from the moment I saw it in toy form. The Isetta toy car was also part of a major life lesson because the kid scammed us and there was no birthday party.




It was a crushing moment because it was my first encounter with raw treachery and it was tough to accept the fact I had been duped in a big way before I had even cleared Grade One. It was also a defining moment for me because the little weasel was forced to give back the toy Isetta and thus began my lifelong love affair with Isettas.




All in all, the Isetta affair had a happy ending and was the most memorable birthday party of my young life because there was no birthday or party.


For me, the seeds of cynicism may have been planted by this junior bunko artist but they took second place to planting the seeds of a car fanatic because of that little Isetta toy car.              

Jim Sutherland


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