The Bubble car or Isetta

Photo:The Isetta or 'Bubble car'

The Isetta or 'Bubble car'

Location of new Isetta Square

Manufactured in New England Street 1957-61

By Jackie Fuller, North Laine resident

Does anyone remember the old ‘Bubble cars’? Well, that’s what most people called them – the official name was Isetta – but they did look rather like bubbles. These little cars were originally designed in Italy (hence the name) but from 1957 they were actually manufactured in part of the old railway locomotive works which were at that time in New England Street (now part of the New England Quarter housing estate).

The factory employed 250

Output there rose from about 90 cars a week to eventually more than 200 and the factory employed 250 workers. Each car took up to 16 hours to produce, including 20 minutes in the paint shop.

BMW took over

In 1961 the Bubble car was so popular that BMW took over the production and the works moved to Portslade, where assembly continued until 1964. About 30,000 bubble cars were produced in all.

Only three wheels

Because the Bubble car had only three wheels, only a motorcycle licence was required to drive one. The car had a turning circle of 25ft and the height was only 4ft 4½ ins, with a length of 7ft 6ins. To get in, you didn’t go to the side of it but to the front, where the door opened forwards.

Commemorated in new development

A new development in the New England Quarter includes a square called Isetta Square, named after the 'Bubble car' that was once manufactured there.

An interesting piece of Brighton history!

(Source for the above was Chris Horlock writing in The Argus Magazine, 16 May 2009.)

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 203, March/April 2010]

This page was added on 04/04/2010.

Does anyone know where the BMW factory was in Victoria Road, Portslade?

By Mickey
On 22/09/2017

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