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Becky Anstine shared this photo of the tiny Isetta car owned by her father, James Mervin "Chips" Curry. "It was blue and grey and it always attracted a lot of attention," Becky wrote.

Readers share more memories of Isetta cars

This week, I want to share a couple more memories of the wonderful Isetta cars, which we last talked about in 2018.

Reader Becky Anstine had shared in that previous column that her father, James Mervin “Chips” Curry, had an Isetta. Later, she wrote back and said, “My brother, Jim, says that William ‘Bill’ Corse of New Freedom owned a red Isetta around the same time that our father, Chips, had our blue Isetta.”

The Isetta, seen in this photo by Bob Evans, was a little car made by Italian manufacturer Iso, then by BMW, in the 1950s and early 1960s. While gas-powered, they were reported to get up to 40 miles to the gallon.
The Isetta, seen in this photo by Bob Evans, was a little car made by Italian manufacturer Iso, then by BMW, in the 1950s and early 1960s. While gas-powered, they were reported to get up to 40 miles to the gallon.

I also heard from Marie Rentzel, who wrote “This is a story of my husband, Bob Rentzel, and his adventures with his Isetta.”

She shared the following story from Bob:

“In 1963, I was able to purchase a 1959 Isetta. It was blue and gray with a ragtop. I drove this car all over the place from my home in Mount Wolf.”

“This car was very peppy… I was able to give the engine a little more air so it could be fueled heavier. The rear axle was short, I think about 19″, so direct drive to the wheels let one tire slip slightly when turning.”

He continued, “Being 17 at this time, I had a lot of fun with this car. I could stop on the road, rev up the engine, pop the clutch and lay two black streaks on the road about 3 feet long. I-83 was new at this time; with the extra fuel to the engine I could pass tractor-trailers at 65 mph. This looked very funny since the Isetta is a very small car.”

“Some nights, I would take three of my friends for ice cream at the Rutter’s in North York,” Bob continued. “Four of us in the front seat was crowded, but with the four-speed gearshift on the left side of the car, it made it possible. We did this a few times; we would wait until we could drive up to the front where there was grass. I would drive up fairly fast, hit the brakes, and the door would open and my three friends would tumble out onto the grass. Just for show, of course.”

He continued, “One other time, we had a large rabbit suit from Easter; one of my friends put it on and stood on the seat with half of his body sticking out the top to wave to the people along the way at the Mount Wolf/Manchester Halloween parade.”

“We had a lot of fun with this little car for about three years,” he noted. “Then the electrical system in the engine messed up, could not be fixed. I installed a John Deere 12A combine engine in the Isetta, but it stuck out on the left side 18 inches, so it could not longer be driven on the road. We had lots of fun with it on the farm, but it it did not handle too well, so it was shut down soon.”

He added, “It sat for awhile until I decided to make a dune buggy out of it. I took the body off of it and sold it (to who, I don’t know). I moved the John Deere engine forward and centered it on the frame. The first time I ran the dune buggy, I pulled onto the street in Manchester heading south onto York Street and opened the throttle and had to hang on. I rounded the curve on York Street and I left four streaks of rubber on the highway. It stayed on its wheels, but I did not run it after that.”

He concluded, “I had the Isetta for about five years and lots of fun.”

Have questions or memories to share? Email me at joan@joanconcilio.com or write to Ask Joan, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any phone calls with questions or information.

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