3 Small Classic Cars That Helped To Put Europe on Wheels
This piece is dedicated to some fewer known cars that helped to mobilize Europe
This day had to come. Today is the day when I’m going to take some of my time to tell you about something I know a lot about — cars. And I’m going to mention some of the small vehicles that helped Europe to start moving after WWII.
Without them, most European citizens would not have been able to own a car until much later.
1. Seat 600
It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t luxurious, and it wasn’t big. But it was cheap enough to help Spain motorize itself from the late fifties to the early seventies.
After the Spanish Civil War, the country was devastated and severely impoverished. The Franco regime — a dictatorship that lasted almost 40 years, created several industries to develop Spain’s industry, it invested a lot in the automotive industry, creating among others the SEAT — Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo.
The SEAT factory used designs by FIAT under FIAT’s license and assembled them in Spain, creating jobs and allowing Spanish families to have their first car thanks to its relatively inexpensive price of 60,000 pesetas.
A big impact for such a small car.
2. BMW Isetta
Steve Urkel’s ride was another brilliant Italian design.
Released in 1953, the Isetta was the vehicle that saved BMW from bankruptcy after the massive money loss they suffered developing the failed 503 and 507.
BMW needed a cheap car to increase sales, and they found their answer in a small fridge-looking vehicle — and it was designed by a fridge manufacturer.
BMW needed a new model — one that would not require a lot of development costs. BMW found its solution at the 1954 Turin Car Show. At the Iso Rivolta booth, an Italian maker of refrigerators and mini cars, there was a three-wheeled car with a huge door (which looked surprisingly similar to a refrigerator door) in the front. It was called the Iso Isetta.
It was the first car to achieve a fuel consumption of 3 l/100 km while reaching a top speed of 85 km/h. The little Isetta had a single front door to enter the cockpit, and it was powered by a small motorcycle engine. Today this little egg is worth €50,000.
3. Citroën 2CV
Germany had the Beetle, Italy had the 500 Topolino, and France had the 2CV.
The 2CV was Citroën’s solution for rural mobility in the 1930s-1940s when most French citizens could not afford to buy a car.
It could reach 30 mph, carry four people and 50 kg of farm goods, and it was also able to go off-road.
It was the first car to mount the radial tire design, and it mounted a 9 HP engine.
The first prototype was called TPV (Toute Petite Voiture) and was finished in 1939, just before WWII. This forced Michelin to hide the prototype from the Nazis to avoid its use for military purposes.
It did not see the daylight until 1948 when it was announced in the Paris Motor Show.
It had to wait until 1949 to begin its commercialization, which lasted until 1990, and during that time, it also gave birth to several variants, like the Mehari, and the 2+2 Sahara.
During all that time, the 2CV proved to be a reliable car and was a common sight in European villages thanks to that and its mechanical simplicity.
Economic and small size cars have often been ridiculized for their lack of power and their simplicity, but when if look at them through the eyes of history, you will find they are some of the most interesting pieces of engineering designed during the most difficult times of the 20th century.
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JM is a Spanish writer who endlessly talks about cars, philosophy, and revolution when he's not playing guitar or practicing Yoga. You can follow him on Twitter to see more content: @jm_miana