This 1956 BMW Isetta "Bubble Window" Cabrio is one of the more popular micro cars, though rare in convertible form. (RM Auctions)
I’m always impressed by people who take things to extremes. Bruce Weiner is a guy like that. He’s a collector, but in the sense that Bobby Fischer was a chess player. He amassed definitive collections of Swiss watches, antique guns, coin-operated musicial instruments, and British sports cars.
But he really hit his stride with the micro car, assembling the world’s largest collection of the cute little bugs and installing them in a purpose-built Georgia museum. And now he’s selling them all, in a two-day auction Friday and Saturday at the museum in Madison, Georgia.
You may have heard of the VW Beetle, and possibly the tiny BMW Isetta, with the single door that doubled as the front of the car. But the micro car world was vast, and Weiner assembled an incredible 200 cars, including such little-known vehicles as the Fuji Cabin, Bruetsch Rollera, Jurisch Motoplan, Kleinschnittger and Voisin Biscotter. I know, I hadn’t heard of any of them either. But Weiner tracked them down in collapsed barns and back alleys all over the world, and lovingly restored them. Here's a wacky video that gives you some sense of the breadth of the collection:
As the names attest, many of the micro cars were German, and the Messerschmitt Tiger (above in 1958 guise) is a particularly fine example of the breed that was capable of at least 80 mph. But many, hitting the road in the 50s and early 60s, had minuscule one-cylinder engines and 100 mpg, though without any kind of pollution control they weren’t exactly green. Many of the cars had only three wheels. Interior dimensions were, of necessity, tight. That's an ultra-rare 1951 Reyonnah below. The front wheels could be tucked in for easy storage.
Weiner says he got into micro cars because all the rare full-sized cars have been found and assigned big seven-figure value. “The thrill of micro cars, on the other hand, is that the size of your checkbook alone doesn’t determine whether you can acquire them,” said Weiner. “They require persistence, negotiating, and regular interaction with a fascinating group of enthusiasts who can at times be reserved and very private.”
You encounter micro cars in the funniest places. I saw a Peel (that's a 1964 P-50 above) in the lobby of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum in Times Square. I got up close and personal with a BMW Isetta in the parking lot at a folk music show recently. That’s one of the few I’ve seen that’s driven regularly—it can be kind of terrifying to drive these matchbox vehicles in modern traffic, even though some are capable of highway travel.
If tiny cars aren’t your thing, the auction also includes a whole lot of memorabilia, including kiddie rides, porcelain and neon signs, toys and models. Visit www.rmauctions.com if you’re interested, or call (800) 211-4371. Big-little events like this don’t come around too often.
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