...or, the beloved "bubblecars."
at the Museum of Transportation, Larz Anderson Park, Brookline Massaachusetts,
11/00 through 4/01
The upcominng exhibit at the
Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation is entitled MICROCARS! and features several examples from the Microcar collection
of Charles and Nancy Gould. Charles has been a collector of antique automobiles and motorcycles since before he
acquired his license some twenty-eight years ago. He and Nancy began concentrating their collection on Microcars
almost fifteen years ago. The Gould’s prefer the patina and originality of unrestored cars, whenever possible.
Consequently, many of the cars featured in this exhibit are unrestored examples.
The Gould collection focuses on the unusual European Microcars and Minicars which were prevalent in the late 1950s, and early 1960s. They were conceived as a response to a war-torn Europe attempting to get back on its wheels. Many industrial factories were either destroyed, or were prohibited from building wartime machinery, and there was a pressing need for an inexpensive mode of transportation.
Many aircraft manufacturers were prohibited from building airplanes unde the Reparations Act. These companies had huge factories sitting idle. These idle factories, with their workforce of engineers and laborers, were an ideal arena for the development of microcars. The development of these little cars, with their tiny engines, required the same concentration on power to weight ratios as aircraft.
Consequently, many new designs evolved which were extremely unconventional. As many of the engineers and designers were aircraft engineers, or came from non-automotive backgrounds, the designs are remarkably novel and interesting, and represent a "clean sheet of paper" approach to the transportation solution. Most designs employed conventional motorcycle or motor scooter engines, as there were readily available, compact, lightweight and inexpensive to produce and operate. The cars, therefore had to be quite small to enable such little engines to propel two or more occupants at any respectable speed. The result was miniscule little egg-shaped cars which resembled little bubbles, later affectionately referred to as Bubblecars.
The most recognized example of a Bubblecar is the BMW Isetta 250 & 300 series, which is clearly one of the most common bubblecars. Most people are not aware, however, that there were virtually hundreds of other examples of these unique little travel pods. While Cyclecars, and Microcars have a long history, which stretches to the turn of the 19th century, the genre of Microcars affectionately referred to as Bubblecars were primarily European in origin, and spanned a period of approximately ten years from 1954 through 1964, with a few later examples from Japan and even from America. They were hugely successful in Europe and other areas where fuel was expensive, and economies had been devastated. While many marques were imported into America in substantial numbers, they were never taken seriously here in the United States. Our fuel was cheap, and consumers of this period were much more obsessed with the huge garish American automobiles laden with fins and chrome, which translated into a status symbol to attest to the 1950’s American family’s success.
You will observe that many of the cars featured in this exhibit are three wheelers. This is because a three wheeled automobile could be taxed, registered, and insured as a motorcycle under a loophole originally designed for motorcycle sidecar rigs. This afforded an even greater savings to the consumer, and contributed to the success of the Microcar in Europe during this period. This motorcycle classification for three wheeled cars remains today, in most countries and in most states here in the United States.
You will also observe some cars designed specifically for disabled individuals including the Delta Tippon and the Invacar included in this exhibit. Many of the Microcars on display in this exhibit were conceived as a specially designed transportation means for war veterans who had sustained considerable injuries as a result of the war. The government had required vehicles for the vast number of disabled veterans, and many companies responded with Microcar designs of their own. As these conveyances hit the market place, however, manufacturers observed that they were being purchased by healthy individuals, shopkeepers, families, individuals. They polished and civilized their primitive designs, and a whole market niche was born.
As you tour the BUBBLECARS! exhibit, take the time to read the detailed descriptions of each particular marque, as the story of its evolution, and the technical creativity in each manufacturers approach to a similar set of criteria, are as fascinating as the cars themselves. Consider the miniscule size and efficiency of the tiny Microcar engines. Notice the marketing strategy employed in the sales literature, and its unique approach to lure the public into buying these little cars. Clearly, there was no truth in advertising requirements at the time these brochures were produced. We have also included a number of Microcar toys, which were popular around the same time that these cars were commonly available. The toys are quite valuable in their own right, and now cost more than some of the microcars cost when they were new! We encourage you to linger and enjoy the whimsical automobiles displayed in this exhibit, which represent a truly unique chapter in the history of the Automobile.
Finally if you have any questions, require any additional information, or if you know of any Microcars which are for sale or need to be rescued, Please contact Charles or Nancy Gould at
163 Country Club Road
Newton, Massachusetts 02459
You can also learn more about Microcars and Minicars, or learn about our annual lawn event by visiting our website at bubbledrome.org. Enjoy the show!
(picture coming soon)
Charles & Nancy Gould are shown here, with their daughters Monique and Tiana, in a 1957 Brutsch Mopetta. This particular Brutsch Mopetta is one of three survivors from a production run of only eleven cars. It represents the smallest "production" automobile ever produced in the world. It was designed by Egon Brutsch, who had a vision that everyone would soon be traveling in their own little travel pod.