BMW Isetta Owner Says – “You Need Problem-Solving Skills – It’s Like a Marriage”

By Tamami Laser; with Nahoko Osuka reporting from Japan

Despite its reputation for building some of the most reliable cars in the world, Japan has many auto enthusiasts who relish European imports. And it’s not just the latest sports cars from German or Italian brands that set hearts racing. For example, Japanese actress Midori Kiuchi has a long-running love affair with her vintage BMW Isetta.


The tiny egg-shaped car with a single door in front is loved the word over for its unique character. Kiuchi developed a fondness for this bubble-mobile decades ago when the cars were still relatively new.

“Critics love BMW’s sedans and sports cars,” says the automaker in a capsule timeline entry for the year 1955. “Yet it’s the BMW Isetta that won the hearts of the public. Just 2.29 m long, the company obtains the licence to build the motocoupé from ISO in Italy. Powered by a 12 or 13 hp BMW motorcycle engine, over 160,000 people buy an Isetta in the 1950s, making it the best-selling BMW of the decade.”

In this “BMW Stories” video, Midori Kiuchi drives her vintage BMW Isetta and talks about old car ownership while providing tips on how to lead a rewarding and satisfying life. (video: BMW Japan)

“When I was 13 years old I dreamt of a car,” says Kiuchi. “This is that car. I love that it has everything that you need, and not a single thing you don’t.”


“I was 13 in my first year of middle school,” she says. “There was this woman who lived near me who loved cars. She was always driving around in a Morgan, or a Tanus. And this was really rare at the time, but she had her hair dyed blonde. She was very rock and roll.”

“So when I finished school one day, she came over to me. ‘Hey Midori! Come on, let’s go for a drive!’ So I got in and drove to Haneda where there used to be a go-kart park. She asked me, ‘What kind of car do you like? I’ll get it for you.’ I told her, a small, red, one-of-a-kind car!”


While she didn’t get the car of her dreams at that time, the desire for owning one became a lifelong pursuit for Kiuchi. “Years later, when I turned 50, I thought, I only have a few years left to drive. Now it’s time to find that car I dreamt about.” She calls her Isetta “The Good Ship Apple.”

“People have the tendency to give up on old things that require a lot of effort,” she says. “The condition of this car, for example. I put it in first gear, but it doesn’t completely engage. I throw it in second, but something is off. I can’t get it into reverse today. I turned the car on, all of a sudden it cuts off.”


Kiuchi is willing to put up with the roadblocks that sometimes accompany old car ownership. “I don’t want to say that I’m its caregiver, because that’s a bit much. I just pay attention to its needs; it’s like a marriage. Ah, it died on me. Alright, we’re back.”

“You need problem-solving skills to overcome the challenges of driving this car. When you drive thinking, ‘this car has problems’ things won’t go well. You have to think, regardless of what happens, it’s all good. This car has a lot of needs. So I’m very happy if after the drive, I can say that we took care of each other.”


Kiuchi offers advice for those who may be hesitant to pursue their dreams: “’What’s popular these days?’ or ‘The common thing is…’ whatever people may think. It’s all about what I think. That’s how I live.”

“The way I look at life is, I’m the lead actor, you’re the lead actor. ‘This is common around the world,’ or ‘things should be this way in Japan.’ Forget all that! It’s about what you want to do. What I want to do. I’m the type of person who lives in the moment. So I’m very happy I got this car. I’ll be wrapping up my life soon enough, but it sure has been a blessed ride.”

News source, photos, and video courtesy BMW Japan

Story (intro and commentary) © 2015