As other more powerful vehicles came his way, Anderson put the little stunt buggy away for a while. He'd almost forgotten about it until about 15 years ago when he was chasing down a wolverine on his property and opened up one of the garages to see the humble BMW.
"At that point I tried to putting in a Kawasaki 1000 motor but had trouble getting the clearances right," he says. Frustrated, he put the little Iso back to bed. Enter two key players, fabricator Don Gacceta and machinist Dwight Hoelscher. Together these two spent more than a year building the frame.
"The biggest challenge was keeping the car in proportion and within the wheelbase," says Gacceta. "But it came out better than anyone expected."
While Hoelscher and Gacceta also mentioned that there were numerous difficulties constructing the frame, another obstacle was getting the tiny tin can to go in reverse. The Isetta is designed to nose into a tight parking space. Just pull in and get out the front. So of course you need a reverse gear to get out of that spot. By now the previous motorcycle motor had been replaced with a 140-hp '97 FJ1200, but that didn't come with reverse either. In order to back out of this tight spot they wound a high-torque starter motor backwards, then welded it to the brake rotor and turned it down on the lathe so it would float between the calipers. It's shadetree mechanic engineering at its finest, and while the operation is as a little jerky, it does the trick. Gacceta and Hoelscher's hands didn't stop at the reverse application. Take a look at the fully refurbished interior by F&H Auto Upholstery and you'll see the gauge panel mounted on the side by Gacceta and the Grant adapter for the steering wheel by Grant Hoelscher. Look even closer and you'll see a radio in the engine bay.
All four corners of the body had to be "stretched" to accommodate the various suspension modifications, which include another piece of top engineering, the cantilevered front suspension. This type of Formula-esque kit may be just enough to justify the graphics. While they see cartoonish at first, they represent the original spirit of Tony the tiger and belie the Isetta's potential handling characteristics in Anderson's desired theme of Sidewinder/Snakebite.
There have been stories that the Isetta was used to sneak short-statured people out from behind the Iron Curtain. Legend has it one woman burned her arm on the exhaust and cried out just as she approached the checkpoint.
Her fate was sealed, but this Isetta may have a long life of speed records ahead of it from the sound of Anderson's claims.
"This car is the fastest stock body street legal BMW Isetta in the world," he says. "The speedometer is GPS so it is 100 percent correct. I've had the car up to 80 mph and it's a little worrisome, but the handling is good. Once you hit 100 it could be a problem. And at this time 150 will probably need another driver. One with lots of life insurance."
Watch this space for verification of Anderson's record. With the weather as it is in Colorado it may not become official until late spring. But until then keep your eyes on your ankles. This snake bites.
1957 BMW Isetta 300
Modified BMW Isetta with 56-inch wheelbase
1989 1200cc FJ1200 Yamaha motorcycle motor. HiTorque starter backwards-wound for reverse, K&N style air filter, Supertrapp exhaust
Reclined cantilever front by Dwight Hoelscher, live axle rear, custom made four-link rear ladder bar, front and rear panhard bar, adjustable AFCO coilover springs
Wilwood calipers, 10.25-inch rotors (f), 10.75-inch rotors (r), Wilwood master cylinder
Wheels & Tires
Weld alloys, 6x13 (f), 7x13 (r)
Sumitomo, 175/50 (f), 205/60 (r)
All four corners stretched, Sidewinder/Snakebite graphics, Harley Davidson Tri Bar headlights
Peak Power: 150 hp @ 9000 rpm
Peak Torque: 70 lb-ft @ 7000 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.5 sec. (est.)
Top Speed: 150 mph (balls limited)