BMW's Grown-Up Bubble Car Saved The Ultimate Driving Machine
In 1957 Bayerische Motoren Werke were on the brink of insolvency. They very nearly didn’t make it. One millimetric skip away in the time/space groove there exists a place where you are you, I am me, and nearly everything is the same, but BMW doesn’t exist—there’s no such thing as a sports sedan, no M3, no M5, no driver’s limo Seven Series. There’s also no X6. Pros and cons to every situation. Fortunately for us on this side of the groove, they’re still around, 10 generations deep into making the best driving mass-market cars on the planet.
The Isetta, a design built under license from an Italian refrigerator manufacturer, had gotten the Munich firm through tough early post-war times; being a moderate success despite the fact it was unbelievably awful. As sales started to slump, BMW concentrated their limited resources on a larger, more powerful version of the front-opening, slightly-motorized coffin on wheels which would become known as the 600. It was an umitigated flop, and production ended within two years. The public’s expectations were changing, and no longer would underpowered bubble cars suit their needs—improving economic conditions brought out a latent desire for more sophisticated, safer, and more stylish automobiles. Enter the 700.