Three Wheelin'

Could this be Guernsey’s most practical car? Rosie Allsopp meets Linda Brown, owner of a 1960 Isetta bubble car, and learns that it has everything a driver could possibly want...

Could this be Guernsey’s most practical car? Rosie Allsopp meets Linda Brown, owner of a 1960 Isetta bubble car, and learns that it has everything a driver could possibly want...

IN AN age where we are obsessed with stylish, tiny, fuel efficient cars, it is perhaps strange that a vehicle first designed in the 1950s embodies those requirements perfectly.

Linda Brown’s Isetta bubble car runs on a single-cylinder 300cc BMW motorbike engine and a whiff of petrol. Not only that, it can comfortably accommodate several shopping bags, it drives like a dream and it looks amazing. It even has a sun roof.

‘It’s fantastic and it’s very, very useful,’ said Linda.

‘I can fit all of my shopping in it and it is amazing how much you can fit in there.

Isetta bubble car

‘It is very economical. It costs me £10 to fill it up, which lasts about 10 days.

‘It’s brill to drive and I get kids giving me the thumbs up and shouting “awesome”.’

The Bubble, as it is known, was restored for Linda by her husband Graham. He established and was the owner of auto repair business Graham Brown Ltd for more than 30 years, but has now retired.

Although he swore to retire upon completing the restoration of an Austin Atlantic, when the opportunity to buy and restore the bubble car came along he couldn’t resist.

‘His excuse for this restoration was “it’s for my wife”,’ joked Linda.

Isetta bubble carGraham, who has restored many classics back to full glory, said he was initially resistant to the idea.

He said: ‘Linda had fancied one of these for about 20-25 years. I was never interested because it’s not my type of car. We found one that was for sale locally that had already been restored. We tried it, but I condemned it because it needed a lot of work to tidy it up.

‘The subject came up again more recently and I had finished my last restoration in 2006, an Atlantic, and we said “no more”. But I said to Linda that I knew where there was one that had been in a shed for 20-odd years.’

Isetta bubble carThey approached the owner, reached an agreement and the result was ‘I was allowed another restoration. I love doing the work and I have come to have a bit of affection for the car’.

The Bubble was restored completely. It arrived in pieces and suffering in places from significant rust damage. Graham carried out the bulk of the restoration, with some assistance from the Bromley Bubble Company, which specialises in bubble cars.

It is fair to say that it has some quirky features.

Isetta bubble car‘The gear stick is in the left-hand wall and the gearbox is the wrong way round. The speedo goes the wrong way round and there is no petrol gauge. You turn the petrol on and off and it has a reserve tank like a motorbike, so I don’t need a petrol gauge,’ said Linda.

And for a car that runs on a 300cc motorbike engine, it is no slouch on the roads.

‘In the handbook it says it has a top speed of 56mph. In Guernsey, it will do 35mph very well.’

And the colour?

‘It isn’t original. I’m known by my girly friends as Golden Brown because I love gold and I wear a lot of it. The gold on the car is a Nissan colour.’

  • Click the gallery link in the middle column, right, to see a sequence of images showing how the car looked before and during the restoration work.