The little car is the true hero.
BMW Films are always well-done and interesting to watch, and this latest one is no exception. Instead of going with an action piece starring a big time actor, the automaker instead decided to tell the story of an average man using his BMW Isetta to transport people out of East Germany. It’s an inspiring tale that doesn’t boast about the latest performance innovations, but instead celebrates human ingenuity.
As you already know, the Isetta is an impossibly small three-wheeled car. It’s not the kind of vehicle one would think to use for smuggling people across a secure border, and that’s part of the point. While it normally holds only two people in the front seats, a hidden compartment by the engine allows another person to lay down and completely out of sight. Klaus-Günter Jacobi came up with the idea of using his mini BMW to smuggle one person at a time through Checkpoint Charlie and on to West Germany.
Called “The Small Escape,” the BMW Film has the look and feel of a major Hollywood production. It depicts how Jacobi, a car mechanic, cut an opening in the trim located behind the bench seat. He also shifted the parcel shelf up some. By removing the spare tire, heater, and air filter, plus swapping the 13-liter fuel tank for a tiny 2-liter canister, he was able to create just enough room for a person to fit.
Unlike the mighty BMW M3 and BMW M5, the Isetta isn’t going to win any races. However, thanks to one man who was determined to find a way, aftermarket modifications allowed nine people to escape to West Berlin in 1964.
The next time someone makes a big deal about how your tinkering with cars is a useless waste of time, show them this video. It’s proof that having an intimate knowledge of how cars work and ways you can manipulate that might literally save lives.