I decided not to go to away to the conference this week after all.¹
A sweet bonus of not being away this weekend is that I’ll get to go to something fun that I would have otherwise been sad to miss: Micro Mini Car Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Car shows are not generally my thing, or at least not what I would think of as being historically my thing, and I don’t necessarily consider myself a car buff.
There are, however, a couple of noteworthy exceptions: British cars, and really small cars.² Last year, we went to and enjoyed British Car Day³, a lawn event at the same museum, and when we saw the upcoming listing for Micro Mini Car Day, I was well and truly intrigued.
I have to say the event was even cooler than I’d anticipated. In addition to the Minis and MGs and Smarts and such that I’d anticipated, I got to see all kinds of little cars that I’d never even known existed. I’ve been meaning to share some of the photos from the even for ages, and here I am finally getting around to it. Buckle up!⁴
Seeing as they were my first car crush, I was happy to see some classic Austin Minis. I have long said that I wanted to pinch their little cheeks.
In front of the very impressive museum building is a pair of Isettas, a car that was totally new to me.
The Isetta was also known, not too shockingly, as the “bubble car.” Fond as I am of the Austin Mini, I may want to pinch the cheeks of the Isetta even more. I mean, just look at it!
One of the most striking quirks about the Isetta is that the driver enters through a single front door. (Observe that the little 2-seater above has no side door.) The front door opens sideways on hinges, much like a refrigerator door. By the way, the car was originally made by a company that also made refrigerators. Coincidence?
Below is a picture with one of the “larger” Isetta models with the door open. (In the foreground is one of my own smaller models, who answers to the name of “Phoebe.”)
An especially cool feature of this event is that many of the car owners offer rides to attendees. (You can see people and cars lined up in the background in the photo, below.) I got to go for a ride in this Austin Mini, which was my first time actually inside a classic Mini.
I also went back in line a second time, and scored a ride in this cherry Nash Metropolitain, whose enthusiastic owner was dressed in colors to match her paint.
This year, I’m hoping to have a chance to go for a ride or 2 again–maybe even in an Isetta!
Even if I don’t manage to catch any rides, I’m looking forward to a fun day outside in a beautiful park. There is lots of room to run around, and Phoebe happily did so. (Theo, on the other hand, could barely yet stand.)⁵
And in case you want to see more photos of tiny cars, I’ve put a bunch more in the slideshow below. (If you want to slow down or stop the slideshow, put your cursor over the slideshow to have the controls appear.)
¹ Much as I wanted to attend the conference itself, I couldn’t bring myself to commit to the travel involved. I’m still recovering from two biggish trips in the last couple of months, and it seemed unusually hard on John and the kiddos to abandon them so soon after my return. What finally helped me stop the waffling, or to tip the waffle into the “stay home” side of things, was taking into account both the expense and the fossil fuel gluttony of such a trip. (After all, I am trying to cut down.)
² You might remember the photos I posted from last year’s British Car Day.
³ And yes, I really love the really small British cars. Really.
⁴ Or otherwise brace yourselves, as many of the vintage cars probably didn’t have seatbelts.
⁵ You may recognize the setting as the same as in my photo I called Theo’s World. That’s because I took that one the same day.
29 thoughts on “Beep beep! It’s Micro Mini Car Day!”
Alejna, you should tooooottttallly get a microcar…. well apart from the deathtrap from being run over by an SUV factor.
Speaking of which, Didn’t your hubby have a Chevy Sprint at one point? I mean, similar idea with far less cool factor.
There’s always the Smart Car for a modern equivalent.
Hey, Erich. Yeah, I would love to have a microcar. It wouldn’t be much good for lugging the kiddos around, though. (At least if we want to keep using those carseat dealies.) But some day, maybe I’ll get me an Isetta, just for me. Or a classic Mini.
John used to have a Geo Metro hatchback, and yeah, that thing was tiny. It was moderately cute, if not cool. And it did get something like 50 miles to the gallon.
I love these photos!
Probably because I also adore tiny cars!
Having lived in Rome, naturally I have a special place in my heart for the Fiat 500 (affectionately referred to by Italians as the “cinquino”). One time while I was waiting for the bus just outside of San Gimignano, a whole parade of cinquinos (er, cinquini) drove by honking! It totally made my day.
While in Italy, I also saw and became enamored of some other unknown and very old tiny cars, including some with only 3 wheels. And the SmartCar is awfully cute, even if less so because of being modern. I’m pleased to see they’ve finally made it to the States.
Alarmingly, though, there are some tiny cars in Italy that have very little horsepower so they count as “motorini” (scooters), which means they can be driven by teenagers without a driver’s license. This strikes me as a VERY bad idea.
I’m glad you liked the photos, Sally! I remembered you saying you loved tiny cars. (I think I may have even tried to get you to go to this last year, but it may have been right after you moved.)
I don’t remember actually seeing any Fiats, though I expected to. I would love to see a parade of cinquini!
(And yeah, I agree that having unlicensed teens driving on the road, even if in a dinky car, is a bad idea. Yikes.)
Sally, the thought of a little parade of fiat 500s got me thinking of the famous scene from the Italian Job, though I then discovered that those are actually Minis (Fiat 500s would have been more apt seeing how its the Italian Job, but it is a British film). I love them too and I love how the new Fiat 500 has been reinvented so younger generations can fall in love with them all over again.
Wow! That does look like fun. As I scrolled down, I formulated the grand plan of going too, and meeting you, but then I realized I already have plans to meet old friends from all over the country for a HS reunion.
Enjoy! I hope the weather moderates in time.
That would have been fun to see you there, De! But I suppose a reunion is a good excuse. Have fun at your reunion. And maybe you can make it to Micro Mini Car Day next year.
(And I’m feeling a bit concerned about the weather–the prediction is for thunder storms!)
So cute. My Mini Clubman would dwarf them all.
Yup, your Clubman would stand out as one of the larger cars, Magpie. They did have a few little vans, though, so it wouldn’t have to feel too out of place.
i have to ask: where are a car’s cheeks?
when i was working in Geneva for two months every year, i fell in love with the bmw c1 enclosed scooter. unfortunately, i don’t think they’re street legal in the states…. sad face.
laloca, I’m not sure all cars have cheeks. Mostly just the small and round ones. As for where they are…
Those enclose scooters look interesting–like half a bubble car! (Actually, I read that people say the Isetta looks like someone stuck two scooters together…with a refrigerator.)
i am intrigued by mini cars, but as my hubby and i are of maxi height, they are not for us. ;)
Ah, I suppose you’re right, Painted. But you never know until you try!
My ex-girlfriend used to drive an old VW bug, and I was surprised she could be comfortable in it because she was quite tall (nearly 6 feet, I think). It somehow seemed bigger from the inside than the outside. Sort of like the Pantheon.
But then I guess the old Beetle is probably bigger than most of these little guys.
You know, there weren’t any Beetles there, so you may be right that they are a bit bigger, Sally. They certainly are on the tall side.
Wow. Thank you. This is such a treat! (the slide show feature is really sweet!) You know what movie I am thinking of now? The Italian Job. :-)
Yeah, I enjoyed the Italian Job, if primarily for the Minis. I love it that the original featured Austin Minis, and then the remake had the new Mini Coopers. Clearly, the Minis were the soul of the films.
I love these photos! I want one of those metropolitans, but I wonder if I could ever fit inside it!
I don’t really remember what the legroom was like, Stacie, but the Metropolitans were on the bigger side as far as micro cars. So maybe!
those are so stinkin cute! I would totally drive one
Can you even stand the cuteness, Christine?
It’s a way cool event, Kyla. But was sadly very wet this year…
my husband is a car guy, so I know a lot about cars for someone with no interest in them… Charlie is friends with a guy who owns an Isetta. It IS cute! he’s still restoring it so I haven’t got a ride yet.
(I am tying on an iPod, apologies for the typos etc)
Oh, I hope you get your Isetta ride, Jennifer! How cool that you know one in person.
Wouldn’t those tiny cars be worse for the environment since they’re mostly single-occupancy? Even the ones that fit two — carpooling wouldn’t help much.
Well, Den, I imagine that all depends on one’s driving habits. In the US, at least, there is a lot of one-person driving. John and I each have to commute separately, as we go to different places and have different schedules, and don’t know others with similar commutes. I actually don’t know anyone who is able to carpool in our area. I’m sure carpooling happens, but I think it only accounts for a small fraction of driving. (I found reference to a 2005 study that supports this: 77% of American workers drive alone on their commutes.)
Plus some of the tiny cars get really amazing mpg, like 50 mpg. A lot of Americans drive cars that get that get really crappy mileage. You’d be horrified to see how many people use their big honkin’ SUVs to commute, getting well under 20 mpg. So even if two people commute share a ride in one of those monsters, they are potentially using more fuel than 2 people driving tiny fuel efficient cars.
So while I agree with you that carpooling in a moderate sized car is better than having everyone in a single-occupancy vehicle, single-occupancy vehicles aren’t inherently worse for the environment in my estimation.
As far as the micro cars at the show went, anyhow, most of them were actually 2-seaters. There were even quite a few 4-seaters.
I know someone who collects and works on Isettas! I love mini cars, too – I wish I could have one and have kids, too. The two don’t seem to mix, though…