Lit­tle bub­ble beamer

One of its kind in NZ

Bay News - - FRONT PAGE - By Car­men Hall [email protected]

“Quirky” is the word John Rathlou favour­swhen asked to de­scribe his three-wheeled, BMW1963 Isetta 300— which he be­lieves is the only one in the country.

The bright fuschia bub­ble car has been in the fam­ily for more than 34 years and un­der­gone many trans­for­ma­tions.

But it was not the first one of its type that John— aformer air­craft en­gi­neer— had put his heart and soul into and re­stored. Hiswife El­iz­a­beth, who also shows an af­fec­tion for the tiny car, says the cou­ple made two Iset­tas out of four when they were liv­ing in South Wales.

“You couldn’t give them away,” John says. “In 1974 when they were com­ing to an end you could buy them for a fiver. I bought four of them— one was a fiver and some for £25 as they were scrap­ping them.”

Once com­plete he sold one Isetta and only parted with the other when the cou­ple moved to South Africa.

How­ever in 1981 fate in­ter­vened­when the pair were in Eng­land and driv­ing from Cam­bridge down to the coast.

“Wewere rem­i­nisc­ing and El­iz­a­beth said re­mem­ber­when we had the old bub­ble.

“Then we drove around the cor­ner and there was one sit­ting in this field,” he says.

“It was one of those life co­in­ci­dences, sowe stopped. The car was tatty and the floor had rot­ted through but I left a note on thewin­dow screen.”

The rest was his­tory which in­cluded the bub­ble be­ing shipped across the ocean when the Rathlous im­mi­grated to New Zealand in 2010.

Nowa­days it’s only John who drove the Isetta but El­iz­a­beth had used it as her work car and has mem­o­ries of many es­capades. Most of those in­volved their sons, who she says loathed the ve­hi­cle, as it was painted bright green then and nick­named the Green Boo­gie by other kids.

The ad­ven­tures in­cluded her youngest Gareth hav­ing to walk to school in the rain as his tuba caught a ride in the pas­sen­gers seatwith most of it stick­ing out through the roof.

And an­other time­when the wires got crossed and ev­ery time El­iz­a­beth turned the wheel the horn­went off like a cruise ship fog horn, and when she stalled in peak hour traf­fic be­cause she for­got to switch on the petrol, or hav­ing to drive 70mileswith the roof open in the cold and pris­ing her fin­gers off the steer­ing wheel.

She ad­mits that part of her life is over but both agree they won’t be part­ing­with the Bub­ble any­time soon. By his own

cal­cu­la­tion John thinks the Isetta could be worth $20,000 due to its rar­ity and he still en­joyed tak­ing it on out­ings.

The mi­cro car was a crowd stop­per and “it’s a fun thing but not a car you would want to use ev­ery day”.

“Al­though we have been here for nearly eight years when it came in the con­tainer it was a bit dam­aged and Iwas very dis­ap­pointed so it took a back seat for a while. So this sat in the garage here un­used and I only re­cently got it back on the road.”

Now John was en­joy­ing show­cas­ing the bub­ble around town where it was draw­ing lots of at­ten­tion. Spec­i­fi­ca­tions: ■ En­gine: 298cc/1-cyl ■ Power: [email protected] ■ Torque: [email protected] ■ Top Speed: 52mph ■ Length: 7ft 9in— 2.36m

Photo/John Bor­ren

John and El­iz­a­beth Rathlou have a great af­fec­tion for their tiny bub­ble car which they have owned for more than 34 years.

Photo/John Bor­ren

John and El­iz­a­beth Rathlou.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.