10 tiny vehicles with big personality
Since we’ve already given you plenty to get excited about heading into Arizona auction week, here’s some lighter fare that can be consumed in bite-size pieces. Much like the cars.
Amid all the big name, big-dollar vehicles crossing the block in Scottsdale, here are our 10 favorite tiny cars with big personalities.
1990 Toyota Sera
It’s a gullwing! One that won’t cost you millions! This 1990 Toyota Sera—a right-hand-drive, three-door hatchback coupe that was a Japanese-only production car—was one of 16,000 or so examples built from 1990–95. It’s propelled by a 1.5-liter engine that produces 110 horsepower, which is plenty considering it weighs only 2000 pounds.
1941 Crosley Convertible
In 1925, Crosley Corporation was the largest manufacturer of radios in the world. Not the largest radios, mind you, but the largest manufacturer of radios. In other words, Crosley was well versed in the notion that sometimes big things come in small packages. An attempt to create the same automotive success worked for a few years before the little Crosley lost momentum—and eventually its place in the market to the more popular Volkswagens. This Crosley is one of 2289 convertibles built for 1941. Restored to factory specifications, it is powered by a 13-hp, two-cylinder air-cooled engine and finished in yellow paint and red interior. The odometer shows 25,625 original miles.
1948 Fiat 500B Topolino Cabriolet
Despite its diminutive size, Fiat’s Topolino had a significant—shall we say, big?—run, as more than 500,000 were built from 1937–55. One of the smallest cars in the world when it was introduced, it was officially named the 500 but soon took on the nickname Topolino, which translates to Little Mouse. In addition to its tiny features, the car’s fender-mounted headlights resemble Mickey Mouse ears—a look that is accentuated with this car’s gray-black paint combination. (Pre-auction estimate is $15,000–$25,000.)
1959 Fiat-Abarth Bantam 750 Derivazione
Thanks to its elongated body, the Bantam 750 Derivazione is shaped more like a beetle than, well, a Beetle. Produced from 1956–59, the Derivazione was the first steel-bodied Fiat sedan modified by Abarth, which added a more powerful engine, larger radiator, close gear ratios, slotted 12-inch steel wheels, Jager Tachometer, 90-mph speedometer, and Abarth badging.
1965 Fiat-Abarth 1000 TC Berlina
There’s more to this Fiat-Abarth than cuteness. Arturo Merzario drove it on behalf of the Abarth & Cie racing team from 1967–69, in events like the 4 Hours of Monza and several European Touring Car Championship races. The current owner acquired the 1000 TC in Italy in 1987 and had it shipped to his home in South Africa, where it raced until 1997. He later relocated to British Columbia, where the Abarth continued to compete on tracks in the Pacific Northwest. The TC’s 68-hp, 982-cc OHV inline-four is ready for its next challenge, and for $80,000–$100,000 you can to decide what that will be.
1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile
Offered in several body styles, the Trasformabile—with a sliding fabric roof panel that opens to the sky—is arguably the coolest. Styled by Luigi Rapi, an estimated 10,000 examples of the Bianchina (in three series) were produced from 1957–62. This right-hand-drive version was sold new in South Africa and brought to the U.S. by an American missionary. It recently underwent a sympathetic restoration that included a repaint in the car’s original red and cream. A little car with a substantial price tag, the Trasformabile is expected to sell for $50,000–$70,000.
1958 Morris Minor Pickup
Produced in limited numbers for the U.S. market, Morris Minor quarter-ton pickups aren’t common, certainly not in this condition. Once part of a large museum collection, this example underwent a comprehensive restoration that included body, chassis, and suspension, and an upgraded 1275-cc four-cylinder engine. Painted Dove Gray with red interior and topped with a canvas canopy over the bed, this turn-key truck is ready to roll.
1956 BMW Isetta 300
The poster child for microcars, the Isetta 300 is perhaps the best-known “cabin scooter” built in the 1950s and ’60s. It features a side-hinged single door that opens at the front (the steering wheel and dashboard are attached to the door), roll-top sunroof, and fixed side windows. This one is powered by a BMW single-cylinder, four-stroke, 247-cc motorcycle engine, replacing the original’s noisy two-stroke motor. Pre-auction estimate is $20,000–$30,000.
1969 Fiat Moretti 500
One of fewer than 50 hand-built examples, this extremely rare Fiat Moretti 500 is also extremely cool. With the dashing good looks of a sports car, the two-seater is powered by a 650-cc inline-four that generates about 50 hp. After living most of its life in Italy, it was completely restored before coming to the U.S. in 2005. It carries an estimate of $20,000–$30,000—not bad for such a unique vehicle. If you decide to pass, good luck finding another one.
With airplane-like styling penned by aircraft engineer Fritz Fend, the Messerschmitt KR200 stands out in the microcar crowd—both then and now—and is highly sought after by collectors. That includes American Pickers star Mike Wolfe. This fabulous Rose-and-black example is a bit of a hot rod, as its single rear wheel was replaced with a two-wheel configuration that required the addition of rear fenders. It also has a 600-cc two-stroke engine sourced from a Trabant 601 and tuned to 35 hp. The custom ’59 has a pre-sale estimate of $45,000–$65,000.