BMW Isetta stars in "The Small Escape"

bmw isetta

BMW has released a beautifully-made short film featuring a tiny Isetta that had a big impact on 9 people's lives... 

Source: BMW Classic

A tiny BMW Isetta as an escape car used to smuggle people from East to West Berlin? It's an unlikely story, but it's also the truth...

There are thousands of exhibits in the Berlin Wall Museum on Friedrichstrasse, Berlin that recall the history of the once-divided city and the people who tried to escape. On the upper floor near the window which overlooks Checkpoint Charlie, there is the smallest escape car ever used: a BMW Isetta.

Klaus-Günter Jacobi (79) regularly accompanies visitors through the museum as a tourist guide but what few people realise is that Jacobi is far more than a guide... it was his idea to hide people inside the tiny bubble car and to cross the border with the unnoticed passenger. Indeed, this is how his best friend managed to escape from East to West Berlin.

30 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, BMW has released a short film (see below) that recounts the tale of Jacobi, his friend Manfred Koster and the Isetta, which ultimately helped 9 people escape the GDR. 

Beautifully produced, the film takes the audience back to the year 1964. Jacobi’s family had already left the East of the city in 1958, 3 years before the construction of the Berlin wall. When his old friend Manfred Koster asked him to help him escape from the GDR, he came up with a bold plan - one that now seems almost unbelievable. His BMW Isetta was to serve as the escape car.

Now remember, the Isetta measures only 2.3 meters in length and 1.4 meters in width... but Jacobi's reasoning was that it would arouse little suspicion with the border soldiers. He built a special hiding place for his friend behind the seat bench, directly next to the engine - good thing Jacobi was a car mechanic... He cut an opening into the trim behind the seat bench, shifted the shelf upwards and removed the spare wheel, heating and air filter. He also exchanged the 13L fuel tank for a 2L canister to free up more space.

BMW Isetta

An unlikely escape car, don't you think? Well, that is the perception that its owner and driver was banking on.

The thrilling film was produced by director Alex Feil, camera man Khaled Mohtaseb and set designer Erwin Prieb in true Hollywood blockbuster style. The props, costumes, vehicles and street sets were created in Budapest to stage a faithful 1960s Berlin setting - notice a beautiful Citroen DS in one of the shots...

“Since their invention, automobiles have brought freedom and self-determination to humankind. Cars bring people together. This is something one should always also keep in mind in the current debate. The movie emphasises this. The moving escape story with the BMW Isetta can also be seen as a symbol of the invaluable value cars and individual mobility can have. It’s all about freedom, independence and dreams. Our movie recognises the drive and courage of the people who made this successful escape possible”, said Jens Thiemer, Head of BMW Brand Management.

"The Small Escape" is produced in true blockbuster style.

On 23 May 1964, shortly before the border crossing was due to close at midnight, Jacobi's BMW Isetta rolled underneath the opened barrier. This was the only time Jacobi’s Isetta was used as an escape car, but his achievement inspired 8 other GDR citizens who managed to escape to the West over the following years in a similarly converted BMW Isetta. Today this car is on display in the Berlin Wall Museum. 

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