An Isetta in Cuba: Ready for another 50 years

Isetta 300: either a real Cabriolet Tropical, or a very well-executed conversion.
 The last time I visited "Maynardo," I brought along schematics of BMW  Isetta innards, photos of various Isetta colour schemes, detailed lists of model changes and production numbers — anything I could find that might help him repair his German microcar.
But Maynardo, it turned out, was already familiar with every nut, bolt and lock washer on his 1950s Bubble Window Isetta 300. And the car that had looked so rough just months earlier now stood fully rehabbed with two-tone paint, chrome luggage rack and fresh knobby tires. No longer did starting it require blowing into the gas tank and touching together two wires; with a turn of the ignition key, the engine fired immediately and settled into a smooth idle.
Readers who saw my earlier photos have noted that this Isetta's single-cylinder engine did not look like the original BMW unit, and Maynardo confirmed that it is a Russian powerplant of some sort. Output is unknown, but probably more than the original's 13 horsepower. We went for a ride and, even going up a steep hill in third gear, it pushed strongly.
Another question: Is this a real, and thus rare, 300 BMW Isetta Cabriolet Tropical, or one of the many regular 300s that has been converted to a Tropical by the substitution of a convertible roof for the rear glass? I don't know, but if it was converted at some point in its long history, the job appears to have been done well. I like to think it is an original.
For purists who take issue with the added lights and mirrors, the non-stock instrument panel and other modifications, bear in mind the limited resources available to the Cuban car owner. Remember, too, that in Cuba, cars are for transportation, no matter how rare and collectible they might be elsewhere. This microcar has probably been in regular service for more than five decades, and it will be expected to continue such service for years to come.
I think Maynardo has done a superb job with it.


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