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Clown Town Blog

That time a German kid smuggled a friend to freedom in a BMW Isetta

wo friends, an East German checkpoint, and a tiny bubble car.

BMW’s Isetta isn’t, strictly speaking, a motorcycle. It isn’t a motorcycle in any way, really. It’s just a very odd, very adorable little car. However, it does have the four-stroke, single-cylinder engine out of a motorcycle, and that’s good enough for us. Plus, this story is just too insane to pass up. In 1963, a humble Isetta—a tiny bubble car with an engine smaller than nearly every motorcycle I’ve ever ridden—was used to smuggle a man out of East Germany. Smuggle him, it should be noted, inside the engine bay like some sort of oily, mechanical womb.

For our younger readers, Berlin (and, effectively, all of eastern Germany) was split right down the middle from 1961 to 1989 by what was (un)affectionally known as the Berlin Wall. On one side was West Germany, controlled by the United States, and home to freedom, puppies, and capitalism. On the other side was East Germany, controlled by the Soviet Union, home to communism, the Stazi, and countless Trabants. (read more)

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