BMW 600

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BMW 600
US-market BMW 600
Also calledBMW Isetta 600[1]
34,813 built[2]
DesignerWilly Black [3]
Body and chassis
LayoutRR layout
RelatedBMW Isetta
Engine582 cc flat twin
Transmission4-speed manual all-synchromesh[4]
Wheelbase1,700 mm (66.9 in)[3]
Length2,900 mm (114.2 in) (international)[3]
2,946 mm (116.0 in) (US version)[1]
Width1,400 mm (55 in)
Height1,375 mm (54.1 in)
Curb weight515 kg (1,135 lb) dry weight
PredecessorBMW 3/20
SuccessorBMW 700

The BMW 600 is a four-seater microcar produced by the German automaker BMW from mid-1957 until November 1959. Partially based on the BMW Isetta single-seater, it was BMW's first postwar four-seater economy car. It was not a sales success, but it began the design process for its more successful successor, the BMW 700.

Concept, design, and engineering[edit]

Right 3/4 view, with front door open and side door in view

BMW needed to expand its model range, but they did not have the resources to develop an all-new car with an all-new engine. Therefore, it used the Isetta as starting point for a new four seat economy car.[5]

BMW 600 interior

As a result, the 600 used the front suspension and front door of the Isetta.[3] The need to carry four people required a longer frame, a different rear suspension, and a larger engine. A new perimeter frame was designed, using box section side members and straight tube crossmembers.[3] The rear suspension was an independent semi trailing arm design; this was the first time BMW had used this system.[6][7] The chassis had a wheelbase of 1,700 millimetres (67 in),[3] a front track of 1,220 millimetres (48 in), and a rear track of 1,160 millimetres (46 in).[6]

The 600 was powered by the 582 cc (35.5 cu in) flat-twin engine from the R67 motorcycle/sidecar combination. This engine, which delivered 19.5 hp (14.3 kW) at 4,500 revolutions per minute, was mounted behind the rear wheels. A four-speed manual gearbox was standard,[6] while a Saxomat semi-automatic transmission was available.[8] The 600 had a top speed of approximately 100 km/h.[9]

Access to the rear seats was by a conventional door on the right side of the vehicle.[4][3] United States market cars are equipped with larger, sealed-beam headlights, and large bumper overriders.


BMW Isetta 300 and BMW 600

The sales figures for the 600 did not meet BMW's expectations. During production from August 1957 to 1959, about 35,000 were built. This is attributed in part to competition with more conventional cars, including the Volkswagen Beetle.[5][6] The Isetta, bubble car image also hampered sales of this larger, more upscale car.[7]


Rear view of the 600

The 600 played a direct role in the design of its successor, the BMW 700. Wolfgang Denzel, the distributor of BMW cars in Austria, commissioned Giovanni Michelotti to prepare concept sketches based on a lengthened BMW 600 chassis. Denzel presented the concept, a 2-door coupe with a slanted roof, to BMW's management. The concept was generally well received, but objections were raised about the limited passenger space. BMW decided to produce two versions, the coupe, and a 2-door sedan with a taller, longer roof.[10][11]

Another legacy of the 600 was its independent semi-trailing arm rear suspension. This was BMW's first use of this suspension system and, with the exception of the BMW M1,[3] it was used on every BMW production automobile until the 1990s.[3][7] It was eventually supplanted by the "Z-axle" multi-link suspension, first introduced with the BMW Z1 in 1988.[12] The last BMW cars with semi-trailing arm suspension were the BMW Compact and the BMW Z3.[13]

Space efficiency[edit]

The BMW 600 was noted in magazine and journal articles as an example of space efficient design.[14][15] It was noted for carrying four people within a shorter length than that of the Mini.[15]


  1. ^ a b Railton 1958, p. 85.
  2. ^ Norbye 1984, p. 251.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Norbye 1984, p. 122.
  4. ^ a b Gloor 2007.
  5. ^ a b Noakes 2005, p. 56.
  6. ^ a b c d Norbye 1984, p. 123.
  7. ^ a b c Lewin 2004, p. 34.
  8. ^ Sass 2007.
  9. ^ Noakes 2005, p. 57.
  10. ^ Norbye 1984, pp. 124–125.
  11. ^ Lewin 2004, pp. 34–35.
  12. ^ Noakes 2005, pp. 137–139.
  13. ^ Noakes 2005, pp. 151–152.
  14. ^ Railton 1958, pp. 84–87.
  15. ^ a b Lowrey 1964, p. 733.


  • Gloor, Roger (2007). Alle Autos der 50er Jahre 1945 - 1960 (1. Auflage 2007 ed.). Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-02808-1.
  • Lewin, Tony (2004). "Faded glory". The Complete Book of BMW: Every Model since 1950. St. Paul, MN US: Motorbooks International. pp. 33–35. ISBN 0-7603-1951-0.
  • Lowrey, Joseph (18 June 1964). "Fitting the car to the city". New Scientist. Harrison, Raison and Co. 22 (396): 733–734. In fact, an even more compact four-seater was built until recently by BMW in Germany, but the unorthodoxies of a rear-mounted engine and a front rather than side door, which allowed the saving of another 6 in. of length, were not acceptable to the public.
  • Noakes, Andrew (2005). "Chapter 3: Baroque Angels and Bankruptcy 1945-59". The Ultimate History of BMW. Bath, UK: Parragon Publishing. pp. 56–57. ISBN 1-4054-5316-8.
  • Norbye, Jan P. (1984). BMW - Bavaria's Driving Machines. Skokie, IL: Publications International. ISBN 0-517-42464-9.
  • Railton, Arthur R. (July 1958). Windsor, H. H. (Jr.); Grant, Roderick M.; Whittaker, Wayne; Railton, Arthur R. (eds.). "Small car, which shape is best?". Popular Mechanics (U.S. ed.). Chicago, IL USA: Popular Mechanics. 110 (1): 84–87. Retrieved 2013-11-23. Another example of maximum interior room with minimum exterior dimensions is the new Isetta 600
  • Sass, Rob (March 22, 2007). "BMW's Beetle". Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg. "The SCM Analysis" 2nd paragraph. Archived from the original on 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2010-07-04. To survive in the post-war European market, BMW needed its own VW Bug. It got one in the 1958 Isetta 600

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