The Isetta is one of the smallest and quirkiest cars ever created by BMW, but few people know that it played an important role in smuggling people from East to West Berlin.
That’s changing today as BMW has released a short film which chronicles the risks that Klaus-Günter Jacobi took transporting his best friend across the heavily guarded border.
Named “The Small Escape,” the film is set in 1964 which is six years after Jacobi and his family left East Berlin. Jacobi still had friends on the other side of the Berlin Wall and one of them contacted him asking for help escaping.
Jacobi decided to get involved and thought his Isetta would make the perfect escape vehicle as he believed soldiers wouldn’t be too suspicious about a tiny car smuggling people across the border. That isn’t too surprising as even BMW admits the car is a “very tight fit for two people.”
In order to hide Manfred Koster from sight, Jacobi removed a number of components to create enough room for him next to the engine. As part of this effort, Jacobi took out the air filter, spare tire and heating system. He also created some additional room behind the bench seat and swapped out the 13 liter (3.4 gallon) fuel tank for a 2 liter (0.53 gallon) canister.
After the modifications were complete, the car was driven across the border where it picked up Koster. Shortly before midnight on May 23rd, the duo successfully completed their mission by arriving in West Berlin.
News of the achievement quickly spread and eight other people were successfully smuggled across the border in similarly modified Isettas. As for Jacobi’s car, it’s now on display at the Berlin Wall Museum where the 79-year-old is a tour guide.