Classic collectors go big on microcars

MADISON, Ga. — Recently what has been called the largest collection of the smallest cars — some 200 of them — went on sale at the the Bruce Weiner Microcars Museum here east of Atlanta.

The post-World War II gems, plus memorabilia, pedal cars and toy models, were offered with no reserve at the two-day sale run by RM Auctions, which reported sales of more than $9.1 million.

Collector Bruce Weiner was fascinated by the make-do, highly inventive vehicles built in Europe in the lean years following the war. Many of his acquisitions were restored by museum staff. Some were left in as-is condition.

Today the fragile looking three- and four-wheelers are not well known save by enthusiasts and collectors.

But they were there, bidding and buying in person as well as by phone and online. The top-selling car was a 1958 F.M.R. Tg 500 “Tiger,” which went for $322,000. RM said this was a world record price for a microcar sold at auction.
A 1951 Reyonnah sold for a high bid of $184,000 and a 1955 Inter 175A Berline, with an estimated pre-sale value of up to $50,000 brought $161,000.

The tiny cars, often riding on what look like bicycle tires, proved surprisingly complex. RM Auction’s amusing and colorful 5″ X 5″ sale catalog related their stories in detail to auction guests and bidders, who represented more than 20 countries.

Instead of crossing the traditional block, an image of each vehicle was displayed on a large screen as the persuasive, good-natured auctioneer prompted and cajoled his buyers. It was a feeding frenzy for those interested in small road-worthy cars, toy models and automobilia like the coin-operated alarm clock, a Vendo milk vending machine, an Indian Motorcycle coin-operated kiddie ride and a coin-operated electric shaver.

Names of many of the designers, engineers and builders of microcars would no longer be easily recognized. Others, like auto makers BMW, Subaru and Mazda, have survived.

Among the more spacious microcars in the collection was the 1958 Azure Blue four-passenger BMW 600 — a kind of big brother to the Isetta. The restored 600 with distinctive knife-edge bumpers was valued at up to $50,000; it sold at auction for $92,000.

A front-opening, largely original, versatile 1957 Iso Isettacarro commercial vehicle built in Spain sold at auction for $97,750.

Various commercial vehicles shared floor space and buyer attention with the descendants of pedal cars, with two-person cabrios without doors and with vehicles with very close ties to motorcycles like the Czechoslovakian 1959 Velorex Oskar, which featured a removable leatherette material “body.” The ’59 Velorex Oskar sold for $12,650, somewhat less than its pre-sale estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.