Cars of Two Germanys

I drive through Beverly Hills on the way to work and, as a car fanatic, am dazzled by what I encounter—multiple Phantoms a day (not my style but still…), Ferraris left and right, and a seemingly endless, silver stream of Mercedes and BMWs. But what you don’t often see, even in this great car capital, are the little gems pictured above. (And they are little—the BMW measures 55 x 54 x 95 in.) Curator Stephanie Barron has installed them in the BP Grand Entrance for a limited, two week run, to introduce East and West German material culture to visitors before they enter Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, which opened yesterday.


The 1969 VW Beetle (called a Käfer in Germany) and the 1956 BMW Isetta were borrowed from our neighbors at the Petersen Automotive Museum. The East German Trabant was much harder to come by though, even in its time—the East Germans coveted the car and it had a very long waiting list. After doing a bit of research, we found one made in 1972 belonging to artist Richard Jackson, who kindly loaned it to LACMA. Take an especially close look at the Trabant when you’re here; it’s spattered with black paint as a result of being stored in Jackson’s studio.

Allison Agsten

4 Responses to Cars of Two Germanys

  1. laura says:

    The bmw isetta is an amazing little car. I wrote a thesis paper a couple years ago about how the introduction of the isetta brought bmw out of bankruptcy after ww2. With a majority of their manufacturing plants destroyed and no market for luxury vehicles, bmw needed to appeal to the german people with an affordable & economical option, the isetta, whose design they bought from an italian refrigerator manufacturer. I am so excited, I can’t wait to see the exhibit.

  2. Allison Agsten says:

    Fascinating! Thanks, Laura. Great back story. When I heard the Isetta was coming to the museum, I immediately harkened back to this AutoWeek item from last summer that also had some interesting tidbits. These one-cylinder (!) cars were so popular in Germany that they were even used by the postal service. More here:

  3. Nice blog, well written and a very interesting story about BMW building such little cars I would never have guessed they made.

  4. Honda says:

    I guess you dont have any parking problems.

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