Always one of the most popular bubbles, the ‘Schmitt is still hot property...
Designed by Fritz Fend, the fabled aircraft producer, Messerschmitt made the Kabinenroller a production reality, to help it recover from the dearth of aircraft building in the early 1950s. All KRs were three-wheelers – the four-wheel Tiger was a different animal altogether.
Prices have been hitting the headlines of late, with over £200,000 paid for one last year. The reality is that they are far more affordable – join the club to find the best cars for sale.
Power (bhp@rpm) 10bhp@5250rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 11lb ft@3800rpm
Top speed 62mph
0-60mph just about
Gearbox 4-spd manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
The ‘Schmitt is surprisingly advanced, with a unitary construction featuring strong tubes and steel bodywork. Rust is therefore a problem, with the floors rotting merrily if not protected. Lift the rubber mat inside and check, especially in the front left corner. The body is made of four sections – floor, two sides and the firewall. Those sections cost around £500 from the club, so if you’re handy with a welder, a project could be for you. Also watch for damage to the canopy. You’re looking at more than £900 for a replacement and they’re extremely fiddly to fit.
These two bits are effectively one unit, with the gearbox sitting in the crankcase of the engine. The gearbox is sequential, like a motorbike. They can slip out of top gear if worn, so check for this on a test drive and make sure all four gears can be selected. There is no reverse gear but you can stop the engine and make it rotate the other way around! The single-cylinder, two-stroke engine can be removed in 15 minutes by practised hands and needs a petrol/oil mix of 25:1. Some blue smoke is to be expected, but there shouldn’t be excessive amounts once warm. Listen out for a worn bottom end – there aren’t many more moving parts. Do check that the aluminium casing hasn’t been damaged or gone missing, as it’s essential for cooling.
The top-model 300SE and 300SEL had air suspension, which was high-tech stuff for the early 1960s. The ride it gives is quite remarkable, but problems can be very expensive indeed to fix, and parts are not plentiful. Buy an air-sprung Fintail with your eyes wide open, and have the phone numbers of a specialist and your bank manager close at hand.
Suspension is by rubber units held in tension, like modern lightweight trailers. When these fail, the result is a very poor ride. The tiny drum brakes should be up to the job, though emergency stops are best avoided as it’s easy to throw the lightweight car into a skid. The super-direct steering can suffer from bush wear; it should be exceedingly tight and free of any play. Worn kingpins or track rod bushes are another possible culprit if play is found. Check what tyres are fitted – the trailer tyres you often see on these cars aren’t really suitable. The club sells Heidenau tyres for £30 each, which have been well tested.
If we haven’t put you off already, there’s one more hidden area to examine for corrosion. This is the ledge on the bulkhead that supports the brake servo. Debris accumulates here and, especially if combined with leaking brake fluid, can cause the metal underneath to rot through.
The interior is minimal, with rubber matting on the floor and simple vinyl seats. Watch for water ingress and wear, but a retrim shouldn’t be too costly. Electrics are also pretty minimal, but are 12-volt at least. Make sure everything works – horns often seize up as they get pelted with road muck. A Dynastart unit provides charge and starts the engine. Make sure that it does so happily as replacements are hard to find. If charging seems weak, brushes are readily available, though the engine needs to come out to fit them.
You don’t really need us to sell the idea of Messerschmitt ownership to you – you either gaze upon those oddball looks and fall in love, or you want to run a mile in the opposite direction. You need a certain amount of bravery to drive one on modern roads, but your reward is huge amounts of fun and surprising pace. Most change hands away from public view, so membership of the club is essential.