Somerville, NJ Cruise Night, July 15, 2022

This past Friday, July 15, 2022, I attended the Somerville, NJ Cruise Night, held on Main St. It’s been a few years since I’ve attended. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the Cruise Nights were completely cancelled during 2020 and 2021 because of the Covid shutdown. If my own blog is to be believed, I’ve not been in attendance since 2016!

It was good to be back. Both sides of Main St. were lined with a nice variety of special-interest cars. The sidewalks weren’t too crowded, and the warm summer New Jersey air, to my great relief, lacked the usual humidity. I strolled up and down the blocks several times, after which my wife drove into town so that we could share a pizza at the well-regarded Alfonso’s. By the time we were done, it was getting dark and having seen what I was there to see, we headed home.


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the town of Somerville was at first against the entire Cruise Night idea. But once they saw the crowds and the business these crowds brought to the local establishments, everyone was on board. Perhaps later this summer I’ll swing back and bring one of my own cars to park on Main St.


There were plenty of Corvettes in attendance: I spotted C2, C3, C5, C6, and C7 generations parked along the street. In addition, at least 3 different C8 Vettes were seen cruising up and down the main drag.


1st gen Mustang with custom tail lights


Mercedes-Benz 560SL


Custom hot rods still show up in significant numbers in Somerville


1969 Mustang


Rarely seen Chevy II wagon


’52-’54 Fords were at one time very popular with rodders


Olds Cutlass


1973 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am



Triumph TR-6 sports cars seem to have survived in large numbers compared to some other ’70s sports cars


When did you last see one of the Franco-American Renaults? This poor Encore needed a jump.


Pontiac GTO


One of the last of the full-size Olds convertibles


1955 Chevrolet


DeTomaso Pantera. Drivetrain axle yokes are the size of my skull; they need to be to put that power down.


VW Beetle does duty as pizza delivery vehicle



I thought this pre-war (’39? ’40?) Plymouth was snazzy


2nd gen AMC Javelin (this one an SST)


The local Alfa dealer had this gold Stelvio on display



A mildly customized ’55 Chevy, not a Bel Air!


The ubiquitous ’57 Chevy


A 1968 King Midget. Had a long talk with the owner (Clifford) and we compared notes about what it’s like to own a small quirky car like a King Midget or Isetta.


Alfonso’s is one of the best Italian restaurants in the area. We walked in and were told (this at 7 p.m.) that the wait for an inside table would be 25 minutes, and for an outside table, 40 minutes. Instead, we sat at the bar to eat pizza and drank beer.




The Isetta Saga, Chapter 26: A Return to Form in 2004

After two consecutive years of successfully showing the Isetta at several shows, two of which involved a lengthy drive to Connecticut, I was ready to take some time off from the circuit. A glance through my photo archives reveals little participation in automotive events of any kind for the years 2002 and 2003. In the autumn of ’03, I purchased the 1968 Mustang California Special, which made me feel like I was cheating on the Isetta. Now I had to divide my attention between two cars, and the Mustang beckoned, not only because it was newer, but also because a trailer was not required. The medium-term plan was to drive the Mustang in an upcoming New England 1000 rally, a task that the Isetta was sadly not up to.

Before I knew it, it was 2004, and three years had passed since showing the little red car at Greenwich in 2001. Concours rules said “a vehicle displayed at Greenwich is eligible for showing every three years”, so I applied and was accepted.

Rain or shine, it was car show time


My Isetta with its BMW brethren

This time, my BMW was correctly placed in the same display circle as the other BMWs. But that was about the only happy element of the event. It was a day of miserable weather, with a steady cool rain which kept spectators away. My wife and I were dressed for the occasion, and worked to make the best of it.

My wife Margaretanne was a trooper for tolerating the weather

Parked directly next to my car was a BMW 600 (often incorrectly referred to as an “Isetta 600” –its officially name is “BMW 600 Limousine”). From the front, most people mistake it for an Isetta. It does share its front-hinged door and pivoting steering column with its little brother. Built on a slightly longer wheelbase, the 600 included a 2nd row of seats, one side door for access to that row, and most importantly, a two-cylinder boxer engine displacing about 600 cc.

The differences between the 600 (L) and 300 (R) are obvious here

The 600 is an interesting vehicle in BMW’s history. With the runaway success of the Isetta on a global scale (ultimately, 160,000 units produced, which made it BMW’s largest-volume model to date), company management wanted that success to be a springboard to a larger model, presumably to attract a bigger audience. Unlike the Isetta which was designed by the Italian firm Iso, the BMW 600 was designed in-house. Complaints that the Isetta was too small, underpowered, and lacked passenger room were all addressed in this larger model. Alas, the public did not respond in kind. Produced from 1957 to 1959, only 35,000 units were sold. The silver lining is that the 600 begat the “normal looking” BMW 700, which begat the Neue Klasse cars, and the rest, as several million people before me have said, is history.

The BMW 600, which some feel is less cute than the 300

Back to the car at the show: the young woman who piloted the 600 there was not the owner. She claimed that the car was owned by her boss, and he asked her to bring it to the show. Yet she seemed to be well-versed in its history. She had no issue with the idea that she would be driving her boss’s 600 back in the rain!

She was more than happy to display her boss’s 600

Awards were announced, and what’s this? No award for the Isetta this year? Hey Bruce, what gives? I was getting used to the accolades. Oh well, I told myself, I’m not here for the trophy, I’m here for the experience.

A few months later, I decided to bring the Isetta to the Somerville (NJ) Cruise Night, held every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day (and weather permitting, extended for as long as cars show up). This time, my stepson accompanied me, and assisted with trailer duties and photography. Like many cruise nights, there is no pre-registration, and parking on the street is on a first-come, first-served basis. We parked the trailer several blocks away, and got to drive the Isetta on some local streets through town. Luckily, as soon as I turned onto Main St., the show’s location, a parking spot appeared.

Stepson John takes first known photo from inside my moving Isetta


Just another red car out for a cruise


Managing to avoid Dodge Durango while turning onto Main St.


Blowby from tractor-trailer threatened to flip Isetta

It’s one thing to look at the Isetta and say “that thing is small”. It’s another thing to park it adjacent to other vehicles and see how truly tiny it is.

Isetta’s length matches hood of Torino behind it

As has been the trend, I spent much of the evening answering what seemed to be the same half-dozen questions:

  • Is this thing street-legal? (Sure, I drove it here)
  • How much horsepower does it have? (Thirteen, but a healthy 12-year-old boy on a bicycle can outdrag me)
  • What the top speed? (50 mph, downhill with a tailwind)
  • What kind of gas mileage does it get? (60 miles per gallon, so the 3-gallon tank gives me a cruising range of 180 miles)
  • How many people can you fit in there? (Two, but they really have to like each other)


The Isetta was proving to be a consistent attraction

The repetition was encouraging me to shoot back the same zany answers every time. By 9 p.m., it was time to get the Isetta back on the trailer. At least home was only eight miles away.

Later that year, while attending Hershey, I saw a beautiful yellow Isetta at the show. This was the germination of an idea: perhaps I could look into entering my Isetta at a future AACA event….

Taken at AACA Hershey 2004

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.