BMW wasn’t the only company to license the Isetta from Iso of Italy – there were two others; Romi in Brazil and VELAM in France.
VELAM stood for “Véhiculer léger à Moteur”, translated light vehicle with motor. It was a dedicated company with genuine production lines set up by Michel Cromback in Anthony Lago’s old Talbot factory in Suresnes.
VELAM built a variety of models based both around the original, and it built one very sporty looking record car that was also registered and used on the road. In addition, there was an open Sports model that appears to have remained a one-off.
The record/ race car has at times been called the Isetta Spéciale, at others the Corse (Course), and even the Aero. In contrast, when it appeared in the 1957 French Automobile Annual, it was given no special name.
The aluminium body VELAM prepared for the record car was cigar shaped, described by some as a ‘mini Zeppelin’, and was painted French racing blue.
The record car used the standard base, meaning same wheelbase and tracks. Width is only a few millimetres less, but significantly the height is only 590mm to the top of the body – less than half.
This record class allowed both supercharging and standard atmospheric engines to compete under the one heading, but VELAM chose to keep things pretty standard; the only notable deviation was the use of a special doped fuel mix that increased power to 12bhp. For this a special carburettor was fitted and Solex provided an uprated fuel pump.
A designer by the name of Bianchi created the body shape which with headrest fitted lifted the height to 730mm. Longer or taller gear ratios were installed too to make full use of the more streamlined body shape and additional power. With 12bhp the standard VELAM bodied car would expect to be capable of 85kph max, but the best lap at Montlhéry resulted in 118.55kph, with many consistent laps at 117kph.
Wheels were fitted with Englebert tyres run at 2.6 to 2.8 bars instead of the standard 1.2 to 1.4 bar.
On 30th July 1957 Bianchi and Claude drove to 7 international class K records, with a further 11 taken between the 30th September and the 10th January 1957.