Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Isetta - Steering Wheel

The pivoting steering wheel attached to a single front opening door is probably one of the Isetta's most unique design features.

I believe that most Isetta steering wheels were an off white / almond color from the factory. It would have matched the color of the directional and dimmer switch housings. On most of the unrestored Isetta's that I have seen, the paint is worn through in spots revealing the black rubber rim of the steering wheel. I'm guessing that's why the previous owner of my Isetta's painted over the original almond color with black.

I wanted to restore my steering wheels back to the original color. Bruce Fullerton has an excellent step by step article for restoring steering wheels on his Isetta Tech website:
I really hate using paint strippers so I thought I'd do a little experiment in the bead blaster. I don't recommend it. Bead blasting easily pits the rubber once you've broke through the outer paint. I also don't recommend sanding. Any grit that is coarse enough to cut through the paint leaves deep scratches in the rubber that will require lots of fill work and fine sanding. As much as I hate using it, paint stripper is the way to go. Bruce mentions using JB Weld epoxy for filling cracks. Another suitable epoxy for filling cracks would be PC-7.

I used RustOleum Almond Appliance Epoxy for painting my steering wheel and the dimmer and directional housings.

One other small change I made was to not paint the cast aluminum steering wheel hub. Instead I masked it off, and lightly polished it after painting.

I bead blasted the steering column and steering guide and painted them the original silver / grey aluminum color. I also replaced the nylon bearings in the steering guide, the brass contact ring for the horn, the sliding contact brush for the horn, and the plastic piece that fits under the dimmer and directional housings on the steering guide. All the replacement parts for the steering column came from Isetta's R Us.

Restored steering wheel and column.


  1. Some of the steering wheels and horns were a darker creamed coffee color which is also correct. The reason most people repaint them in almond is the reproduction horn buttons are usually almond in color too.

    1. Burgess:

      Outstanding job! Same for everything else you've done on your restoration. I was very apprehensive about using Dad's EZ Spray Paint Remover but it's the ticket. That paint BMW sprayed on their steering wheels is some tough stuff. If anyone else is going to do this job just stay with it from start to finish when it comes to the paint removal part and get all the paint remover off with lacquer thinner and sand. I think I used 400 grit, made several passes and then wet sanded it and gave it a bath before painting.

      Keep up the good work and great photo-documentation!

    2. Thanks Bruce! Your website has been a tremendous resource and inspiration for me during the restoration of my Isetta. - Burgess Z.