It's easy to like a Ferrari, or a Corvette or any given muscle car. It's far harder to explain what makes a 20-hp three-wheeler not big enough to hold a typical high school lineman worth preserving. Yet one man's two-decade quest to build the world's largest collection of microcars has made him a hero among enthusiasts — and in two weeks, he's putting his entire 200-vehicle fleet on the auction block.
Bruce Weiner made his fortune in the candy business, successfully reviving once dormant names like Dubble Bubble and selling his company to Tootsie Roll in 2004. That business grew out of a fascination with old machinery of any stripe, from watches to arcade games. Starting in the early 1990s, Weiner says he was captivated by the subculture of microcars — vehicles born mostly in Europe and Japan following World War II, when shortages of steel, rubber and consumer cash made tiny cars powered by scooter or motorcycle engines a necessity for families.
Weiner says chasing microcars offered far more satisfaction to him than kicking the tires on some Ferrari, because it required traveling the world to seek out like-minded collectors; in many cases, only a few copies of any given model were ever built, making it possible to own an entire production run. And the people who kept them were often less interested in top dollar sales than making sure their cherished car was going to an owner who cared. "The thrill of microcars," Weiner says, "is that the size of your checkbook alone doesn't determine whether you can acquire them."
That said, a few of the cars and pieces of memorabilia RM Auctions will sell on Feb. 15 and 16 will still command a plus-sized price, thanks to Weiner's meticulous research and restorations. This rose-colored F.M.R. Tiger, a four-wheel variation of the Messerschmitt three-wheeler, was one of a few offered as a "sport" edition that could reach 60 mph in 28 seconds, and could fetch up to $150,000.
Many of the cars are the only ones of their kind that exist, or like the Voisin Biscooter and BMW Isetta pickup, are factory prototypes. And while most date to pre-1965, a few modern editions have snuck through the gate, namely the Whattadrag, a recreation of a Hot Wheels toy mating a 1958 BMW Isetta with a 750-hp Chevy big block engine and dragstrip-sized rear wheel.
Although many of cars in Weiner's collection will be offered at prices below $30,000, the sale could fetch more than $10 million — money Weiner says he will use to collect something else that catches his eye.