‘The Small Escape’ – The Bravery Of Jacobi & His BMW Isetta

'The Small Escape' - BMW Isetta
'The Small Escape' - BMW Isetta

‘The Small Escape’ celebrates the ingenuity and engineering of Klaus-Günter Jacobi, his friend Manfred Koster and a BMW Isetta that helped nine people find their freedom in West Berlin 1964.

This remarkable story is now being told by the German marque about Klaus-Günter Jacobi (79) who on a regular basis accompanied visitors through the museum rooms as an accomplished tourist guide.

Jacobi, privy to the often unsuccessful escape attempts, has the outlandish idea of ‘squirrelling’ a person within the tiny confinements of the Motocoupé, passing Checkpoint Charlie and dangerously crossing the border to reach freedom from East to West Berlin.

‘The Small Escape’

‘The Small Escape’ celebrates this incredible story and was released on 2nd October 2019 across television, Youtube and various other social media channels of the BMW Group. The elaborate plan has been produced and filmed in the style of a short movie thriller, eerily transporting the audience back to the once-divided city in 1964.

'The Small Escape'
‘The Small Escape’

Jacobi’s family had previously left the east of the city in 1958, three years before the wall when his longtime friend Manfred Koster reached out to him for help in fleeing the GDR. It was then that the pairing devised a bold plan – Jacobi’s iconic BMW Isetta could serve as the perfect escape vehicle.

The Tiny BMW Isetta

Measuring only 2.30 meters long and 1.40 meters wide, the discreet Motocoupé was an ideal choice to negociate carefully through the guarded borderline between East and West. Even today this miraculous achievement to stow away a grown adult within the limited space behind the driver and front opening door seems completely miraculous. It was decided the only way to achieve this would be a hidden compartment behind the driver and in close proximity of the rear engine.

Isetta Conversion

The conversion was carried out at a former training workshop in Berlin-Reinickendorf, where car mechanic Jacobi cut the manhole behind the driver’s seating area, relocated the shelf and even omitted the spare wheel, heater, and air cleaner. Another problem encountered was the 13-liter tank which was carefully exchanged for a smaller ‘two-liter’ reservoir so as the additional escaping occupant could reside without throwing the three-wheeled micro-car off balance.

The short movie, directed by Alex Feil with cinematographer Khaled Mohtaseb and production designer Erwin Prieb, masterfully shows how this ingenious risky idea to ferry escapees over the border was not only incredibly successful but also historically significant.

Replica checkpoint, props, costumes, vehicles and street scenes including a true-to-life image of Berlin in the 1960s all help to recreate the oppressive atmosphere in this remarkable story.

'The Small Escape'
‘The Small Escape’

Jens Thiemer, Head of Brand Management BMW said:
“Cars have given people freedom and self-determination since their invention. Cars bring people together. This should always be considered in the current debate. This film underlines this. The moving escape story with the help of the BMW Isetta is also emblematic of the priceless value cars and the possibility of individual mobility can have – it’s about freedom, independence, and dreams. Our film recognizes the drive and courage of the people who made this successful escape possible.”

It was on May 23, 1964, shortly before the border crossing at midnight, the insignificant rebuilt BMW Isetta ventured under the open barrier, shortly after liberating his close friend Manfred.

This particular Isetta was used only once but encouraged another similar converted BMW Isetta which succeeded in the following years with a further eight East German citizens fleeing to the West. This vehicle can be visited today in the Berlin Wall Museum.

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In the future, the film ‘The Small Escape’ will become an integral part of the permanent exhibition on spectacular escape attempts.

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