NORTH TUSTIN, Calif. — When David Raab drives around town, people notice.

Some people slide their cellphones out of their pockets to discreetly snap a picture. Others unabashedly grab their cameras, smile and wave as they capture the image.

Raab is a star behind the wheel of his micro cars — one and two-cylinder cars, including one that was once driven around Waterville.

“It’s hard to drive them and not get some reaction,” Raab said. “They’re fun to drive, and it’s fun to watch them drive by.”

His Waterville car is his second BMW Isetta, a 1957 model. It still has its original light green paint, complete with an original advertisement for Geo. H. Lyons Plumbing and Heating of Waterville. It has about 7,000 miles and is in original mint condition.

“I decided from the beginning I’d stay as original as possible. I wanted it to look like when it came out of the BMW factory,” he said. The Isetta was BMW’s first mass-produced car, he said. Television character Urkel from “Family Matters” drove an Isetta, lending fame to the tiny automobile.

Raab’s mini hobby began in 2005. He was headed to work when he spied a Subaru 360 on the freeway. The Subaru 360 is a tiny car that bears a slight resemblance to an old Volkswagen Beetle. One Internet search later, and he was hooked.

“I decided I had to get one,” he said. And he did, six months later. Raab was prepared to fly around the country if needed, but he found a 1958 BMW Isetta nearby in Murrieta.

He had never restored a car, but with a neighbor’s help, Raab has done much of the work himself. He had the 1958 Isetta dipped to remove seven layers of paint before restoring the car and painting it a bright orange.

“They got everything they needed in the little car and it’s so unique,” he said. “And it always puts a smile on people’s faces.”

He even makes micro car parts, such as wiring harnesses and turn signal lenses, selling them to other people who want original-looking pieces. Few original parts are available, he said. “It’s fun. It’s time-consuming,” Raab said, noting that the micro cars have been a learning experience. “I’m the kind of person who will keep asking questions until I get the right answers.”

Micro cars that need restoring can cost $2,000 to $3,000; but a restored car in good condition could go for as much as $50,000, he said. Raab doesn’t plan to sell, but he does want to buy more of the vehicles. “They’re adorable, and they’re very fun to drive around,” said his wife and frequent passenger, Jeanine Raab.

He later picked up a 1958 Gogomobil, made by BMW after the company bought Hans Glas in 1966. Raab also owns a Vespa 400, a micro car with a small back seat; and a 1958 Lloyd Alexander.

Raab doesn’t have a favorite, but if he could only choose one to save from a hypothetical fire, Raab would run for the light green 1957 BMW Isetta from Waterville. “A car’s only original once,” he said.

He said the Vespa 400 is the easiest to drive. All the cars have manual transmissions.

“I would like to say they’re practical and we should all go to this size car, but it’s not practical,” he said. In the 1950s, when the cars were sold, they were cheaper than larger automobiles. But after World War II ended, people could afford to buy big and dropped the micro cars, Raab said.

Combined, his cars have eight cylinders. The two-cylinder cars are the Lloyd Alexander, Vespa and Gogomobil. The Lloyd Alexander gets 25 horsepower. The Gogomobil and Vespa get about 14 horsepower. The Isettas have one cylinder each and about 13 horsepower.

“We don’t measure in miles per gallon. We measure in smiles per mile,” he jokes.

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