A Brief Borgward History

 

The founder and owner of the Borgward group in Bremen, West Germany was Dr. (Eng.) Carl F.W. Borgward.  He was born in 1890 in Hamburg-Altona, and first trained as a fitter and turner (Schlosser), then studied mechanical engineering (Maschinenbau).  Wounded in World War 1, he returned and bought a share in a small manufacturing business, which he later took over completely.  He turned the little firm into an automotive component manufacturer, producing radiators and fenders.

He commenced making three-wheeler 200cc 2-stroke delivery vehicles (named Blitzkarren) in 1924.  This vehicle was quite successful, and led to the improved Goliath light commercials.  The growing business forced Borgward to move several times to larger premises, and in 1929 he made his great coup, buying shares of the ailing Hansa-Lloyd company for a fraction of their value, effectively taking control of the company.  The old-established Hansa-Lloyd firm had resulted from the merger in 1914 of Hansa (established 1905) and Lloyd (established 1906).  Borgward later bought the firm completely and merged it with Goliath in 1930.

In 1931 the first Goliath passenger vehicle, the three-wheeled Pionier, was produced, and some 4000 were sold.  By 1934 Borgward had developed the Hansa 1100 and 1700, which were attractive, well-enginered cars that re-established that marque.  Production of Goliath and Hansa-Lloyd trucks continued successfully. 

During the second World War, Borgward was forced to build military vehicles.  (A man near Perth, W.A., has a W.W.2 Borgward staff car which seats 11 and can be used with 2, 4 or 6 wheel drive.)  

With most of his factories destroyed in Allied bombing raids, Borward had to begin again after the War.  His first post-war car was also the first all-new German car, the Borgward Hansa 1500, released at the end of 1949.  The modern styling of this car was a development of the streamlined Borgward Windspiel of 1937, though it is often said that it was also inspired by new American designs Borgward had seen in magazines while interned by the Americans after the war.  As with all Borgward Group products, the styling was wholly the work of Dr. Borgward himself.  He had re-established his firm and designed this lovely car at the age of 58 – an age at which many today consider people to be no longer productive!   The car was built on a central tube chassis and had swing-axle independent rear suspension.

In mid 1950 two new cars appeared from the Borgward Group, both with two-stroke motors and front-wheel-drive.  They were the tiny Lloyd with a 293 c.c. motor and leatherette-covered plywood body, and the larger Goliath, with a 688 c.c. engine. 

In 1952 the Borgward Hansa 1800 came on the market, followed in 1953 by a diesel engined Hansa.

In June 1954 a totally new Hansa 1500 with unitary construction was released, and was soon renamed the Isabella.  A special model of the Isabella was the Coupé, often celebrated as Borgward´s most elegant design.  A total of 202.862 Isabellas was produced.

In January 1957 the Goliath 700 and 900 models were replaced by the all-new 1100 c.c. flat four, 4 stroke engined cars with a sinilar body to their predecessors.  The name was changed to Hansa in 1958, to get away from the two-stroke image. 

Lloyds also developed further, into steel bodied cars with 600 c.c. four-stroke motors.  1959 saw a new Lloyd, the Arabella, with a 900 c.c. flat four simlar to that in the Hansa 1100.  These cars were greatly admired for their very attractive styling.

The big six cylinder Hansa 2400 was replaced in 1960 by an all new design, the P100 or „Grosser Borgward“ (in correct German “Der große Borgward“) of 2238 c.c.  This car had a new design of air suspension, well before a similar system was introduced by Mercedes Benz.  Unfortunately only 2547 examples of this brilliant automobile were built before the end of the Borgward Group.

The end of the Borgward Group is a shameful story.  The Government of the state of Bremen (where Borgwards were built) claimed that Borgward was insolvent,and then effectively compulsorily acquired the company.  They then side-stepped all schemes which might have saved the firm, putting the cars out of production and selling up the assets.  All creditors were paid in full, proving that the company had never been insolvent after all – but governments that act improperly are always above the law.  Borgward died a broken man in 1963.  There is some evidence that other car makers were involved in the plot to destroy Borgward, but the full truth has not yet been revealed.

A group of Mexican businessmen bought the machinery and rights to the Borgward cars and had full intentions of restarting the production in Mexico.  Various problems with finance and bureaucracy delayed the new start until 1967 – too late to be successful.  Only 2267 P100s (called Borgward 230s in Mexico) were built in Mexico before the plant closed in 1970.

Today the former Borgward plant at Sebaldsbrück, Bremen is owned by Mercedes Benz. 

There are Borgward Clubs in Germany (3 clubs), Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, France, Great Britain, South Africa and the USA (2 clubs), most of which are much larger than our Borgward Register in Australia.  All are devoted to preserving the various cars built by the Borgward Group, and in doing so they preserve the memory of Carl F.W. Borgward, one of the most creative and individualistic of automobile builders.  The preservation of Borgward cars also serves as a protest against the enormous injustice that was done to Dr. Borgward and his firms.

 

BORGWARD IN AUSTRALIA

A small number of Borgward Hansa 1500s was imported into Australia in the early 1950s, and one was even entered in the 1955 Redex Trial (by Messrs Tottey and Hedley, of Armadale, Victoria).

A much bigger impression was made by the Goliath, imported by the Kenneth Wright organisation from 1954, and assembled in Melbourne to reduce import tariffs.  The Goliath was chosen because the two-stroke DKW had been very successful in Australia before the War, and it was recognised that the Goliath would appeal to the same market segment.  With well-placed advertising and spectacular successes in Economy Runs (in cars driven by Kenneth Wright himself, with co-driver Colin Oliver), these cars quickly established themselves securely on the Australian market. 

From 1958 Kenneth Wright also imported the Borward Isabella, and marketed this thoroughbred automobile very successfully.  As the following road test excerpts show, the Isabella was regarded with admiration and even awe by the motoring press.  The transformation of the Goliath into the Hansa 1100 (marketed as the Borgward Hansa 1100 in Australia) gave these cars an even greater acceptance among discerning buyers, who paid more than the price of a Holden for the small but high quality cars.  Dealers were appointed in all states, and included Mr. Wright´s son, also called Kenneth, in Adelaide.

There were plans to assemble the Isabella in Australia, but unfortunately this was one of many dreams that died when Borgward was forced out of business in Germany.

Quite independently of Kenneth Wright, L.J. Hartnett (father of the Holden car and the Harnett project) assembled and marketed the Lloyd vehicles in Australia.  According to his book „Big Wheels and Little Wheels“ (page 229)  Harnett sold some 3000 Lloyds, which were called Lloyd-Hartnetts in Australia.  L.J. Hartnett claims that Dr. Borgward himself suggested this name, a gesture which Hartnett greatly appreciated.  In reality, unfortunately, the number sold was probably considerably less than Hartnett claimed...

It is clear that Borgward could have had a greater role in Australia if the Borgward Group had stayed in business.  Hartnett imported several Lloyd Arabellas, and Kenneth Wright one Borgward P100 („Grosser Borgward“), and these cars were very well received.  Indications are that they would have sold very wll here.

It is very interesting to read what contemporary Australian road-testers had to say about Borgward vehicles.  the following excerpts capture some of the feeling of that era, but above all show that the Borgward Group products really were recognised to be superior cars. 

 

Wheels March 1955            („Wheels Road Test Analysis of the Goliath“)

With only five moving parts in its two-stroke engine and without the complex valve gear universal in cars today, the front-wheel-drive Goliath seems assured of a market among people who buy cars for reliability and economy and are not prepared to put up with any sort of mechanical nonsense.

The car is foolproof.  Fuel injection replaces a carburettor;  the suspension will deal with all sorts of road conditions.  Gears are selected with an all-synchromesh gearbox.  Steering, handling and safety are good.......  

All told the Goliath is a small car that has many workmanlike features that will assure a long, maintenance-free life.  It behaves a lot differently on the road from conventionally engined cars and has an acceptable performance for most drivers.  (This was the 700cc version, that was really a little underpowered!)

Australian Motor Manual Febrary 15 1956    („1956 Goliath gets Uplift in Power and Styling“) 

Borgward, Goliath and Lloyd are three divisions of one of Germany´s biggest automobile concerns, the Borgward Group.  Factories are situated at the big seaport of Bremen on the North Sea Coast.  While the actual Borgward Company builds cars of 1500 and 2400 c.c., Lloyd concentrates on minicars.  The Goliath Division, the new product of which this article is concerned with, builds particularly spacious automobiles that fall into the small car category......

With an extra 11 b.h.p. the Goliath is now adequately poweredto undertake any job or trip that may be put its way.  Speeds in gears have increased only slightly for although higher gear ratios are used the wheels are smaller.  The excellent flexibility of the smaller-engined car is still maintained.  Handling and cornering power are imperceptibly improved by less unsprung weight.

Cruising speed is now about the same as the earlier model‘s top speed.

 

Australian Moror Manual May 15, 1956            („Lloyd 600 is Economy Car “)

The West German Lloyd is an attractively styled small car with an economical appetite and a lively performance.  Recently introduced to the Australian market, the Lloyd 600 is a most attractive small car.  It is available in three body styles, a four seater saloon, a station wagon and a panel van, all powered by an amazingly economical 596c.c. air-cooled twin cylinder engine.......

The interior of the Lloyd, like the exterior, has the excellent finish which characterises Continental cars.....

Summing up, we feel that there will always be a steady if not great market for any car which can offer the operating economy, excellent finish and attractive appearance of the Lloyd.  It is to be regretted, however, that excessive import duties and sales tax have raised the price of the car so that it is more a luxury means of transport than the „people‘s car" for which we have waited so long.

 

Cars Today December 1956            („Goliath goes hard – and likes it!“)

One of the most interesting small cars on the Australian market is the Goliath;  its unconventional two-stroke design, with petrol injection, is fully justified by results.

It combines extreme economy, a high standard of road behaviour, and more comfort and excellence of general finish than is usual in cars of its size......

The whole of the distance from Melbourne to the top of nearby Mount Dandenong, by way of Croydon, involved no change down from fourth, except when stops were made, and there was always something in hand even with two solidly built people in the car.

Maximum speed was 78 mph.  (126 kph)......

In the course of my run I encountered enough rough road and potholes to prove the Goliath is a notably good-riding car.  As to its handling qualities, they were well up to the standard for a good front-wheel-drive – and that´s saying plenty.

 

Modern Motor June 1959    („A peppier Lloyd-Hartnett“)

A new, more powerful and better-equipped Lloyd-Hartnett has just been released in Australia – it´s the TS family saloon, TS standing for touring sport. 

The TS does not supersede the standard job, which of course is the Australian-assembled version of the German Lloyd Alexander 600;  it just has more sting in the tail (or rather the nose) and more equipment. .......

The normal Lloyd-Hartnett saloon is alredy remarkably equipped for its price, with heater-demister, camping body and blinking lights fitted as standard.

Add to this the new contoured seats, armrests, internal and external rear-view mirrors, coathooks, ashtrays front and rear, a control for flashing the headlights to cars being overtaken, and assymetrical headlights, and you have the Lloyd Hartnett TS.

The Lloyd is one of the few front-wheel-drive cars in production – and combined with independent suspension all round (transverse semi-elliptics with an auxiliary anti-roll bar at front, trailing wishbones and coil springs at therear) its handling through corners and over rugged surfaces is well above average.  .......

With only 45 Pounds difference between the two cars, we´d tip that the distributors will soon find the TS model outselling the standard Lloyd-Hartnett saloon.

 

Wheels April 1960            („Borgward´s value for money car“)            (Isabella TS)

One of the really exciting family cars to come to the local market, and one which I might add, is finding many friends, is that highly efficient piece of Teutonic machinery, the Borgward Isabella TS........

We voted this the most desirable car under 2500 Pounds in which to do a long-distance interstate trip.....

The appeal of the Borgward is in its many abilities, rather than aesthetic appeal.  It is a fairly expensive car (1775 Pounds) but is virtually unbeatable value for the person who cares about the type of car he drives.  Performance, handling and economy are unexcelled in the class.  Interior appointments and comfort belong to a car of around twice the price.

In the best German tradition, the Isabella TS is a chunky, solid car that really gets its teeth into the job.  In a word, great!

(For comparison:  prices of other cars in April 1960, all in Australian Pounds:  Holden, 1169, Ford Zephyr, 1318, Vauxhall Cresta, 1468, Humber Super Snipe, 1824, Chrysler Royal V8, 2059, Mercedes Benz 190, 2270, Chevrolet Bel Air, 2313, Jaguar 2.4, 2382, Ford Fairlane 500, 2468, Pontiac, 2472, Studebaker Lark, 2495.  From 1966 Australa used Dollars, 1 Pound = 2 Dollars.)

 

Australian Moror Manual May 2, 1960            („A car for the connoisseur – The potent, beautifully finished Borgward Isabella TS“)

During the recent test the car performed so well that even now it is hard to believe that the performance figures are genuine.  And the test car was not specially tuned.  Actually it had covered over 20.000 miles as a demonstration vehicle and the only preparation it received for our test was a polish........

Summing up, the Borgward is a car that has to be seen and driven to be appreciated.  Offering a standard of performance, appearance and economy unmatched by any car  in its class it is also renowned for reliability and long life.  It is hard to see how anyone with 1775 Pounds to spend could buy anything else.

 

Australian Motor Sports and Automobiles, August 1961            („Borgward Isabella TS, A gentlemen´s carriage for the sportsman“)

In the few years that Borgwards have been available in Australia, the marque has secured for itself a reputation forsuperior finish and reliability which must be the envy of its rivals.  The reputation is wll-founded and based on indisputable fact........  

This is a car which must be driven to be believed, but be careful – many a driver has attempted this and then spent a frustrating time putting his affairs in order prior to purchasing one.  Don´t say we didn´t warn you.

 

Other interesting Borgward History Links:

   Borgward History at a glance ....

   Very detailed Borgward History

 

                                                                                                             Home (Australian Borgward Club)