The Goliath Story
When Carl F.W. Borgward started as a manufacturer in 1919, his tiny factory in Bremen-Hastedt (20 employees) manufactured car parts – fenders and radiators – for which there was a great need; such things had been unobtainable during the war. The quality of his products was high, and he was able to win the contract to supply radiators to the old-established manufacturer of trucks and luxury cars, Hansa-Lloyd, which also happened to be in Bremen-Hastedt. By 1921 Borgward´s firm had 60 employees, and Borgward was already planning to build his own car. He drew up plans and began to build a prototype of a tiny two-seater roadster, but soon realised that his little plant did not have the capacity to build a car.
By 1922, the little firm was able to buy a larger factory in Bremen-Neustadt. When an employee, „Opa (Grandpa) Klie“ complained about having to move materials around the plant with hand-drawn wagons, Borgward responded enthusiastically – he began work on a simple three-wheeled powered cart, on which the driver sat at the back behind his load. With bicycle wheels, belt drive, 120 cc two-stroke motor and neither gears nor starter (it had to be push started, then the driver jumped aboard!) it was an absolute minimal veh-icle, but it did the job. In impoverished post-war Germany, there proved to be a market for the simple „Blitzkarren“ (Lightning Cart), and by 1924 the hundredth unit had been built.
In 1925, a greatly improved version was developed. Although the plant´s staff voted to call the little vehicle the „Liliput“, Borgward named it the Goliath, after the giant in the Bible story, to suggest that it could do a giant of a job. Constantly growing production forced Borgward to move yet again – in 1928 – to the larger factory of a bankrupt motor-body building firm that was opposite the Hansa-Lloyd works. By this stage, every fourth commercial vehicle in Germany was a Goliath!
Hansa-Lloyd continued to build large, expensive vehicles, which found few buyers in the prevailing economic conditions. In 1928, Germany´s motor vehicle production had been 120 000, but had steadily dropped to 45 000 by 1931. As the prices of Hansa-Lloyd shares fell, Borgward cunningly bought them up, taking over the company in 1929. He pruned the model range and built cheaper, smaller vehicles that could be readily sold.
Goliath continued to build a variety of three and four wheeled commercials. In 1931 Goliath also built its first passenger vehicle, the „Pionier“ – a tiny three-wheeler with a 200 cc engine and leatherette-covered plywood body.
It´s not politically correct to admit that the Nazis did anything right, but the fact is that the German economy picked up markedly after they seized power in 1933. By 1936 Germans were buying 140 000 cars a year – and exporting another 27 000. Not only that, they were becoming more demanding, wanting larger, better cars. In 1933, the Goliath Pionier was replaced by the Hansa 400, a four-wheeler, but also with a plywood body. It was a flop – nobody wanted such a primitive car anymore. Borgward bought in presses to build the steel-bodied Hansa 1100, which, with its attractive styling and four-stroke engine, was such a success that Borgward had to build Germany´s most modern auto factory, at Bremen-Sebaldsbrück, to cope with the demand. (Today this factory builds various Mercedes Benz models.) The Goliath factory continued to build small commercials until 1938, after which it was required to build military equipment.
After World War II, Goliath began building handwagons and trailers for bicycles, then resumed production of its three-wheeled commercials, modernised and updated. These found a ready market in the bombed-out country that was slowly struggling back to normality. Materials – steel, rubber, etc. – were in short supply, and Borgward discov-ered that, by registering various different companies, he could get greater allocations. Accordingly, after Borgward-Hansa had resumed production at Sebaldsbrück and Goliath had begun its commercial production, his new car firm, the Lloyd Maschinenfabrik GmbH, began building the Lloyd LP300 in 1950. As with the old Hansa 400, this was a small two-stroke car with a leatherette-covered plywood body,. Lloyd was accommod-ated in the Goliath factory, but the demand for the simple but useful Lloyd was so great, that it became necessary to build a new factory for it.
With Lloyd relocated, Goliath could build its own new car. Designed by former DKW employees who had fled from East Germany, it had a modern chassis with clever suspension, front wheel drive and a 700 cc two-stroke motor. At the time, the efficient, low-maintenance two-stroke had a big following, especially in Germany, Scandinavia (Saab was two-stroke until 1967!) and Greece. The Goliath had an extremely pretty, rounded body, designed by Borgward himself. It was a relatively expensive car, because the ageing factory in which it was built was not set up for high volume production, and much had to be done by hand. The chassis was fabricated by hand welding, and every panel had to be finished with a hand-held disc sander before assembly. Goliath still had a three-wheel cheap-car image in Germany, which hindered its sales.
Despite all this, the Goliath´s many good qualities – style, handling, and amazing space in such a small car – quickly found it numerous friends, and it was also successful in export markets, including (from 1954) Australia. In 1952 Goliath had introduced fuel injection, a world first for petrol motors. This helped the Goliath achieve both higher power and excellent fuel economy (in the 1956 Mobilgas Economy Run in Australia, Colin Oliver and Kenneth Wright won with an incredible 54.43 mpg or 5.12 litres /100 km!) Even under normal conditions the Goliath was exceptionally economical. A Wheels road test got 43.5 mpg (6.5 litres /100 km), and Cars magazine got 44.6 mpg (6.32 litres/100 km) from the larger-engined GP 900 E, released in 1955. In Australia a Goliath cost nearly the same as a Holden, but its excellent handling, quality finish and economy were reason enough for a small number of discerning car buyers to choose one.
A range of four-wheeled commercials, named „Express“, was introduced in 1953, and always had the same engines as the pass-enger cars. Despite attractive styling and large interior dimensions, they never achieved any real popularity.
In 1957, recognising that Germany´s new prosperity would make two-stroke motors less saleable (they had acquired a poor-man´s-car image), Goliath switched to a flat four cylinder four-stroke, which was universally acclaimed as a masterpiece of engine design. In 1958, (with new rear end styling) the car had its name changed to Hansa, to further distance the firm from the old cheap-car image. In Australia, these cars were sold as Borgward Hansas. In 1959 Hansa introduced a world first that has become standard – a folding, divided rear seat-lean that gave access to the boot. Hansa sales picked up steadily until the bitter end of the Borgward Group. An attractive new model, designed by Frua, was under development; the prototype still exists. Goliath/Hansa made most interesting cars, and the world is much poorer for their absence.
Written by Marius Venz Copyright © 2010 Borgward Car Club of Australia Inc. May be printed by other not-for-profit car clubs provided full credit is given.