Historic Car Brands
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 before studying mechanical engineering.
Wounded in World War I, 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 began making a three-wheel, 200cc two-stroke delivery vehicle called 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 premise 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 that had been established 1905 and Lloyd that began in 1906. Borgward later bought the firm completely and merged it with Goliath in 1930.
Goliath Pionier – Lothar Spurzem
In 1931 the first Goliath passenger vehicle, the three-wheeled Pionier, was produced and around 4000 were sold. By 1934 Borgward had developed the Hansa 1100 and 1700, which were well-enginered cars that re-established that marque. Production of Goliath and Hansa-Lloyd trucks continued successfully.
Borgward Mk IV mine-deployment vehicle
During World War II, Borgward built trucks, personnel carriers and tracked explosives-deployment vehicles.
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.
Borgward Hansa 1500 – Lothar-Spurzem
This new model was powered by a four-cylinder, 1500cc engine, with overhead valves.
The modern styling of this car was wholly the work of Dr Borgward and was a development of the streamlined Borgward Windspiel of 1937, with some possible inspiration from new US designs Borgward had seen in magazines while interned by the Americans after the War.
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 293cc motor and leatherette-covered plywood body and the larger Goliath, with a 688cc engine.
In 1952 the Borgward Hansa 1800 came on the market, followed in 1953 by a diesel-engined Hansa.
Borgward Isabella Coupe – Norbert Aepli
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 Coupe – Borgward’s most elegant design.
The Isabella’s engine proved durable in motorsport, modified to produce 100hp and then, with fuel injection, 115hp. A Borgward Reennsport racing car won the 1954 Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring and another took a class victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia.
Next year, Borgward was back, with an aluminium-block engine that had twin overhead camshafts. Despite strong competiotn from Porsche a Borgward was runner-up in the 1956 German Sports Car Championship.
In January 1957 the Goliath 700 and 900 models were replaced by the all-new 1100cc flat-four, four-stroke-engined cars, with a body similar to their predecessors. The name was changed to Hansa in 1958, to remove the two-stroke image.
Lloyd cars developed into steel-bodied cars with 600cc four-stroke motors. In 1959 came a new Lloyd, the Arabella, with a 900cc flat-four similar to that in the Hansa 1100.
Borgward P100 – Lothar Spurzem
The six-cylinder Hansa 2400 was replaced in 1960 by an all-new design: the P100 or Grosser Borgward with 2.25-litre engine. This car had air suspension – well before a similar system was introduced by Mercedes-Benz. Unfortunately, only 2547 examples of this ground-breaking automobile were built before the Borgward Group ceased trading.
The 1961 Borgward financial demise was controversial. The German magazine Der Spiegel published a story in 1966, implying that if the proprietor had been more willing to take advice from his own directors, the Borgward company could have easily overcome its financial problems of 1961.
But Carl Borgward was financially naive and reluctant to accept advice: his preferred source of credit had always involved shunning the banks and simply taking extra time to pay his creditors, rejecting advice on the financing of his business from his own Finance Director.
By Autumn 1960 he was holding onto unpaid creditor invoices worth more than 100 Million Marks for sheet metal and tyres alone. Given that all the company’s creditors were eventually paid in full, the liquidation decision appeared nevertheless to have been taken prematurely.
Borgward BX7 – IAA 2015 – Speilvogel
The Borgward name resurfaced in 2015, with the display of a Chinese-built BX7 that was produced by Chinese truck maker, Foton.
Borgward brands Down Under
A few Borgward Hansa 1500s were 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 that was 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 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 established themselves in the Australian market.
From 1958 Kenneth Wright also imported the Borgward Isabella that was regarded with admiration by the motoring press.
The transformation of the Goliath into the high-quality Borgward Hansa 1100 gave it more appeal, although it was more expensive than the larger Holden. Dealers were appointed in all states and there were plans to assemble the Isabella in Australia, but that was shelved when Borgward went out of business.
Lloyd Hartnett Alexander 1958
Independently of Kenneth Wright, L J Hartnett – father of the Holden car and the Hartnett project – assembled and marketed Lloyd vehicles in Australia. According to his book Big Wheels and Little Wheels, Harnett claimed to have sold around 3000 Lloyds, which were called Lloyd-Hartnetts in Australia, but the real number is likely less.
Lloyd cars were praised by the press for their build quality and all-independent suspension ride and handling, but pricing was high, thanks to import duties.
Goliaths were considered radical, being front-wheel-drive cars, but the press liked the all-synchro box and the supple suspension.
But the greatest praise went to the Borgward Isabella.
Borgward – Norbert-Aepli
In 1960, Wheels Magazine voted the Borgward Isabella TS ‘the most desirable car under £2500 ($5000), in which to do a long-distance interstate trip…’
For the time, it was a fairly expensive car, at £1775 ($3550) but it was ‘virtually unbeatable value for the person who cares about the type of car he drives’. Performance, handling and economy were class-leading, Wheels said, while interior appointments and comfort belonged to a car of around twice the price.
Motor Manual Magazine said: ‘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’.
We’re indebted to the Borgward Car Club for their input to this section.