Isabella: The swansong.

In 1954 the protagonist of our article, the Isabella, appeared. This car was the marque’s biggest hit, but was sadly also the final model it built.

Carl Friedrich Borgward’s adventure in the field of car manufacturing began in Bremen in 1921. From the beginning the young Carl, passionate about cars (and locksmiths), worked on the project of a twin-cylinder sports car, but soon had to come to terms with limited resources, which led him to fall back on a small three-wheeled vehicle, whose name was Blitzkarren.

Although it was the opposite of the original project, this small vehicle was immediately adopted by the German Post Office, which contributed greatly to its widespread use. Other three-wheeled models, like the Goliath, followed, whilst the real evolution of the marque came with the Hansa models, when the name changed to Hansa-Borgward. After a few years, however, the Bremen brand returned to its original denomination and financial independence.

Civilian vehicles were not manufactured during the Second World War, when the factory was converted to the production of heavy vehicles for the military. After the conflict, despite the difficulties, production rose and diversified into the field of commercial vehicles. In 1954 the protagonist of our article, the Isabella, appeared. This car was the marque’s biggest hit, but was sadly also the final model it built. It was medium-sized and was launched purely as a two-door car. The elegant lines, accentuated by chrome highlights, were very classical, with the large Borgward rhombus logo on the nose. Initially it was offered with a 1500 cc engine producing 60 bhp but was joined, in 1955, by a more powerful 75 bhp engine, which also featured in the new cabriolet version, presented that same year.

The price made the car inaccessible to most: it cost less than a Mercedes but more than the popular Ford, but, despite this, the car achieved great success both in Germany and abroad. After 1956 sales started to decline, forcing the company to propose further versions. The sports car came with the 1957 Coupé, which had the powerful TS engine and differed from the other models in the different design of bodywork with a more slender appearance. The following year the station wagon was also introduced, called the Kombi. In parallel with its commercial success, Borgward also had to deal with production costs which were higher than the competition, which led, in 1961, to creditors forcing the unfortunate entrepreneur into bankruptcy, despite his claims that the company was still solvent.

Borgward’s downfall still remains a highly controversial mystery; many have talked of conspiracy on the part of other German makers, which had never looked favourably on this innovative brand. Even though the company had been declared bankrupt, production of the Isabella continued until 1962, when the factory was taken over, firstly by Hanomag and later, ironically, by Mercedes. Many of the workers were taken on by BMW instead. The visionary founder died the following year. The production lines were sold to Mexico and production of the car continued there until the end of the 1960s. Production of the Isabella in Germany amounted to over 200,000 examples.

In 2008 the marque re-appeared, thanks to the grandson of the founder, Christian Borgward, together with his partner Karlheinz L. Knöss and an investment fund. Since 2015 it has produced a range of SUVs, when can be seen HERE, on the website of the new Borgward. The products and the image are, to be honest, not the same as the marque created by his grandfather Carl, and the question arises: “Maybe it would have been better if they had left it to sleep in peace?”

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.


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