While it was a brave and self-confident act just a year after the end of the First World War, founding an automotive supplier to produce radiators was only an interim step for Carl F. W. Borgward. The 29-year-old engineer wanted to design and build cars – nothing else.
The famous Blitzkarren (“Lightning Cart”) he produced in 1924 marked the starting point. It fulfilled the need for a cheap means of inner-city transportation and paved the way for a string of vehicles, which by the end of the decade had captured a 25 per cent share of the light commercial vehicle market. Borgward’s partner, the businessman Wilhelm Tecklenborg, sold the licence for the Blitzkarren to the Deutsche Reichspost, which used the engaging little truck to collect mail from Bremen’s post boxes. When a new name was proposed for the truck, the employees were in favour of Lilliput but Borgward, always a big thinker, decided on Goliath instead. Four years later, an entire generation of greengrocers, bakers, farmers, and tradesmen took to the wheel of the new Goliath.
Carl F. W. Borgward could have taken the easy option in the aftermath of the Second World War, by recommencing production of his extremely popular pre-war vehicles. As a general rule, German carmakers adopted a cautious approach to developing new technologies at the time. As a restless and visionary engineer, however, Carl F. W. Borgward was looking far beyond the horizon.
Pontoon bodies were becoming familiar in the US, so why not adopt this concept in Europe? He began post-war production with a completely new vehicle – ambitiously setting high standards for other manufacturers to follow. The Hansa 1500, presented in Geneva back in 1949, was the first European vehicle to have a pontoon body with integral wings – it established another key landmark in the history of automotive design.
Carl F. W. Borgward was a pioneer. Being the first to market with either a technology or a product idea remained a motivating force throughout the brand’s history. While tirelessly examining fresh opportunities, he was consistently creative and always striving to develop new solutions.
Premiered in 1952, the Goliath GP 700E anticipated a technology that was not adopted in mass production until the end of the 20th century. Back then, almost 50 years earlier, Carl F. W. Borgward first became enthusiastic about the potential of direct fuel injection systems. They could dramatically improve consumption, drivability and emissions, especially in conjunction with the two-stroke engines that were commonplace in 1952. The Goliath GP 700E was a sensation and set a milestone in automotive history; it was the first regular production car with direct fuel injection offered motorists an incredible 30 per cent reduction in fuel consumption compared with a carburettor version. Overrun fuel cut-off reduced emissions of the car’s neat 700 cc 29 hp two-stroke engine.
For some, manual gearchanges erode the quality of luxury motoring. Although widely accepted today, an automatic was a radical concept in the early 1950s – at the time, no European car manufacturer offered one.
In 1953, the BORGWARD Hansa 2400 became the first luxury car to afford this extra option. The innovative three-speed transmission with torque converter was a complete in-house development – pioneering thinking at its best.
Iconic is an over-used adjective, but not when it comes to the BORGWARD Isabella. It is a car that combines the German passion for precise engineering with a beautiful and functional design.
Sixty years ago, mid-sized family cars were expected to offer space for five people including luggage, and their interiors were usually characterised by a relentlessly sober atmosphere.
Carl F. W. Borgward disputed this orthodoxy. Why should a family car not be a pleasure to drive and look at? The BORGWARD Isabella opened up a new segment and featured attributes that could thus far only be found in luxury vehicles – sportiness, desirability, spaciousness and reliability. With an output of 60 hp, the BORGWARD Isabella outperformed its direct mid-sized competitors in 1954 by almost 50 per cent. As the first genuine family sports car to offer outstanding performance, it set standards in its segment and marked the beginning of a new era in the automotive market. Like its predecessor, the 1955 Isabella TS, which developed 75 hp, pursued the family sports concept and offered improved performance without compromising safety or reliability. The longevity of its 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine was legendary.
The Isabella derivatives were the result of innovative engineering and open-minded thinking. Why not also offer a coupé for even more driving pleasure? Or a convertible? And wouldn’t an estate car benefit from the diverse nature of the Isabella’s character? This expanded line-up reflected the further development of a groundbreaking idea and Borgward’s ambition to challenge existing boundaries and compromises – long before it became the norm, the Isabella range exemplified diversity.
The Isabella also established the excellent reputation of BORGWARD cars around the world – a reputation that has lived on for half a century. Carl F. W. Borgward’s infallible instinct for latent market niches helped to achieve the biggest success in BORGWARD’s history – in all, more than 200,000 Isabellas were sold.
Carl F. W. Borgward was a doer. For him, hesitation was an alien concept. This attitude stayed with him throughout his working life, from 1919 until 1961. Pride in his personal performance and that of his entire team was a core trait of the BORGWARD brand. It also provided the springboard for the company – the third largest market player in Germany in the late 1950s – to investigate new, outstanding solutions.
The sumptuous six-cylinder P 100 managed to combine comfort and safety in equal measure and, even 55 years after its launch, its technical specification remains impressive. It was the first European car to feature revolutionary, self-levelling pneumatic suspension, ensuring that the ride height remained constant, irrespective of the load and driving conditions.