CARL F. BORGWARD was an acquisitive German automobile
engineer who, before World War 2, purchased the Hansa, Hansa-Lloyd and Goliath factories. He turned out a variety of small cars before the war, his best known being the four-cylinder, ohv Hansa 1100, which was built from 1934 to 1939.
This model was supplemented by the 1700, which was simply the 1100 with two further cylinders added. This 40 bhp car was capable of 65 mph and featured independent suspension on all wheels. There was even a sport version of the car which had its power output improved to 50 bhp.
Engine size of the Hansa range gradually crept upwards to two litres and, just before the war, Borgward unveiled a special version of the two-litre six, with twin overhead camshafts, which produced a high power output for the time. The onset of the War prevented any further developments and the Borgward factories, centred mostly on Bremen, were put to war work.
After the war, Borgward got back into their stride earlier than most German car makers and announced the Hansa 1500 at the 1949 Geneva Show. This was an advanced and attractive car with all enveloping bodywork, which was powered. by a four-cylinder, ohv engine giving 52 bhp and a top speed of 75 mph.
Borgward was a staunch believer in the publicity value of competition and, in 1950, a streamlined version of the car with a 66 bhp engine took twelve international class speed records at Montlhery, including 1000 miles at an average of 107.3 mph. The cars were renamed Borgward soon afterwards, although various Lloyd and Goliath models were also made, mostly to cater for the bubble car boom of the late fifties.
The most popular Borgward was the Isabella, which was developed from the earlier Hansa and announced in 1954. This attractive car soon gained a following among the knowledgeable motorists of as for it was a genuine 90 mph saloon with seating capacity for five passengers and independent suspension on all wheels.
Bill Blydenstein's Isabella
The Isabella was used in saloon-car racing by drivers all over the world, but nowhere to better effect than in Britain where the Dutch/Norwegian driver Bill Blydenstein took his Isabella to countless victories. The Borgward factory embarked on an ambitious competition programme, but, instead of using their experimental twin-overhead-camshaft, 1500 cc, four- cylinder engine, they used a modified pushrod engine.
In 1952, Hans Hugo Hartmann gained victories at the Grenzlandring and Avus circuits in his Borgward RS with the pushrod engine, which now gave 100 bhp. A fuel-injected unit, based on the Isabella engine, was being used by 1954, still with the same bore and stroke as the basic Isabella block. This engine, which produced I I 5 bhp, was good enough to give Bechem victory in the 1954 Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring
. In 1955, the car gained a class victory in the Mille Miglia, and, for 1956, an entirely new racing engine was devised.
The Borgward 2000 of 1939 was powered by a straight six. Note the transverse leaf spring.
This new engine still had the same 84.5 mm bore and 75 mm stroke of the 1488 cc Isabella but the engine had a Silumin (silicon-aluminium) block, wet liners and a new twin-overhead-camshaft cylinder head
with four valves per cylinder. It also featured fuel injection, dry-sump lubrication and twin ignition systems. The sturdy engine had a five-bearing crank-shaft with chain drive to the camshafts and, on a 10.2: 1 compression ratio, it gave 150 bhp at 7500 rpm. The car had little success in its first two seasons, although Hans Herrrnann did gain second place in the European Mountain Championship in 1957.
Giving The Porsches A Run For Their Money
The tiny, open Borgward RS was often out of luck in circuit racing, but when Jo Bonnier
joined the team, in 1958, he gave the all-conquering 1500cc Porsches a run for their money in the German sports-car championship.
Bonnier lost first place at the Avus by only 0.8 sec and Borgward had to be content with second place in the championship. Bonnier also had to be content with second place in the European Mountain Championship but he won the important Freiburg hill-climb by a very big margin.
On the production side, the Isabella continued throughout the 1950s, supplemented by the pretty TS coupe, but sales could never quite keep the company far enough ahead of their creditors and, in 1960, the smaller Lloyd Arabclla was given the Borgward name in an effort to boost sales of this cheaper car.
Borgward retired from racing in 1958, not from choice but because of financial problems. However, the twin-cam racing engine was lent to private owners, to fit into single-seater chassis, most notably Stirling Moss
who raced a Cooper in the 1½ litre Formula Two with this engine. The engine gave around 175 bhp by this time and Moss was able to gain some success with it.
Even later, when Formula One went to 1½-litres in 1961, the German driver Kuhnke attempted to use the engine in Formula One racing, albeit with no success at all. In a last gesture to grab a share of the luxury market, Borgward announced a limousine, a large car powered by a 100 bhp, six-cylinder engine. It had optional air suspension and many other luxury touches, but it failed to attract much attention and only ten months later, in 1961, the Borgward company succumbed to its financial difficulties, once and for all, and was closed down.
There was much rumour of Britain's BMC taking over the Brernen factories for the expansion of Austin and Morris sales in Europe, but negotiations fell through. A small German firm bought up enough stocks of parts to sell cars for a few years and a Mexican firm, Fanasa, purchased the tooling from Bremen with the idea of building Isabellas under licence in Mexico. These schemes never seemed to get off the ground, and as far as serious production was concerned the Borgward company died in 1961.