Wednesday, November 14, 2018

1960 Borgward Isabella

A number of car companies have had strange endings. Tucker comes to mind right away. The demise of Borgward is just as controversial as Tucker's ending.

This is from a Borgward post I wrote in 2014...

Introduced in 1954 (and originally called the Hansa 1500), the Isabella was stylish, modern, and, after Borgward corrected a few flaws on the early cars, well built. It was a successful car for the German Borgward brand. They sold over 200,000 of them.

In Germany, the Isabella was priced higher than sedans from Opel and Ford, but lower than a Mercedes-Benz 180. In the US, where it was briefly sold, it was a "middle class" German car, a niche that didn't really develop here for another couple of decades. It was far more expensive and much, much better equipped than a VW, but cheaper than a Mercedes. At one point, dealers in the US had ordered over 9000 cars, but the US distributor ran into financial problems and most of those orders were cancelled.

Unsold cars remained on the lot at Borgward's factory and things started to unravel quickly. In 1961, despite Carl Borgward's insistence that his company was solvent, his creditors forced the company into bankruptcy. As the bankruptcy process moved forward, his creditors were paid in full and they soon learned that Borgward was actually in the black. The bankruptcy was - and remains - controversial. It was handled by Johannes Semler, who was chairman of the board at BMW at the time. BMW was just about to introduce the 1500 (Neue Klasse cars), a car that filled a similar niche as the Isabella. After the bankruptcy, many of the key Borgward personnel went to work for BMW. Hmmm... The Borgward factory was taken over by Mercedes Benz and is still in use today. The Borgward production line was sold and shipped to a Mexican firm which produced some Borgward cars in the mid-to-late sixties. The Isabella wasn't one of them.


This car was posted today on a Facebook group called Obscure Cars For Sale. The person who posted it lives close to where the car is located. He believes the seller is “a mechanic who works only on classic cars." Whoever owns it took very good care of it.

The seller does not list a price, but despite their rarity and German heritage old Borgwards do not sell for huge money.

Located in Vermont, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

PS - In 2015 a grandson of Carl Borgward revived the Borgward name with a line of SUVs. Recently it introduced a new Isabella sedan. With Chinese investment money it looked like it might do well. But according to this recent Autoweek article, things are not going smoothly.

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