Carl F. W. Borgward was a hands-on automotive innovator from 1920 forward, but oddly, no cars bore the Borgward name until 1939, when the Hansa 2000 was renamed the Borgward 2000. Borgward started from scratch twice – once in the 1920s, and again after WWII, and was seen as the financier, engineer, designer, factory manager, and salesman!
Rebuilding after the war, the Borgward portfolio included Hansa, Lloyd, Goliath, and Borgward, and collectively accounted for a number of German automotive firsts, such as slab-sided styling, consumer gas fuel injection, air-suspension, automatic transmissions, and construction methods. Not politically savvy, Borgward’s run-ins with members of the Bremen Senate eventually led to one of Germany’s most spectacular and notorious bankruptcies, apparently for no good reason, in the early 1960s. At one time, it was Germany’s second largest auto producer, and competed well with Mercedes-Benz and Opel, and was larger than Alfa, BMW, Saab, and Volvo.
The Isabella seen here is the car for which Borgward is best remembered. Knowing that German wives figured heavily in the buying decisions, he chose a pleasing shape and feminine name, and the car was a huge success. Introduced in June 1954, it was a unibody 2-door powered by a strong 1493cc OHV engine and featured an all-synchro 4-speed and upmarket coil and wishbone independent suspension. This dual-carb TS model was the ‘hot rod’ with more power and a distinct trim and paint scheme. TS’s accounted for 40% of production and were eventually available as a saloon, a coach built Coupé, an Estate, or a convertible. It was also successful in racing, winning its class at Silverstone in 1956, and at Spa and Argentina in ’57. Tom McCahill, a period journalist, remarked that its road-holding “hugged the road like a drunk de-gravitated.”
The original owner of this car, Grace (Ty) Daehmers and her sister, Helen, drove it cross-country in 1959. Helen often stood up through the large sunroof, yelling “Up periscope!” while checking traffic ahead. Ty and her husband, Robert, drove it until her death in 1992. Their mechanic, Bob, made the two creatures seen on the hood ornament. Helen donated the Isabella to the museum in 2014.
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Manufacturer: Carl F.W. Borgward GmbH, Bremen
Country of Origin: West Germany
Drivetrain Configuration: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: Water-cooled, 1493cc, I4, 75bhp (non-TS 60 HP)
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Top Speed: 90mph
Years of Production: 1954-1961
Number Produced: 202,862 all types (saloon, Coupé, Estate, convertible, sedan delivery, pick-up)
Original Cost: $2845