Borgward Isabella – 1954

Carl Borgward was an innovative German engineer who made his mark in the 1920s with the Blitzkarren (Lightning Cart) — a tiny three wheeled delivery van. Cars followed in the 1930s and production was resumed after World War II with the Borgward Hansa 1500, a striking modern saloon car that made its debut in 1949 — the first all-new postwar model to appear in Germany.

In 1954 the Isabella superseded the Hansa, though initially the name was not changed. The Isabella proved to be a winner, and remained in production for the rest of the company’s short life. Named after Carl Borgward’s wife, this medium sized two-door saloon car was a huge success, despite early models being affected by teething troubles. These were in part due to innovative features like a swing rear axle, coil spring suspension all round, a hydraulic clutch and four-speed box with synchromesh on all gears. The Isabella retained the ‘three box’ body style that Borgward pioneered with the Hansa, which became a manufacturing norm in Germany.

1955 saw the introduction of an estate-car version, and a cabriolet that required considerable modification of the monocoque body and was therefore expensive. Carl Borgward continued to innovate and the Isabella’s looks were improved with an attractive coupe model that was introduced in 1957, utilizing the cabriolet’s more powerful engine. This in turn found its way into the upmarket saloons and estate cars by 1958.

Isabellas continued to sell well, but there was trouble in store. In 1961 Borgward was liquidated, despite Carl Borgward’s insistence that the company was solvent. He was proved right, but by then a manufacturer who might have become another great German automotive success story had been forced out of business. Borgward’s machinery was sold to Argentina where more Isabellas were produced.




1954 (until 1962)


1,493 cc Straight Four


Top speed around 81 mph (130 km/h)


The untimely demise of Borgward allowed BMW to launch its stylish 1500 line in 1962, to plug a big gap left by the vanished Isabella – a lucky break that is said to have rescued BMW from possible bankruptcy and laid the foundation for future success.


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