Automobiliar Schreiber, Visual


Borgward Isabella

As a "well done metamorphosis of the once apparently so heavy and massive old Hansa 1500" saw Auto Motor & Sport the Borgwald Isabella with her "fluid lines" and „gracious styling“ well deserving of her womanly name.
(No 13/1954 p 9)
Erik Eckermann
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Borgward Isabella
Isabella Matern
Isabella Matern
Isabella Matern
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The resonance in the press and public caused the producers to drop the planned name of „Hansa 1500“ in favour of the unofficial and internal name "Isabella", a good idea.

The Italian form of the Spanish name Isabel met the desire of the German public for sun and the south. As well, the association, "bella" = beautiful, was a good moniker for this make.

The Motor-Rundschau (No 23/1954 p 850) summed "the most prominent are the streamlined form and comfortable passenger compartment, the poise and speed by a low average petrol use". The tester Joachim Fischer found not only the elegant curves and floor-space size of 7.5 m² as a rare and respectable quality, but especially the complete concept.

With a motor delivering 60HP/44Kw and a netweight of 1100 kg the Isabella brought over the Alps the idea of a sporty middle-class car in a compact form for everyday use to northern Europe. With her weight/power ratio of 16.6 kg/HP the Isabella left the Guiletta 1300 from Alfa Romeo (17.4 kg/HP) as well as Lancias Appia (21.6 kg/HP) and even the street bully Fiat 1100TV (16.8 kg/HP) in her wake.

To quote the Motor-Rundschau again "with the development of a whole new Borgwald type, that not only enriched the German but also the European market, that forced new efforts in the middle class sector. How true.
In 1954 or later could none of the German producers could offer anything comparable auto when it came to good looks, temper, economy, safety and spaciousness.

Not until 1962, a year after the end of Borgwald, did BMW take over the idea of the sporty family wagon with the introduction of the model line 1500/1800/1600/2000, that is a matter of course for all modern auto producers.

The heart of the Isabella was the one and a half litre four-cylinder motor constructed by Karl Ludwig Brandt (1907-1990).

The high power of:

40.2 HP/l (29.6 kW/l)

compared with:

1953-57 Mercedes 29.4 HP/l (21.7 kW/l)
1953-55 Opel Olympia Rekord 26.9 HP/l (19.8 kW/l)

was achieved by Brand through better airflow through the carburettor, higher condensation, rpm and a higher ratio in the drill/stroke relation resulting in a higher concentration in the motors capability, moderate changes compared to the old Hansa 1500 from 1949-1952 that in turn evolved form the 1.4 l motor of the pre-war B1000 Truck.

The basically simple motor construction made it preisworthy to produce. It lasted for hundreds of thousands of kilometres, partly in thanks to the near-flow oil filter, in those days a mark of expensive automobiles.

Special features weren't left out either. Motor, transmission axles and steering were all built together hanging elastically in the chassis and easily unbuilt in case of the need for repairs.
A first among German cars of its class, the hydraulic clutch pedal minimised vibrations and bumping when changing gears. It was complimented with a fully synchronised. four-gear transmission and a steering column stick shift.

The hanging foot pedals weren't typical of the day in the German auto industry. The rear-axle was double-jointed with sliding supports to assist by the installation and all combined into a single unit. The front axle had a crossbar of different lengths above and below While the front and rear were equipped with telescoping shock absorbers and for the front a brace.

The drive-train hangs in a self-supporting one piece steel frame-with a smooth floorboard- which even today isn’t a matter of course. The fenders are fastened with screws to the body and can be removed quickly with out any welding. Thanks to the rear hatch which reached to the floorboards (containing the spare tire compartment) the trunk is comfortable to load.Most of the competitors forced one to heave luggage over the rim.

Another speciality were the roll-down a-frame windows at the passenger and drivers side in contrast to the usual swing-out type. An intensive bit of work and probably resulting due to patent rights.

The Price impressed those in the know even more. "For an automobile with that kind of room, a 60 horsepower motor, and sportscar type extras the price-tag of DM 7.200 is nearly unbelievable", wrote Auto Motor & Sport (No 20/1954 p 13). Further, "one wonders if they haven't saved in some areas", which is shown to be false in the above mentioned specifications. The test results in the Auto Motor & Sport ended with a resounding "Well done, Isabella!"

Thanks to the Isabella the production at Borgwald increased significantly. Compared to the production of 33.841 Hansas between 1949 and 154, in the eight years of Isabella production 203.000 autos were manufactured (including all variations).

Compared to the competitors Opel and Ford, Isabellas number are naturally quite modest being independant. In 1958 and 1959 more Isabellas were manufactured than mercedes 180 with petrol motor. Not to mention the prestige arising through Isabellas variations out of Bremens factory.

After 1954´s basic model there followed quickly:

1955 Convertible 60HP Sedan based Body by Deutsch
1955 Station wagon 60 HP --- ---
1955 TS 75 HP --- ---
1957 Coupé 75 HP --- ---
1957 TS Deluxe 75 HP --- ---
1957 Convertible 75 HP Coupé based Body by Deutsch
1959 Convertible 75 HP Sedan based Body by Deutsch

Technical statistics:

Motor, carburettor ignition:

Electric equipment:

Battery 6 V 84 Ah, electric generator 130 W at 2200 rpm, Ignition sequence 1-3-4-2, mechanical ignition distributor, ignition plug thermal 225

Clutch and Transmission:

hydraulic single-plate, dry-clutch, steering-column gear-shift, four fully synchronised forward gears, one reverse, Reduction: 1st 4.18; 2nd 2.23; 3rd 1.47; 4th 1.00; R 4.4


Dimensions and weights:

Outer dimension: 4390x1705x1465 mm
Wheelbase: 2600 mm
Lead (front/rear): 1336/1360 mm
Groud clearance (loaded): approx. 175 mm
Basic weight: 1020 kg
Weight allocation (front/rear): 48.57/51.43 %
Accepted overall weight: 1375 kg

Performance data:

Specific performance: 40.2 HP/l (29.5 kW/l)
Performance weight: 16.7 kg/HP (22.7 kg/kW)
Maximum speeds and climbing power (%, fully loaded):

4th gear: 135 km/h u. 10.4 %
3rd gear: 90 km/h u. 14.5 %
2nd gear: 55 km/h u. 23.3 %
1st gear: 30 km/h u. 4.7 %

Petrol usage: 8.7 l/100 km (Auto Motor & Sport, No 20/1954 p 15 and Motor-Rundschau, No 23/1954 p 85)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 25 s



Price: DM 7200 incl. heater
Production start: June 1954
Production end: September 1961
Pieces: 165466 (all versions excl. station wagon)

© 1997 - 2006 Erik Eckermann