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Borgward coming forward - an icon revived

2015-02-12 06:59


CAPE TO JOZI AND BACK RECORD: The Borgward Isabella TS, driven by Boet Ferreira and Buddy Fuller, who in 1960 set a record for the fastest Johannesburg- Cape Town round trip. Image: Dirk Engelbrecht and Borgward SA Club

Remember the Isabella? Or the Hansa? Real car nuts will recognise these names but for those who don’t it’s quite understandable for the manufacturer responsible for these legendary models hasn’t been around for more than 50 years.

We’re talking about iconic Borgward, of course…  

The legendary German automaker, which left a lasting legacy in South Africa, is about to return to production.


In an official statement from Borgward AG, its revival is described as the culmination of more than a decade’s work by industrialist Karlheinz Knöss and Christian Borgward, grandson of  founder Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Borgward and president of the new Borgward AG, registered in Switzerland in 2008.

According to the release, plans for the renaissance of the company started at the time of the new millennium. Since then, the automaker said, “an ever-expanding group of globally renowned engineers and designers has worked quietly but tenaciously to revive the brand”.


Borgward will announce its plans and present its business model at the 2015 Geneva International Motor Show which will open on March 3.

Christian Borgward said the revival of the brand was inspired by the unique heritage of his grandfather’s legacy and that the relaunch is “a childhood dream come true”.

According to Knöss the autoamker is ready to produce vehicles: “Incorporating the values and cutting-edge technologies that Borgward stood for, combined with our ambition, drive and commitment to succeed, I believe we are now perfectly placed to open up this new chapter in Borgward’s history.

“Geneva is an important milestone for us and we cannot wait to be back there.”

The 1949 Geneva auto show or Salon de l’Automobile de Genève saw the Borgward Hansa 1500 make it global debut, the first Borgward model following the Second World War.

VIDEO: Borgward's Geneva revival message


From 1919 to 1961 the Borgward Group, based in Bremen, was one of Germany’s largest and most successful automakers. The group produced a wide range of vehicles and engines under the brands Borgward, Goliath and Lloyd. From 1929 to 1961 over a million vehicles were produced.

Borgward created some of the most iconic cars of the early 20th century as well as a large range of commercial vehicles, trucks, buses, fire engines, boats, electric cars, sports cars and even helicopters (such as the ill-fated Kolibri).

The company continuously pioneered technical novelties and set new standards in the industry. The 1949 Borgward Hansa 1500 was the first German sedan with, what the automaker claimed, had “an aerodynamic pontoon body” – a precursor of modern automotive styling.

The 1955 Borgward Isabella TS was the first road car to combine the comfort of a family sedan with the agility and performance of a sports car. Its 1959 P100 was the first German passenger car featuring a revolutionary self-leveling air suspension.

From 1950 to 1958 Borgward was also active in international motorsport and the Borgward Hansa 1500 team successfully competed in various race events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nürburgring 1000km, Carrera Panamericana and the Montlhery 1000km race where it set 12 records.

In 1961 the company was forced into liquidation by creditors (nary a conspiracy theory surround these events) and founder Carl Borgward died in July 1963.


Borgward entered South Africa in 1955 and its cars proved so popular that a local assembly plant for its Isabellas and some of its trucks was under consideration.

After a distribution agreement was reached with Apie le Roux in Johannesburg and Gerald Wolman in Cape Town, sales rocketed. At one stage, nearly 22% of the all Borgward exports were destined for South Africa. Apparently local sales were even better than sales in the United States.


A Borgward Isabella TS still holds the record for the fastest trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town and back. It was set in 1960 (in the days before speed limits) by the legendary oval track racers Boet Ferreira and Buddy Fuller. Their time for the 2900km round trip was 23hrs50min, averaging 122km/h.

While faster trips were made after their effort, none can be “officially recognized”, so their record could stand indefinitely.

After the liquidation of the parent group in Germany, Le Roux and Wolman unsuccessfully tried to re-establish the bankrupt company in South Africa.

In the end the Bremen factory was dismantled and reassembled in Mexico where some Borgward 2300 models were assembled before the line finally closed down in 1970.


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