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Ms. Isabella Borgward, class of 1958

Isabella's father Carl F.W. Borgward, her father
November 10, 1890 to July 28, 1963

Designed and built in Bremen Germany
  • TS (Touring Sport) Saloon
  • 2-door monocoque body
  • Fully independent, coil spring suspension
  • Rear-wheel, split-axle drive
  • 4-speed syncromesh on-the-column
  • 4 inline cylinders, OHV, pushrod
  • 1493cc (91 CID)
  • 56 kW (75 bhp)
  • 114.7 Nm (84.6 ft-lbs) torque at 2,800 rpm
  • 1,232 kg (2,716 lbs) weight
  • 6-volt electrics
Isabella Borgward

My Borg was rustored, as in rust, by my father, Malvin (Red) West, using soldered lead for body filler, baling wire and pie pans for head light fixtures. Buffalo, New-York winters were tough on car bodies back then. He even drilled a hole through the bell housing to lubricate its noisy throwout bearing.

All of dad's work was appreciated by me and my friends, many of whom didn't realize that the column shifter had four-speeds and that there was another gear to go after 70 mph. Its fully independent suspension gave it exceptionally precise control through the turns.

Corporate intrigue and greed may have led to Borgward's demise. The Bremen State Senate discredited itself by engaging Dr. Johannes Semler, a chartered accountant, to investigate Borgward's financial status, when Dr. Semler was, at the same time, a supervisory board chairman of BMW. Carl Borgward, the company's founder and owner, refused to accept a bridge loan, which would have relinquished his power. So, in 1961, Borgward, Germany's fourth largest car company, ceased its manufacturing operations in Germany, resulting in the loss of 23,000 jobs. Interestingly, all creditors were paid in full after the assets were sold, with a surplus remaining, showing that the Borgward Group was indeed financially solvent. Today, the former Borgward plant at Sebaldsbrück, Bremen is owned by Mercedes Benz.

While the factories were being sold and the assembly lines dismantled, Carl Borgward suffered from a heart attack, from which he did not survive, and on July 28, 1963, almost the date of my graduation from Maryvale, one of Germany's greatest automotive engineers passed away. They aren't just cars are they? In the case of Isabella, it was Carl Borgward's heart and sole. But nonetheless, he was a former Nazis, a user of slave labor, an allied prisoner... However, its hard to judge him out of the context of Germany at that time. Perhaps, when we judge him, we should compare his actions to those of Dr. Warner von Braun, who was never judged or punished, in any way, for the same crimes committed at Peenemunde while developing offensive missles used against England.

I feel fortunate to have driven this historic car, and I've told many Germans I met over the years about my experience with their country's marvelous auto, which led to some engaging conversations, at least mit den Männern, aber machts nicht mit den Damen.

June 1954, the first Isabella is built In June 1954, the first Isabella rolls off the Borgward assembly line at Sebaldsbrück, Bremen, Germany. The car was named after Carl Borgward's wife.

Borgward pancake engine The 1959 Borgward Arabella (named after his daughter) flat-four pancake engine was later adapted for use in the 1968 Subaru

Further reading:

I dedicate this page to my father, who gave me something great to drive, to appreciate, to ponder, and to remember.