The Borgward Isabella was a medium-sized, two-door Sedan manufactured by the Bremen based auto-manufacturer Carl F. W. Borgward GmbH from 1954-1962. Initially, the car was badged — like its predecessor — as the Hansa 1500, but within the company it was known from the beginning by the code name, Isabella (not after Carl Borgward’s wife whose name was Elisabeth), and cars produced after 1957 bore the ‘Isabella’ name, inscribed eye catchingly within the rhombus at the centre of the front grille: in retrospect, the car produced from 1954 is known as the Isabella to differentiate it from the (first) Hansa 1500/1800 which the company produced from 1949-1954.

Despite its aspirational positioning in the marketplace, the Isabella had a smaller engine (and was marginally shorter) than its immediate predecessor. Late in 1952, the firm had launched their six cylinder Hansa 2400 model. The larger car never found many buyers; but in 1954, it made commercial sense to keep the two models from competing too directly with each other.

The Isabella at launch

11,150 Isabellas were produced in 1954, an early indicator that commercially this would be the most successful Borgward ever. The early cars enjoyed an enthusiastic reception in the market place. Unfortunately, early models were afflicted by teething troubles, reflecting a rushed development schedule, and the marketplace would later prove unforgiving as Borgward’s Stuttgart based rival, Daimler-Benz demonstrated that new models did not have to involve customers in such problems.

The advertised launch price of DM 7,265 was higher than that of competitor family sedans from Opel and Ford, but significantly less than Mercedes Benz was asking for their 180 model. In view of the car’s spacious cabin and impressive performance, the pricing was perceived as very competitive.[5] A road test at launch reported a maximum speed of 130 km/h (81 mph) and fuel consumption of 8.4 l/100 km.[5] The testers described the modern structure of the car in some detail: they particularly liked the wide cabin with its large windows, and they commended the effectiveness of the brakes.[5] The inclusion of a cigarette lighter and a clock also attracted favourable mention.[5] Unlike the Mercedes 180 however, (and unlike its predecessor) the Isabella was only delivered with two-doors.

The Isabella was constructed without a separate chassis, applying the monocoque technique which during the 1950s was becoming the norm. Like its predecessor, the car was designed with a modern ponton, three-box design, but the line of the Isabella was more curvaceous than that of the first Hansa, and the car’s body made greater use of chrome trim. Ground clearance was 6.9″.[3]

The Isabella featured a swing axle at the back: it was supported by coil springs on all four wheels. The four-cylinder 1493 cc engine had a claimed power output of 60 bhp (45 kW), and was connected by means of a then innovative hydraulic clutch to the four speed full synchromesh gear box. Gear changes were effected by means of a column mounted lever.