1960 BORGWARD Isabella

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1960 BORGWARD Isabella



Many a classic car enthusiast has not heard of Borgward. Maybe that is not surprising. The German brand went from struggling automaker to best-seller and then became bankrupt all in the space of a single decade.

The Isabella was the successor to the Hansa and was unveiled in 1954. Excellent build quality and attractive styling saw it attract a loyal following.

Borgward brought a great deal of automotive firsts to Germany, including air suspension, fuel injection and contemporary styling. Whilst the Isabella was more evolution than revolution for the company, that meant it inherited a strong engine, advanced suspension, and quality construction that other German marques could not match following the war.

The Isabella also drastically undercut its rivals whilst including similar luxuries. The Mercedes-Benz 180 cost over 30% more and whilst better equipped, could go no faster.

The engine powering the Isabella was the same used by the highly successful Cooper-Borgward team in Formula 2. The Isabella itself actually raced as well, winning its class in races at Silverstone, Spa, and in Argentina in 1957 and 1958. It may not have been designed for racing, but with a capable driver it would ‘hug the road like a drunk de-gravitated,’ according to journalist Tom McCahill at the time.

The Isabella is said to handle well but was primarily built for comfort. It used coil and wishbone suspension that was a feature on considerably more expensive cars in Germany at the time.

So why the name Isabella? According to the Lane Motor Museum, Carl Borgward knew the role German wives played in car buying decisions, and thus he made each car beautiful and attached a feminine name to each creation.

The Vehicle

We are pleased to be offering for sale a lovely example of the Isabella and painted in what can only be a most striking hue. It was manufacturer in 1960.

This right-hand drive car was originally a South African car before it found its way into Europe and into the possession of one Arthur Ormsby. We gather it was a treasured possession and we even have a copy of his will and testament amongst the paperwork for the car. On it he instructed his Lancia Flavia Coupe be left to his daughter, whilst the Isabella was passed down to his son Mark.

Our seller acquired the car in 2007 and it became part of a significant collection of fine classic cars. Stored in a secure, heated and dehumidified garage, the car has had little use.

However, the seller has employed a full time specialist classic car mechanic, thus ensuring this and all the other cars in the collection are maintained in good running order.

On the Outside

The orange paintwork ensures that this is one classic car that will turn heads, even if the uninitiated are not sure what just passed them by. A quick internet search, reveals that this was an original colour and perhaps in its heyday it was a popular one.

The paintwork looks bright and shiny and whilst we would love to think that it is original, we suspect a respray has been carried out at some point in the car’s life. We cannot spot any obvious signs of bubbling or rust starting to show through.

In keeping with cars of the era, there is chrome aplenty. The perfectionist may wish to get some areas replated as there are some signs of pitting in places. We also note that the nearside rear light lens is broken, see picture 62.

Continental tyres are fitted all round and these have plenty of tread. We suspect they have covered few miles. Hub caps, a mixture of chrome and body colour, set the car off really nicely.

On the Inside

A classic bench style seat up front provides comfortable seating for two. The backrests hinge on one side to allow access to the rear. The black and cream seat covering is in fine condition and looks to have been well cared for.

The dashboard harks back to a simpler time. The instrument cluster is neatly arranged with the speedometer in pole position, with a raft of useful gauges underneath.

The column mounted gear lever can take a little getting used to, but with practice it becomes second nature. The left hand does not have to stray far from the delightful spindly steering wheel to affect a change.

A reasonable sized boot completes the picture, making the Isabella an ideal car for a lazy weekend away, with no need to travel light.


Lift up the bonnet and that perky engine hoves into view. The paintwork here is somewhat tired and could do with a refresh. We are told it starts and runs well.

The car is said to be in good running order, though as previously mentioned it has had little use during our seller’s extended ownership period. It would therefore not be unreasonable to expect some fine tuning may be required if the car is to be pressed back into regular use.

History Highlights

We believe the car’s indicated mileage of 48,235 may well be genuine, but we offer no guarantees. We know the car has been loved and cherished by the late Mr Ormsby and his family, before joining our seller’s extensive classic car collection in Ireland.

With his own full time mechanic, anything that was required to keep the Isabella running was done, but of course that means there are no accompanying invoices.

What We Think

The Borgward Isabella is a rare car and to find one in good order, and in right-hand drive configuration is almost unheard of.

This is a car to take to classic car shows where it is sure to attract a lot of attention, especially wearing such a bright paint finish. A great starter classic and one that should be simple enough for the home mechanic to work on.

So, how much will this delightful slice of German engineering sell for? We estimate the hammer will fall somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 Euros.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with the vendor in Waterford, Ireland. To arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

Please note that there is an Auction Premium of 5% of the hammer price (plus VAT in UK & Europe only). Fees are minimum £600, maximum £6,000 (min Euro 720€/max 7,200€ & US$ min $500/max $5,000).

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Please also note that localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

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  • Location: Waterford, Ireland
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 48242
  • Chassis Number: 1190686
  • Engine: 1493
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: Right-hand drive
  • Colour: Orange
  • Interior: Cream and Black
  • Estimated Price: €6,000 - €8,000

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