Repost: Autocar 1958 review

Another post from the Russell Smithies site, a great review from 1958 that appeared in Autocar.

Borgward Isabella TS

Reprinted from “The Autocar”, 22 August 1958

The Borgward Company, of Bremenoffers a range of Isabella models, of which the TS – Touring Sports Saloon has the widest appeal. The standard saloon and the Combi estate car are equipped with the basic, 60 BHP version of the 1,493 cc. o.h.v.engine, while the TS and the attractive coupe (fixed head or convertible) have tuned units giving 75 BHP. Independent suspension is used all round. Except for the back-loading door provided in the estate car, all the models have two-door coachwork. A full test of the TS saloon has been completed following provision of a car by the British concessionaires, Metcalfe and Mundy, Ltd., 280, Old Brompton Road, London, S.W5.
First impression evoked by the Isabella is of its air of quality. Contributing to this are the high standard of paintwork and of detail fittings such as the winding ventilator windows in the doors; the number of instruments and minor controls; the finish of the protectively coated chassis; and the zip-case for handbook and documents. Although not of real leather, the upholstery is of a thick plastic imitation which looks both realistic and long-lasting, although the numerous exposed fasteners and the plastics window frames fall short of the standards of the coachwork as a whole.
Exceptionally large for a l.5-litre, the standard car with a bench front seat would hold up to six, while the TS, with separate front seats, will sit five comfortably, and allows space for a child at the front where the seats edges overlap the transmission tunnel. Interior and exterior dimensions are similar to those associated with cars of two litres or more while by no means a new design, the chassis incorporates unusual features, most important of which are the remarkably economical engine and the successful swinging axle i.r.s
The two doors are really wide making entry to the front seats simplicity itself, and with these seats backrests folded rearward, entry to the rear is satisfactory. The Reutter seats slide to and fro smoothly, the rake of each spring loaded headrest can be adjusted after a touch of a conveniently placed lever. With the ~ seats set fully forward, beyond the adjusting notches provided for normal driving, – the backrests will drop down to range with the forward edge of the rear seat. – The seats themselves are rather hard but they are large and prove in practice to be comfortable on long runs. The front seats are curved enough to give a little lateral support.
Most drivers during the test considered that the non-adjustable steering wheel was set out from the facis an inch or two more than was necessary, but the only real complaint about the driving position concerned the awkwardly hinged, pendant throttle pedal. Partly owing to the slim windscreen pillars, there is good visibility. Even though the farthest wing is obscured from all but the tallest drivers by the over-high, domed scuttle and bonnet. A shallower, wider interior mirror would take more advantage of the large rear window, and there is, apparently, no reason why visibility in wet weather could not be improved by the use of longer wiper blades. The Isabella has a pear-shaped exterior mirror, which is easily adjustable from the driving seat. The engine starts on the ignition key, if not at a touch, at least at the first time of asking. During the damp but fairly warm weather accompanying the test there was no need to use the choke even when the car had stood out all night; the engine would pull well almost at once. The high overall gearing of the three upper ratios enables each gear to be he1d for a relatively long time, and to get the best from the car in typical British conditions the box must be used freely. First will run the TS up to a maximum of 27 m.p.h, second to 49 and third to 69 m.p.h. In top the maximum is markedly dependent on the conditions. The manufacturers quote 94 m.p.h but in the indifferent weather of the test, which included a cross breeze, 86 m.p.h was the highest true speed obtained.

Isabella’s are a common sight – on the autobahns of Germany, and the handbook takes this into account with a suggested “all day maximum cruising speed for the TS. models of 82 m.p.h.”. Certainly a true 80 m.p.h can be reached easily even on average English roads, which does credit to the combination of fairly small engine and large car. Surprisingly, even when the model is driven really hard the m.p.g does not far below 30 and cruising in the fifties, making no particular effort to be economic in the use of petrol, gave a creditable fuel consumption of no less than 37 Mpg.
Synchromesh is provided on all forward speeds, and fast changing cannot beat it. The steering column lever suffers from rather long travel and, in common with so many other change mechanisms of similar type, is rather slow between third and second. The gap between the planes carrying fist and second, and third and top respectively, is commendably small. With overall ratios of 15.05, 8.28, 5,30 and 3.5 to 1, and 13in wheels, the change from third to second is used frequently; particulars in town, demanding an improved change between third and second. In towns the synchromesh on first proves well worth having.
The choices of ratios appear to be splendidly suited to the conditions of the car’s home country, and elsewhere where motorway networks are widespread or traffic relatively light. There is some transmission noise on all gears, and the axel is not entirely silent. The clutch is by no means fierce, but is not quite as progressive as it should be. If full use is made of the ratios for maximum performance, the TS can be made to accelerate well; for example the standing start quarter-mile can be covered in 21.7 seconds and 50 mph. reached in 13.8 sec. In the lower speed range it takes 15.5 sec to reach 40 from 20.m.p.h. in top, but only 55 sec in second. When high average speeds in tricky road and traffic conditions are not the prime consideration, the TS becomes a most restful car both for driver and passengers. The higher gearing gives it long legs, and much is owed to the level ride provided by the all-independent suspension, and the particularly impressive insulation of the body from noise pickup or made by the road wheels. There is no suggestion whatsoever of the independent rear suspension affecting steering, and the wheel grip is good, wet or dry. It was felt that slightly more powerful dampers would make ride even better. The steering is excellent There is a slight degree, understeer, and a pleasant lightness and sensitivity; in conjunction with the very comfortable suspension, placing of the Isabella is one of the pleasures of driving he car. There is no pronounced kickback even on rough surfaces which incidenta11y can he taken fast without seriously affecting adhesion or ride. When the windows are shut wind noise is slight, and while the engine and transmission can be heard, the overall volume of sound is not great. Both the triangular ventilator and main window on each door have winding mechanisms which work smoothly, and the rear passengers have a window on each side, hinged to open outward at its rear edge; to open a window makes a considerable increase in noise at the higher speeds. The brakes were difficult to judge owing to a tendency on the car tested for the right front wheel to grab. A large proportion of the total mileage was covered on wet or damp roads, on which this one wheel tended to lock too readily. The impression was formed that the division of braking effort gave a little too much to the front wheels, but this opinion might be changed after driving another example of the model. As far as it was possible to judge it seemed that braking power fell short of the performance as a whole. The pullout handbrake (pull-and-twist to release) under the centre of the facia was easily operated, and little effort was required to make it hold the car securely on steep gradients. Instruments and minor controls are wide in range and well laid out.An outstanding feature is the precision with which the switches work, from the dipswitch upwards. The Speedometer scale is horizontal, directly in front of the driver, with an angled red strip extending from left to right as the speed rises. That on the car tested was nearly accurate at 50 M.P.H. but became pessimistic below and optimistic above this speed. Under the speedometer are four rectangular dials. The one on the left houses the total and trip mileage recorders, then come the temperature gauge, fuel indicator and the clock. Between the two pairs of dials is a neat pyramid of warning lights; the small one at the top indicates main beam, then a wider one gives warning of lack of oil pressure, the third is for ignition, and at the base is a pair for the turn indicators. Knobs at each end of the panel look after setting the mileage recorder and adjusting the panel lighting. An unusual lighter is placed in the centre of the facia panel -the element exposed and is operated by pressing a button in the middle of its surround until the element glows. There are three neat, unlettered controls at each side of .the lighter; nearest the driver is the ignition-starter, then are ranged choke, lights, wiper, right- or left-side parking lamps, and a manual control of the under-bonnet tap for the heater’s hot water supply. The horn, the volume of which is not adequate out of town, has a ring on the steering wheel, while the central boss on the wheel flashes the headlamps for signalling. This last control will flash the lamps when they’re off or on dip. In main beam the dipswitch is used the dipper position is not as convenient on right-hand drive models as it is in its more usual location. The heater is outstanding in effectiveness and in the scope and simplicity of distribution. Only the water tap control mentioned and the booster fan switch affect all the occupants. Apart from these, the heater is divided into two units, one for each side of the car. Driver and front passenger each has his own control, which may be set in any of four positions – off, full demist, demist and interior, and full interior. Even in exceptionally humid weather the screen could be demisted in a matter of moments. Exceptionally good headlamps give plenty of penetration for-fast motoring, in conjunction with really wide spread on dip. No oncoming drivers took exception to the clipped beams which, in addition to the spread, shone quite far forward. The panel lighting causes no reflection in the screen. In spite of the thick backrests of the front seats, there is plenty of legroom for all occupants. Lack of a toe-board at the front is a fault. The flat floor meets a vertical bulkhead; a sloping footrest would increase the front passenger’s comfort. There is a non-lockable but lidded glove compartment in the left of the facia, and slim pockets in the doors; there is also a net holder for maps to the right of the driver’s legs. There is an armrest on each door, but none centrally. In the conversion to right-hand drive the door locks have not been changed, with the result that only the nearside door, next to the kerb, can be locked or opened with the key.
It is easy for the driver to slide across the seats but the inconvenience is obvious.
The Luggage locker is opened by a remote control in the rear passenger compartment, easily reached from the nearside doorway. The locker itself is well shaped for carrying a considerable quantity of luggage, regardless of the shape of the bags. The spare wheel has a separate container under the floor, but luggage must be removed before it can be reached. The under-bonnet layout lends itself to routine maintenance; carburettor, plugs, coil and distributor are all within comfortable reach, and the battery may be topped up simply with a suitable pourer.
There is much to admire in this exceptionally large family l.5-litre, and little to prompt criticism. At a moderate ex-works price it provides roominess, high cruising speeds without fuss, quality construction, and, unusually good economy.


PRICE (basic), with saloon body, £950
British purchase tax, £476 7s.
Total (in Great Britain), £1,426 7s.
Extras: Radio to choice.

ENGINE: Capacity: 1,493 c.c. (91- cu in)
Number of cylinders 4,
Bore and stroke: 75.0 x 84.5 mm (2.97×3.32in).
Valve gear; ohv, pushrods.
Compression ratio: 8.2 to 1
BHP. 75 at 5000 r.p.m. (B.H.P. per laden ton, 61.8).

Torque: 84.6-Lb ft at 2,800 r.p.m.
M.P.H. per 1,000 r p.m. in top gear, 17.6

WEIGHT: (with 5 gals fuel) 21.25 cwt (2380 lb).
Weight distribution (per cent): F 52.5% R 47.4%
Laden as tested: 24.25 cwt. (2,716 lb).
Lb per c.c. (laden). 1 8.

Method of operation, hydraulic
Drum dimensions: F, 9.06in diameter; 2in wide.
R,9.06in diameter; 2.25in wide
Lining area: F, 60 sq in; R, 60 sq in (99.0 sq in per ton laden).

TYRES: 5 90 – 13″
Pressures (lb per sq in): F, 24; R, 20

TANK CAPACITY: 10½ Imperial gallons
Oil sump, 8 pints.
Cooling system, 12 pints.

Turning circle:
Between kerbs, 32ft 10.75in.
Between walls, 34ft 8.25in.
Turns of steering wheel from lock to lock: 3.5

Wheelbase, 8ft 8in.
Track F, 4ft 5.4ia; R, 4ft 6.4in.
Length (overall), 14ft 7.6in.
Width: 5ft 8.2in.
Height 4ft 10.6in.
Ground clearance, 7in.

6-volt, 84 amp hour battery.
Head lights: double dip; 35-35 watt bulbs

Front, Independent coil springs.
Rear, Independent, coil springs and swing axel.

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