New Borgward brings back the memories

There was talk of reviving the Borgward marque in 2008, I’m not sure where this has got to, but feedback in the comments section of an article on the new concept car included this great anecdote from a fellow New Zealander:

‘writer online’ shared this great story:

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Growing up in New Zealand in the sixties, I was a fan of the very few Borgwards that came to our shores. Most of the NZ fleet then was made up of cars of English origin, plus Australian, American to a declining extent, and a surprising range of European marques. I worked for a time for the NZ importer of Peugeot and Renault, which came in CKD (completely knocked down) form and were brought to life in an assembly plant in Thames, a tiny town south of Auckland, the main port and metropolitan area. The Japanese were just beginning to make an impact, with cars like the Daihatsu Compagno, and the Hino Contessa, based on English and French engineering.

But the Borgward even then was a car of unique class and distinction. I have a particular memory of the marque, because my father owned a car painting business, and I spent every available hour there after school and on holidays, helping to prepare cars for repairs and repaints. On one occasion, the panelbeaters next door had a Borgward Isabella delivered to their yard, which had been badly damaged, but not so badly that it was beyond repair. Rather, because of its comparative rarity, and more importantly, distance from its country of origin, the price of importing parts to repair it outweighed the logic (to the insurance company) of writing it off. But, it was such a beautiful car that the owner was determined to keep it, if it could be repaired. Most of the damage was ‘fixable’, although I doubt that would be the case today, because it relied upon the old-fashioned use of hammer and dolly (make that hammers and dollies), in the hands of skilled tradesmen, to reshape the damaged panels. Of course in those days cars were still made mostly from steel, not plastic composite, so the panelbeaters at least had something to work with.

The only item that looked like defeating them was the petrol tank, which had been crumpled into a non-functioning shadow of its former self as a result of the road crash which had damaged the rest of the car. However, it happened that at the time, a young guy (just a few years older than me) had approached the panelbeaters about a job, but as he had no formal Trade qualification, they were reluctant to take him on.

Instead, they gave him two days in their workshop, access to all tools, heat, and welding equipment, and challenged him to restore the Borgward’s petrol tank. Both my Dad’s and the panelbeaters employees shared an outdoor area during teas and lunches, so it was common knowledge that the challenge had been issued, and accepted.

Suffice to say that after two days, the Borgward was again taking on petrol, and the panelbeaters were taking on a new staff member.

He never looked back, and neither did the owner of the Borgward, as he drove away from Dad’s shop two weeks later, in his gleaming repaired and repainted Isabella, polished to a shiny and pristine finish, by yours truly…

If you’d like to see the article on the concept car, you can find it here

One thought on “New Borgward brings back the memories

  1. My Father bought a Borgward Isabella TS .We were on holiday in England.We needed a car to pull a caravan round Europe.This was In 1960.He went to Germany and got the car from the factory in Bremen. It was red with white side walls.It was a a great car.After 15 months away,we brought it back home to our farm at Awakeri ,just out of Whakatane in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.We kept the for some time.It created interest where ever we went.Would,nt have been to many in nz at that time.I notice there are Borgward clubs round the world with lots enthusiasts.My Dad loved that car.

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