Vintage vehicles, Automotive history and stories from motoring's past. 

Borgward Isabella - It's not a Karmann-Ghia

Borwgward Isabella coupe

It’s a funny thing how sometimes something sweet and beautiful passes by unnoticed, unremarked, and doesn’t even rise to the category of forgotten. That doesn’t seem cool, but brilliance that goes unnoticed is a loss to everyone. 

Was the gorgeous German Isabella Coupe doomed from its birth? Easily considered amongst the prettiest cars of its era, the slick little German two-door disappeared before anyone knew it existed. 

Borgward Isabella brochure

Powered by a modest 75 H.P. four-cylinder engine coupled to a four-speed transmission with column shift, the Isabella coupe was no road rocket—it was akin to a slightly larger Karmann-Ghia. Though the Isabella Coupe blazed its own trail by offering a rare combination of economy and beauty, it passed into automotive history leaving nary a ripple. Fewer than 10,000 Borgward Isabella coupes were built, so sightings remain rare to this day. 

Like all the cars that bore his name, Carl Borgward himself designed the Isabella Coupe. It was virtually handmade; a liberal use of lead body filler makes restorations challenging to this day. 

When big manufacturers flexed their muscles during the booming mid-century period, small, independent carmakers struggled to survive. Borgward was no exception, developing financial problems that brought the coupe an early demise. Some of the company’s pedestrian sedans continued to be built in other countries for a few years, but the beautiful little Isabella Coupe was toast by 1962. Today, it remains a little known, affordable classic that’s sure to attract a curious crowd wherever one appears.

1959 Borgward Isabella

Written by Jim Cherry