Trabbi 601-S - Typenschild 1.jpg
Manufacturer VEB Sachsenring
  • 1957–1990 (East Germany)
  • 1990–1991 (Germany)
  • 3.7 million produced
Body and chassis
Body style
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel-drive
  • 500cc two-cylinder two-stroke (1957~62)
  • 600cc two-cylinder two-stroke (1963~1989)
  • 1.0L VW Polo I4 four-stroke (1989~1991)
Wheelbase 2,020 mm (79.5 in)
Length 3,360 mm (132.3 in)
Width 1,500 mm (59.06 in)

Trabant 601 ad

The Trabant (/ˈtræbænt, –ənt/German: [tʁaˈbant]) is an automobile which was produced from 1957 to 1990 by former East German car manufacturer VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau. It is often seen as symbolic of the former East Germany and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in general. The Trabant was loud, slow, poorly designed, badly built, inhospitable to drive, uncomfortable, confusing and inconvenient. The Trabant had a hard plastic body mounted on a one-piece steel chassis (a so-called unibody or monocoque), front-wheel drive, a transverse engine, and independent suspension – unusual features at that time (1950s) — but it remained the same up until the 1990s. The 1980s model had no tachometer, no headlights or turn signals indicator, no fuel gauge, no rear seat belts, no external fuel door, drivers had to pour a mix of gasoline and oil directly under the hood, etc.

Called “a spark plug with a roof”, 3,096,999 Trabants in a number of models were produced over nearly three decades with few significant changes in their basic design. Older models have been sought by collectors in the United States due to their low cost and fewer restrictions on the importation of antique cars. The Trabant also gained a following among car tuning and rally racing enthusiasts.


Trabant 601 Mulhouse FRA 001Trabant 601 limousine

Trabant 601 EstateTrabant 601 Estate

Trabant means “satellite” or “companion” in German, derived from the Middle High German drabant (“Hussite foot soldier”). The car’s name was inspired by the Soviet Sputnik satellite. The cars are often referred to as “Trabbi” or “Trabi”. Produced without major changes for nearly 30 years, the Trabant became the most common automobile in East Germany. It came to symbolize the country during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, as images of East Germans crossing the border into West Germany were broadcast around the globe.

Being a state monopoly, it took ten years to acquire a Trabant, East German buyers were placed on a waiting-list of up to thirteen years. The waiting time depended on their proximity to Berlin, the capital. Official state price was 7,450 GDR marks and the demand to production ratio was forty three to one (1989). The free market price for a second-hand one was more than twice the price of a new one, and the average worker had to wait ten to thirteen years on a waiting list, or, if available, pay more than double for a second hand one.

Trabant 2 interieurInterior of a 601

The Trabant had a steel unibody frame, with the roof, trunk lid, hood, fenders and doors made of duroplast, a hard plastic made from recycled cotton waste from the Soviet Union and phenol resins from the East German dye industry. It was the second car with a body made of recycled material; the first was the AWZ P70 Zwickau, produced from 1955 to 1959. The material was durable, and the average lifespan of a Trabant was 28 years.

Trabant quality was poor, reliability was terrible, closer inspection revealed “patchy assembly quality”, with atrocious maintenance record.

The car had four principal variants:

The P50, also known as the Trabant 500 (produced 1957–1962)

The Trabant 600 (1962–1964)

The Trabant 601 (1963–1991)

The Trabant 1.1, produced in 1990–1991 with a 1,043 cc (63.6 cu in) VW engine

Trabant Engine BlockTrabant two-stroke engine

The engine for the 500, 600 and the original 601 was a small two-stroke engine with two cylinders, accounting for the vehicle’s modest performance. Its curb weight was about 600 kg (1,323 lb). When it ceased production in 1989, the Trabant delivered 19 kilowatts (25 hp) from a 600 cc (37 cu indisplacement. It took 21 seconds to accelerate from zero to its top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).

The engine produced a very smoky exhaust and was a significant source of air pollution: nine times the hydrocarbons and five times the carbon-monoxide emissions of the average 2007 European car. Its fuel consumption was 7 l/100 km (40 mpg‑imp; 34 mpg‑US). Since the engine did not have an oil pumptwo-stroke oil had to be added to the 24-liter (6.3 U.S. gal; 5.3 imp gal) fuel tank at a 50:1 (or 33:1) ratio of fuel to oil at each fill-up. Contemporary gas stations in countries where two-stroke engines were common sold a premixed gas-oil mixture at the pump. Because the Trabant had no fuel pump, its fuel tank was above the motor so fuel could reach the carburetor by gravity; this increased the risk of fire in front-end accidents. Earlier models had no fuel gauge, and a dipstick was inserted into the tank to determine how much fuel remained.

Best known for its dull color scheme and cramped, uncomfortable ride, the Trabant is an object of ridicule for many Germans and is regarded as symbolic of the fall of the Eastern Bloc. Known as a “spark plug with a roof” because of its small size, the car did gain public affection. Its design remained essentially unchanged from its introduction in the late 1950s, and the last model was introduced in 1964. In contrast, the West German Volkswagen Beetle received a number of updates (including improvements in efficiency) over a similar period.



The Trabant was the result of a planning process which had intended to design a three-wheeled motorcycle. In German, a trabant is an astronomical term for a moon (or other natural satellite) of a celestial body.

Full production

1959 Trabant P50

A 1959 Trabant P50

The first of the Trabants left the VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau factory in Saxony on 7 November 1957. It was a relatively advanced car when it was formally introduced the following year, with front wheel driveunitary construction and independent suspension. The Trabant’s greatest shortcoming was its engine. By the late 1950s, many small West European cars (such as the Renault) had cleaner, more-efficient four-stroke engines, but budgetary constraints and raw-materials shortages mandated an outdated (but inexpensive) two-stroke engine in the Trabant. It was technically equivalent to the West German Lloyd automobile, a similarly sized car with an air-cooled, two-cylinder four-stroke engine. The Trabant had a front, transversely-mounted engine and front-wheel drive in an era when many European cars were using rear-mounted engines or front-mounted engines with rear-wheel drive. Its greatest drawback was its largely unchanged production; the car’s two-stroke engine made it obsolete by the 1970s, limiting exports to Western Europe.

The Trabant’s air-cooled, 500 cc (31 cu in) engine—upgraded to 600 cc (37 cu in) in 1962–63—was derived from a pre-war DKW design with minor alterations during its production run. The first Saab car had a larger (764 cc), water-cooled, two-cylinder two-stroke engine. Wartburg, an East German manufacturer of larger sedans, also used a water-cooled, three-cylinder, 1,000 cc (61 cu in), two-stroke DKW engine.

The original Trabant, introduced in 1958, was the P50. Trabant’s base model, it shared a large number of interchangeable parts with the latest 1.1s. The 500 cc, 18 hp (13 kW) P50 evolved into a 20 hp (15 kW) version with a fully synchronized gearbox in 1960, and received a 23 hp (17 kW), 500 cc (31 cu in) engine in 1962 as the P60.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B0503-0015-001, Sachsenring Trabant 601A 1963 Trabant 601

The updated P601 was introduced in 1964. It was essentially a facelift of the P60, with a different front fascia, bonnet, roof and rear and the original P50 underpinnings. The model remained nearly unchanged until the end of its production except for the addition of 12V electricity, rear coil springs and an updated dashboard for later models.

Trabant P1100 prototypeP1100 prototype

The Trabant’s designers expected production to extend until 1967 at the latest, and East German designers and engineers created a series of more-sophisticated prototypes intended to replace the P601; several are displayed at the Dresden Transport Museum. Each proposal for a new model was rejected by the East German government due to shortages of the raw materials required in larger quantities for the more-advanced designs. As a result, the Trabant remained largely unchanged for more than a quarter-century. Also unchanged was its production method, which was extremely labour-intensive.

Production started from 34.000 in 1964, reached 100.000 in 1973, to a high of 150.000 in 1989.

The Trabant 1100 (also known as the P1100) was a 601 with a better-performing 1.05-liter (64 cu in), 45 hp (34 kW) VW Polo engine. With a more-modern look (including a floor-mounted gearshift), it was quieter and cleaner than its predecessor. The 1100 had front disc brakes, and its wheel assembly was borrowed from Volkswagen. It was produced between from 1989 to 1991, in parallel with the two-stroke P601. Except for the engine and transmission, many parts from older P50s, P60s and 601s were compatible with the 1100.


Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F086568-0046, Leipzig, ausgeschlachteter PKW Trabant (Trabbi)Many Trabants like this one, photographed in Leipzig in 1990, were abandoned after 1989.

Trabant 1.1 Limousine with VW Polo four-stroke engineTrabant 1.1 with VW Polo four-stroke engine

In mid-1989, thousands of East Germans began loading their Trabants with as much as they could carry and drove to Hungary or Czechoslovakia en route to West Germany on the “Trabi Trail”. Many had to get special permission to drive their Trabants into West Germany, since the cars did not meet West German emissions standards and polluted the air at four times the European average.

A licensed version of the Volkswagen Polo engine replaced the Trabant’s two-stroke engine in 1989, the result of a trade agreement between East and West Germany. The model, the Trabant 1.1, also had minor improvements to its brake and signal lights, a renovated grille, and MacPherson struts instead of a leaf-spring-suspended chassis. When the 1.1 began production in May 1990, the two German states had already agreed to reunification.

By April 1991 3.7 million vehicles had been produced. However, it soon became apparent that there was no place for the Trabant in a reunified German economy; its inefficient, labour-intensive production line survived on government subsidies.

The Trabant ceased production in 1991, and the Zwickau factory in Mosel (where the Trabant 1.1 was manufactured) was sold to Volkswagen AG; the rest of the company became HQM Sachsenring GmbH. Volkswagen redeveloped the Zwickau factory, which is a centre for engine production and produces some Volkswagen Golfs and Passats.

1990s and later

According to Richard Leiby, the Trabant had become “a symbol of the technological and social backwardness of the East German state.” Trabants became well known in the West after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when many were abandoned by their Eastern owners who migrated west. Unlike the Lada NivaŠkoda EstellePolski Fiat and Yugo, the Trabant had negligible sales in Western Europe.

A Trabant could be bought for as little as a few Deutsche Marks during the early 1990s, and many were given away. Although prices recovered as they became collectors’ items, they remain inexpensive cars. In her Bodyworkproject, performance artist Liz Cohen transformed a 1987 Trabant into a 1973 Chevrolet El Camino. The Trabant was planned to return to production in Uzbekistan as the Olimp during the late 1990s, but only one model was produced.

2007 Trabant P50 or 60 during the First Trabant Rally 22-12-2007

A Trabant during the first Parade of Trabants in 2007

Former Bulgarian Foreign Minister and Atlantic Club of Bulgaria founding president Solomon Passy owned a Trabant which was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2002 and which he took NATO Secretaries General Manfred WörnerGeorge Robertson, and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer for rides. In 2005, Passy donated the vehicle (which had become symbolic of Bulgaria’s NATO accession) to the National Historical Museum of Bulgaria. In 1997 the Trabant was celebrated for passing the moose test without rolling over, as the Mercedes-Benz W168 had; a Thuringian newspaper’s headline read, “Come and get us, moose! Trabi passes A-Class killer test”.

The Trabant entered the world of diplomacy in 2007 when Steven Fisherdeputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Budapest, used a 1.1 (painted as close to British racing green as possible) as his diplomatic carAmerican Trabant owners celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall with the Parade of Trabants, an annual early-November rally held in Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by the privately owned International Spy Museum, includes street tours in Trabants, rides, live German music and displays about East Germany.

Planned reintroduction

The Herpa company, a Bavarian miniature-vehicle manufacturer, bought the rights to the Trabant name and showed a scale model of a “newTrabi” at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. Plans for production included a limited run, possibly with a BMW engine. A Trabant nT model was unveiled two years later in Frankfurt.

The Trabant nT consortium includes Herpa, the German specialized-auto-parts manufacturer IndiKar and the German automobile-engineering company IAV. The group was looking for investment, design and production in the Trabant’s original hometown of Zwickau, with sales “in 2012”. The Trabant nT electric car would be equipped with a 45 kW (60 hp; 61 PS) asynchronous motor powered by a lithium-ion battery.


Fotothek df ps 0002918 Stadt ^ Stadtlandschaften ^ Camping

Trabant P50 Universal, later known as the 500 Universal


P50: Later known as the 500 (Limousine and Universal [Combi])

600 (Limousine and Universal)

601 Standard (Limousine, Universal)

601S (Sonderwunsch; Special Edition) with fog lamps, a rear white light and an odometer

601 DeLuxe: Similar to the 601S, with two colours and a chrome bumper

601 Kübel: Doorless jeep with a folding roof, auxiliary heating system and RFI-shielded ignition

601 Tramp: Civilian version of the Kübel, primarily exported to Greece

601 Hycomat: For drivers unable to use their left leg, with an automatic clutch

800RS: Rally version

1.1: Limousine, Universal and Tramp (convertible)


See also

August Horch Museum Zwickau

Jokes about the Trabant


Soybean Car


Jump up^ According to Elof Hellquist‘s Svensk etymologisk ordbok (Swedish Etymological DictionaryISBN 91-40-01978-0), the word also exists in Low German dravant, French trabant and Italian trabante but its origin is unknown: “It is not even certain whether the Romance words have been borrowed from the German, or vice versa.”


Jump up to:a b Legends of the Open Road. Rizzoli International Publications. ISBN 978-88-6130-066-8.

Jump up^ World Cars 1978. Herald Books. ISBN 0-910714-10-X.

Jump up to:a b “The Trabant Was an Awful Car Made by Communists”. November 2016.

Jump up^ “Trabant Canada”. Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2010.

Jump up^ “99 (Svensk etymologisk ordbok)” (in Swedish). 1922. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017. (in Swedish)

Jump up to:a b c d James, Kyle (19 May 2007). “Go, Trabi, Go! East Germany’s Darling Car Turns 50”. Deutsche Welle. Archivedfrom the original on 11 September 2007.

Jump up^ Stokes, Raymond G. (2000). “Plastics and the New Society: The German Democratic Republic in the 1950s and 1960s”. In Reid, Susan E.; Crowley, David. Style and Socialism: Modernity and Material Culture in Post-War Eastern Europe. Oxford, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Berg. ISBN 1-85973-239-9OCLC 898724665.

Jump up to:a b c Williams, Adam (6 September 2007). “The ‘Trabi’ automobile, once a symbol of East Germany, to be revived”International Herald Tribune. Reuters. Archived from the originalon 4 December 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2011.

Jump up to:a b c “German Firm Plans to Launch Revamped Trabant”. Deutsche Welle. 7 September 2007. Archived from the original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2010.

Jump up to:a b “The 12 worst cars ever built”. January 2010.

Jump up to:a b c d “The Trabant: Consumption, Eigen-Sinn, and Movement”History Workshop Journal. 18 September 2009.

Jump up to:a b “Special From Germany: Show 402”Scientific American Frontiers. PBS. Archived from the original on 3 July 2015.

Jump up^ Cotta, Rick. “Driving a Trabant”.

Jump up^ “BBC”. 1 January 2007. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2014.

Jump up^ “”. 28 February 2013. Archivedfrom the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.

Jump up^ “Trans National Trabant Tour 2007”. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2010.

Jump up^ Silk, Bernard (3 May 2003). “Daily Telegraph”. London: Archived from the original on 23 October 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2010.

Jump up^ Hockenos, Paul (7 November 2014). “Berlin Welcomes Back the Trabant, if Only for a Day”The New York TimesArchivedfrom the original on 7 November 2017.

Jump up^ Richard Stroup (2003). Eco-nomics: What Everyone Should Know about Economics and the Environment. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-930865-44-0.

Jump up^ “Translate Trabant from German to English”http://www.interglot.comArchived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2018.

Jump up^ Sebetsyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City: Pantheon BooksISBN 0-375-42532-2.

Jump up^ “Trabant”. Archived from the original on 14 April 2011.

Jump up^ Richard A. Leiby (1999). The Unification of Germany, 1989–1990. Greenwood. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-313-29969-8.

Jump up^ Keats, Jonathon (July 2003). “High-Performance Artist”WiredArchived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.

Jump up^ “Trabant Clunks Back to Life”. Archived from the original on 11 February 2008. Retrieved 2 December2010.

Jump up^ “Automobile Industry In Uzbekistan”Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2010.

Jump up^ “Соломон Паси подари трабанта си на НИМ” (in Bulgarian). Вести. 13 July 2005. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2009.

Jump up^ “Petite feat”. 6 May 2005. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2010.

Jump up^ “British Deputy Ambassador’s ride small and green”. Politics.Hu. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2009.

Jump up^ Zsolt, Csikós (10 November 2008). “A brit nagykövethelyettes Trabantja (“The British Deputy Ambassador’s Trabant”)”. Ltd. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2012.

Jump up^ “Sixth Annual Parade of Trabants”International Spy MuseumArchived from the original on 28 December 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2012.

Jump up^ Williams, Adam (6 September 2007). “The ‘Trabi’ automobile, once a symbol of East Germany, to be revived”The New York TimesArchived from the original on 13 January 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2012.

Jump up^ “Photo Gallery: Electric Trabant Unveiled at Frankfurt Motor Show”. Spiegel Online. 16 September 2009. Archived from the original on 29 March 2014. Retrieved 5 October 2012.

Jump up^ “German group develops new Trabant”. London: 14 August 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2009.

Jump up^ Hall, Allan (14 August 2009). “Smoke-belching Trabant to be reborn as electric car”. London: Archivedfrom the original on 17 August 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2009.

Jump up^ “The “newTrabi” idea becomes the “Trabant nT” concept car”. Trabant nT GmbH. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.

Jump up^ “Eco Cars: All-electric Trabant NT Gears To Clean 20-year-old Mess”. Ecofriend. 17 September 2009. Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2009.

Further reading

Berdahl, Daphne. “‘Go, Trabi, Go!’: Reflections on a Car and Its Symbolization over Time.” Anthropology and Humanism 25.2 (2000): 131-141. online

Rubin, Eli. “The Trabant: Consumption, Eigen-Sinn, and Movement.” History Workshop Journal (2009) 68#1 pp 27–44. online

Zatlin, Jonathan R. “The vehicle of desire: The Trabant, the Wartburg, and the end of the GDR.” German History 15.3 (1997): 358-380. online

Lisse, Jürgen (2010), Fahrzeuglexikon Trabant (in German) (2. erweiterte ed.), Witzschdorf: Bildverlag Böttger, ISBN 978-3-937496-34-4

Röcke, Matthias (2011), Die Trabi-Story. Der Dauerbrenner aus Zwickau (in German), Bath: Parragon, ISBN 978-1-4454-6266-0, vormals in zwei Auflagen erschienen im Heel Verlag

Stiegler, Theo (2007), Der Trabant wird 50! In guten wie in schlechten Zeiten (in German), Dresden: edition Sächsische Zeitung/Saxo’Phon, ISBN 978-3-938325-36-0

Sarotte, Mary Elise (2014). The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall. New York: Basic Books. p. 291. ISBN 978-0-465-06494-6.

External links


Trabant vehicles

UK-based official Wartburg, Trabant and IFA owners’ club

Trabant at Curlie


History of the Trabant

The story behind Trabant

Sachsenring Trabant site

IFA Mobile 2-takt Vereniging, de oudste vereniging voor Oost-Duitse auto’s

Trabant history and prospects

Technical Data and additional Information about Trabant 601.

Technical details and pictures of the Trabant 601

British microcar club that welcomes trabant owners and drivers

Trabant – East Germany’s Finest


Interactive presentation of Red Pearl Trabant 601z

Trabant TV ad at Google Videos

Trabant test drive at Google Videos

Production of the Trabant car (Final Quality Testing) on YouTube

BORGWARD Automobiles and Trucks





For Borgward Buses:

Borgward is an automobile manufacturer originally founded by Carl F. W. Borgward (November 10, 1890 – July 28, 1963). The original company, based in Bremen in Germany, ceased operations in the 1960s. The Borgward group produced four brands of cars: Borgward, Hansa, Goliath and Lloyd.


The marque has since been revived by Carl Borgward’s grandson, Christian Borgward, together with his partner Karlheinz L. Knöss, with assistance from Chinese investment, and unveiled the company’s first new car in over 40 years, the BX7 at the 2015 International Motor Show.

Origins of the component companies

The origins of Bremen’s most significant auto-business go back to 1905 with the establishment in nearby Varel of the “Hansa Automobilgesellschaft” and the foundation in Bremen itself of “Namag”, maker of the Lloyd car. These two businesses merged in 1914 to form the “Hansa-Lloyd-Werke A.G.”. After the war, in the troubled economic situation then confronting Germany, the business failed to prosper and by the late 1920s faced bankruptcy. For Carl Borgward, already the successful creator of the Goliath-Blitzkarren business, the misfortunes of Hansa-Lloyd presented an opportunity greatly to expand the scope of his auto business, and he took control of it.

1920 BORGWARD Blitzkarren

Carl Borgward’s first “car”, the Blitzkarren

The first “automobile” Carl Borgward designed was the 1924 Blitzkarren (lightning cart), a sort of tiny three-wheeled van with 2 hp (1.5 kW), which was an enormous success in the market gap it filled. Traders with a small budget bought it for delivery. The Reichspost ordered many of them for postal service.

00-Hansa-Lloyd-Epinglette - DSCN4259a

Hansa Lloyd

In 1929, Borgward became the director of Hansa Lloyd AG having been able to merge his “Goliath-Werke Borgward & Co.” with “Hansa-Lloyd. The small Goliath-Blitzkarren had by now evolved into the still three wheeler timber framed synthetic leather bodied 5 or 7 hp Goliath Pioneer. Borgward turned his attention to the other businesses and led the development of the Hansa Konsul. In February 1937, there came the new Hansa Borgward 2000and in 1939 the name was shortened to Borgward 2000. The 2000 model was followed by the Borgward 2300 that remained in production until 1942.


After World War II, in 1946 Carl Borgward used some of the brand names from businesses he had acquired over the years to found three separate companies: Borgward, Goliath and Lloyd. This was intended to increase the quantity of steel allocated to his business at a time of austerity and rationing. For many purposes the companies would be run as a single entity, but in a business operated by a man to whom delegation did not come naturally the proliferation of legal entities nevertheless added unhelpful layers of complexity through the 1950s and encouraged a broadening of the range which in the end proved financially unsustainable with the sales volumes achievable. In 1949 company presented the

1949 Borgward Hansa 1500

Borgward Hansa 1500.

One of the top engineers at Borgward from 1938-1952 was Dipl. Ing. Hubert M. Meingast.

Isabella and P100

Production of the Borgward Isabella began in 1954. The Isabella would become Borgward’s most popular model and remained in production for the life of the company. In 1960 the Borgward P100 was introduced, equipped with pneumatic suspension.

Sports racers

Borgward introduced a line of 1500 cc sports racers in the late 1950s, with the 16-valve engine from these becoming a successful Formula Two power unit (which was also used by some F1 privateers in 1961).

Financial problems

Although Borgward pioneered technical novelties in the German market such as air suspension and automatic transmission, the company had trouble competing in the marketplace. While larger companies like Opel and VW took advantage of economies of scale and kept their prices low to gain market share, Borgward’s cost structure was even higher than necessary for its size, as it basically operated as four tiny independent companies and never implemented such basic cost reduction strategies as joint development and parts sharing between the company’s makes. Borgward suffered quality problems as well. The

1959-61 Lloyd Arabella 58721959-61 Lloyd Arabella 5872Borgward Arabella de Luxe 01Lloyd Arabella was technically advanced as a water-cooled boxer with front wheel drive, but plagued with problems such as water leakage and gearbox glitches. Lloyd lost money on the car even though it was more expensive than its direct competitors.

Controversial company bankruptcy

In 1961, the company was forced into liquidation by creditors. Carl Borgward died in July 1963, still insisting the company had been technically solvent. This proved to be true in the sense that after the creditors were paid in full, there was still 4.5 million Marks left over from the business.

Controversy over the bankruptcy persists

Reports of difficulties at Borgward surfaced in an article that appeared in Germany’s leading news magazine, “Der Spiegel” on 14 December 1960”. The very long, detailed, and in places repetitive Spiegel article was highlighted by means of a picture of Borgward, cigar in mouth, on the magazine’s front cover. It was strongly critical of Carl Borgward’s business approach, and included many of the arguments later advanced to explain or justify the company’s demise. The widest range of cars from any manufacturer in Germany, produced by three till recently operationally autonomous companies (Borgward, Goliath and Lloyd) was supporting a turnover of only 650 million Marks, placing the overall sales value from the combined Borgward auto businesses only in fifth position among Germany’s auto-makers. The 70-year-old Carl Borgward’s “hands-on” insistence on an increasingly manic proliferation of new and modified models featuring adventurous, but under-developed technological innovations (“[ein] fast manischen Konstruierwut“) gave rise to components which too often did not work, broke down or fell apart, resulting in massive bills for pre-delivery remediation and/or post delivery warranty work that found their way back to the company.

The December 1960 Spiegel article was not the only serious public criticism targeting Borgward at this time: suddenly stridently negative (if more succinct) comments also turned up in the influential mass-market Bild newspaper and in television reports. Critical media commentaries also appeared concerning large loans to the Borgward Group provided by the local Landesbank.

It is apparent that the business was confronting cash-flow difficulties at the end of 1960. Capital intensive businesses such as auto manufacturing use their expensive machines and tools most efficiently if they use them constantly at full capacity, but the car market in Europe in the 1950s/60s was more seasonal than today, with sales diminishing in Winter, then peaking in the early summer months: Borgward’s inventory of unsold cars at the end of 1960 was higher than usual, reflecting ambitious growth plans, most obviously in respect of the United States market The December 1960 Spiegel article speculated that of the 15,000 Borgward cars ordered by the North American dealers in 1960 (and of the 12,000 delivered to them) 6,000 might have to be taken back following a slump in North American demand. (Borgward was not the only European auto maker hit by a North American slump in demand for imported cars during 1960. In the same year two ships carrying Renault Dauphines were turned back in mid-Atlantic because the docks in New York were overcrowded with unsold Dauphines.”)

At the end of December 1960 Borgward approached the bank for a further one million Marks of credit, the loan to be backed by a guarantee from the Bremen regional government which initially the Bremen senators agreed to provide. However, following the flood of critical press comment the senators withdrew their guarantee. They now required Carl Borgward to pledge the company itself to the state in return for the guarantee. After a tense 13-hour meeting widely reported in a still hostile media, Borgward agreed to the senate’s terms on 4 February 1961, thereby averting the bankruptcy of the business.

The Bremen Senate also insisted on appointing its own nominee as chairman of the company’s supervisory board. The man they chose was Johannes Semler whom reports generally describe as a “Wirtschaftsprüfer” (public auditor), though this designation, especially once translated into English, does less than full justice to the breadth of Semler’s career. He had studied law at university and worked initially as a lawyer. The scion of a leading Hamburg political family, in 1945 he had himself been a founding member of the centre-right CSU party, and was a member of the Bundestag between 1950 and 1953. Despite his Hamburg origins, Semler was by this time based in Munich, with a network of contacts in the Bavarian establishment that probably included fellow CSU politician and the future German chancellor, Ludwig Erhard, who in 1948 had succeeded Semler in a top administrative position within the Bizone. The appointment of Johannes Semler as the representative of the Bremen senators to chair the Borgward supervisory board would, in retrospect, contribute to the controversy that followed the Borgward bankruptcy.

On 28 July 1961 Semler, as Chairman of the supervisory board joined the directors of the three companies Borgward, Goliath and Lloyd to instigate proceedings for the establishment of a “Vergleichsverfahren”, which would have provided for a court sanctioned scheme of arrangement enabling the business to continue to trade while at the same time protecting the interests of creditors. Two months later, however, in September 1961, the Borgward and Goliath businesses were declared bankrupt, followed in November by the Lloyd business. Subsequent “conspiracy theorists” have suggested that Semler, for reasons of his own, never had any intention of allowing the Borgward auto-businesses to survive.


The conspiracy theory

Carl Borgward himself would not accept that the Borgward, Goliath and Lloyd auto businesses were technically insolvent, and the fact that none of the companies’ creditors lost money supports his case. In the light of what was known at the time, and increasingly in the light of subsequent events, the argument that the business was not really insolvent at all has, if anything, gained support. Nevertheless, evaluation of the issues requires informed and careful judgement, and the opposite case can also be made, that had the company continued trading beyond 1961 there was no reasonable prospect that it would generate sufficient cash to repay existing debts within a contractually established or reasonable period nor, indeed, to repay all necessary subsequently incurred financing and other business debts. At best, Borgward by the middle of 1961 was seen by potential investors and lenders as a much riskier prospect than it had been a year earlier.

The case for a conspiracy

It has been suggested that the media onslaught launched against Borgward at the end of 1960 was part of a well orchestrated covert campaign by other German auto-makers, jealous of Borgward’s success and spotting an opportunity to eliminate a significant rival. Even now, the Spiegel article of 14 December 1960 is strangely shrill, partisan, and out of line with the dry tone that characterised most serious business reporting at the time.

Johannes Semler, appointed by the city fathers to chair the supervisory board, ostensibly, in order to guide the business towards a more secure future, appeared a strange choice for the role despite his excellent network of contacts and long experience at the interface between business and public life. The appointment appeared stranger still after his simultaneous appointment, in 1960, to the board of BMW in Munich, his more recent political power base and by now his adopted home city. BMW had lost its old manufacturing facility in 1945 when Eisenach had ended up under Soviet control and since then had itself struggled to survive financially.

Cui bono?

In fact, the appointment of Semler to the BMW board was one of several events which, in rapid succession, marked an improvement in the fortunes of BMW. BMW had itself come close to bankruptcy in 1959, but had been rescued thanks to a massive additional investment by Herbert Quandt, who became, behind the scenes, a remarkably successful “hands-on” principal BMW shareholder. Key to the company’s future was a new saloon/sedan smaller and more sporty than a Mercedes-Benz yet larger than a Volkswagen, and more stylish than anything then to be expected from Opel or Ford. Quandt also recruited an energetic sales director for BMW called Paul G. Hahnemann who later would assert that the BMW 1500, launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1961, created an important new niche in the German car market. Hahnemann repeated his boast so often that he gained the soubriquet “Nischen-Paule” in the press. Those who contend that Semler’s role in the Borgward bankruptcy was part of a conspiracy orchestrated on behalf of BMW to bring down Borgward point out that the “niche” allegedly defined by the mid-weight BMWs from 1961 actually bore an uncanny resemblance to the niche previously occupied by the Borgward Isabella during the 1950s.

The case against a conspiracy

Cases against conspiracies are seldom as compelling as cases in support of conspiracies. Nevertheless, Carl Borgward’s management style had never been collegiate, and during several decades as a swash-buckling engineer-entrepreneur he had never shown much appetite for opinions at variance with his own. The Spiegel article that kicked off the press onslaught in December 1960 included a withering attack on Borgward for having recently laid off 2,000 people as part of a belated attempt to streamline administration and production. In a period of boom there was little doubt that the affected workers would have found job opportunities with other German automakers, but they would have needed to relocate away from Bremen, and the Spiegel’s description of Carl Borgward’s implementation of the redundancies savagely implied a singular absence of human sensitivity. One way and another, Borgward had over several decades enjoyed plenty of opportunities to create enemies, able to feed toxic stories to the media without any need for a conspiracy among rival auto-makers.

Borgward’s approach to “product planning” was remarkably profligate. In West Germany only Opel, at this time, came close to Borgward in terms of frequency of model changes and facelifts. But Opel were backed by the financial muscle and the strong management support of General Motors, the world’s largest auto-maker and at that time itself a fabulously profitable corporation. In contrast, Borgward had only a generous (but not bottomless) credit facility from the local state bank which he coupled with a personal disinclination to delegate or discuss business decisions. Opel, for all their flamboyant marketing and a domestic market share second only to that of Volkswagen, at this time offered only two models, the Rekord and the Kapitän. It is difficult to keep up with how many different models the Borgward group was supporting. In addition to various commercial vehicles, the 1961 passenger car range included the1957-61 Lloyd AlexanderLloyd Alexander, the Lloyd Arabella, the1957-59 Goliath 1100Goliath 1100 (rebadged in 1959 as the Borgward 1100), the1961 Borgward Isabella TS SaloonBorgward Isabella and the 1961 Borgward P100 with air springBorgward P100. The company’s reputation for serious teething troubles on new models was not simply the result of malicious press reporting. Borgward was managed by a 70 year old autocrat without an obvious succession plan. At the height of the crisis talks in 1961 Carl Borgward received (and robustly rejected) a 200 Million Mark offer for his business from Chrysler corporation. Even without his own personal BMW connections, chairman Semler might reasonably have concluded that the Borgward business as then configured had no realistic prospect of remaining solvent for more than few more months without collapsing into a yet more destructive bankruptcy from which creditors would not recover all their cash, and which could easily end up with the company becoming a third significant foreign transplant to compete on financially unequal terms with the domestically owned auto-industry.

Post mortem

The German magazine Der Spiegel published a thoughtful piece in 1966, implying that with more a little more support, and if the proprietor had been more willing to take advice from his own directors, the Borgward company could have easily overcome its financial problems of 1961. But Carl Borgward was financially naive and reluctant to accept advice: his preferred source of credit had always involved shunning the banks and simply taking extra time to pay his creditors, rejecting advice on the financing of his business from his own Finance Director. By Autumn 1960 he was holding on to unpaid creditor invoices worth more than 100 Million Marks for sheet metal and tyres alone. Given that all the company’s creditors were eventually paid in full, the liquidation decision appeared nevertheless to have been taken prematurely.

Production in Mexico

As part of the bankruptcy process, in 1963, all manufacturing equipment for the Borgward Isabella and P100 was sold to a buyer in Mexico. Production in Mexico was delayed, but was started in August 1967 by entrepreneur Gregorio Ramirez Gonzalez. Production in Mexico ceased in 1970.



1938-39 Borgward MHV Hansa 2000 011938-39 Borgward MHV Hansa 2000 01 Borgward 20001940 Borgward Hansa 2300 (6 cyl, 2247cm3, 55 KM)1940 Borgward Hansa 2300 (6 cyl, 2247cm3, 55 KM) Borgward 23001949 Borgward Hansa 1500 a1949 Borgward Hansa 1500 a Borgward Hansa 15001952-54 Borgward Hansa 18001952-54 Borgward Hansa 1800 Borgward Hansa 18001952 Borgward Hansa 1800 DBorgward Hansa 1800 D1954 Borgward Hansa 2400Borgward Hansa 24001960 Borgward Isabella SaloonBorgward Isabella1960 Borgward P1001960 Borgward P100 Borgward P100

1959 Borgward 2,3 LrBorgward 230


borgward 611 02 borgward 611 03 Borgward 611 08 Borgward 611 folder2 b611-bus a

Borgward B 611 OmnibusBorgward B 611Borgward 622 2 (6) Borgward 622 2 (7) Borgward 622 2 (8)

aufgenommen beim Borgward-Treffen in Willich
Borgward B622

Borgward 622 Pritsche Borgward B 622 Pritschen-Lkw (klein) Borgward b622 Borgward B622-2 Borgward b622-3Borgward B 622Borgward B555folder kant aBorgward B 655Borgward B1000 Pictures, Images & PhotosBorgward B 10001947 borgward-toledo B-1000ZBorgward B 1000Z1949-52 borgward b-1250-pritschenwagen1949-52 borgward b-1250-pritschenwagen Borgward B 12501954-60 Borgward B 1500 Pritschenwagen1954-60 Borgward B 1500 Pritschenwagen Borgward B 15001957 Borgward B 1500 F

1959 borgward 1500 diesel flatbed tipper original 1959 Borgward B 1500 F diesel flatbedBorgward B 1500F1953 Borgward B2000 bus npe-borgward-53 1955 Borgward B2000 Kübelwagen 1955 borgward b2000-der-6-zylinder-1495 1956 Borgward В2000А-О, 4x4

DCF 1.0

1958 Borgward B 2000 Tragkraftspritze (1958) 1958 Borgward B 2000 Tragkraftspritze 1958 Borgward B2000 A 1958 Borgward В2000А, 4x4 1960 Borgward b2000a-33-003 1960 Red Cross Borgward truck

DCF 1.0

Borgward B 2000 A der Bundeswehr Leighkraftwagen 0,75 tonnen 4x4 Borgward B 2000 Kranwagen borgward B2000 brandwee Hattert Borgward B2000 Feuerwehr 1 Borgward B2000 Feuerwehr Borgward B2000 R Borgward B2000 Troop Truck Borgward b2000a-1 Borgward b2000a-2 Borgward_5 lieferwagen-borgward-b-2000-a-10432 logo1Borgward B 20001957 Borgward B2500-frontstuur

Borgward b2500 1Borgward B2500 A-O TLF8Borgward B2500 DrehleiterBorgward B2500 STUURCABINE (1)Borgward B2500A-f1Borgward B2500A-f2Borgward b2500fBorgward B 25001939 Borgward B3000S-O Cargo Truck

1939 Borgward B3000S-O Cargo Truck1942-50 B 3000. The B 3000 was the first truck that left the factory after WW II

1953 Borgward b3000-omnibusBorgward B3000

Borgward B3000 (2)borgward b-3000-12Borgward 2de serie B3000 trekker met opleggerBorgward B3000 armyBorgward B 3000

1951-61 Borgward B 4000 - B 45001951-61 Borgward B4000-11952 Borgward B40001952 Borgward b4000-omnibus LOFI1952 Borgward BB 5.3 Diesel 4862cc1952 Borgward BO 4000 Neoplan Diesel 5-6 cyl 4962cc1953 Borgward omnibus1953 borgward-b-4000-1953--1124781956 Borgward b40001957 Borgward B4000 AutotransporterBorgward B-4000 feuerwehrborgward b-4000 mit-einem-frueher-z-77698Borgward B4000 Truck met opleggerborgward b-4000borgward b-4000-08Borgward B-4000-weinrot-ThieleBorgward B-4000-Zimmermann-Eischer-150706

German carmaker Borgward announced comeback during the 85th International Motor Show in Geneva Swi


Borgward B4000 in Berlijn

Borgward B 4000

1951-61 Borgward B 4000 - B 45001953 Borgward B 4500 A in Raven 19961953 Borgward B 4500 Pritschen-Lkw1953 borgward-b-4500-pritschenwagen-1953-860481956 Borgward B 4500 4x41956 Borgward B4500-11957 Borgward B 45001957 Borgward B 4500 von 1957 mit einem Strüver Tankauflieger von 19601957 Borgward В4500А, 4x4

DCF 1.0
DCF 1.0

1964 Borgward b4500f-11965 Borgward b4500-17borgward b 4500 #6Borgward B 4500 A Rungen-LkwBorgward B 4500 A whiteBorgward B 4500 ADBorgward B 4500 IMCDb.orgBorgward B 4500 in die Hamburger Krankh.....Borgward B 4500 kipperBorgward B 4500 PilsenerBorgward B 4500Borgward B-4500 AK Rote KreuzBorgward B-4500 KüchenwagenBorgward B4500-2Borgward B4500-7borgward b-4500-a-06Borgward B-4500-AK-gruen-040905-02Borgward B-4500-AK-gruen-040905-03borgward4Borgward B 4500

Borgward B522 ... Borgward B522 brandweer Antwerpen borgward b-522-als-27 Borgward b522ao-b8 Borgward B522 freigestellt

Borgward B 522 Pritschen-LkwBorgward B 522Borgward b533-a folderBorgward B 5331973 Borgward B 544 1957 Borgward b 544Borgward B 544borgward b 555...1960 borgward b 555 -125borgward-car-12 Borgward B 555 in the Formula 1980 borgward b-555-a-12 borgward-b-555-a-pritschenkipper-44778 Borgward B 555 A als Gerätekraftwagen (GKW) des THW borgward b-555-ak-pritschenkipper-82289 Borgward B 555 A Pritschenkipper borgward b-555-02Borgward B 555Teletanketka Borgward-IV (Sd.Kfz.301)c Teletanketka Borgward-IV (Sd.Kfz.301)b Teletanketka Borgward-IV (Sd.Kfz.301)a Teletanketka Borgward-IV (Sd.Kfz.301)

Borgward-IV (Sd.Kfz.301) a Borgward-IV (Sd.Kfz.301)

sdkfz301-borgward-b-iv-ausfb B IV, Schwere Ladungsträger (Sd Kfz 301)

SdKfz 301 Borgward B IV

Goliath Sdkfz302elektr British soldiers with captured German Goliath tracked mines.

Goliath 303a captured by the Polish troops during Warsaw Uprising on display in the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw Sprengpanzer "Goliath" Russland, Sprengpanzer "Goliath"SdKfz 302/303a/303b Goliath tracked mine


2016 Borgward BX5Borgward BX52016 borgward-bx6-ts-03Borgward BX62016 borgward-bx7Borgward BX7


Helicopters1958 Borgward-Focke BFK-1 Kolibri at the Bückeburg Helicopter MuseumBorgward Kolibri



Borgward BX7
 Borgward BX7 at IAA 2015

On May 21, 2008, Christian Borgward, grandson of Carl F. W. Borgward, together with his partner Karlheinz L. Knöss, founded Borgward AG in Lucerne (Switzerland). In 2005 Borgward (President) and Knöss (CEO and Vice President of the Supervisory board) started the revival of Borgward. They started the development of the new Borgward automobiles with Norwegian stylist Einar J. Hareide, who had previously worked on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, set up the organisation and engineer team and developed a car concept.

Christian Borgward owns the brand Borgward. Borgward AG is responsible for the development, production, sales and marketing of Borgward cars, ships and aircraft.

Borgward has announced plans for a new car at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show after a 54-year hiatus. The new company will be backed up financially by Chinese truck manufacturer Foton.

The Borgward BX7 SUV was introduced at the IAA, Frankfurt in September 2015.

A concept version of a second, smaller SUV, to be named BX5 when in production is to be announced at the 2016 Geneva Salon.

See also

List of automobile manufacturers

Borgward-Emblem auf Lkw Borgward B 2500

00-Borgward LOGO - 71973 00-Hansa-Lloyd-Epinglette - DSCN4259a 60 Jahre Lloyd 300 60 Jahre Lloyd 300a 89e9b16ad9baeaecd8a6efee9fbc6dea 1907 Hansa 18 1908 Hansa Typ A 16 1909 Hansa Stanislav Kiriletz 1914 Hansa G 12-36 Renntorpedo 1914 Hansa-Lloyd L 6-10 PS Doppelphaeton 1915 33015 1915 Hansa Lloyd 1915 hansa type E 1917 33017 1920-30's photo of Hansa-Lloyd Elektrolieferwagen Reichspost omnibus 1921 Hansa-Lloyd E-4322 1922 hansa lloyd 1 1924 BORGWARD Blitzkarren 1924 BORGWARD-01 Blitzkarren 1924 Hansa-Lloyd mit 18 Sitzplätzen 1928 Borgward Isabella 1928-61 Goliath Werke Borgward & Co 1929-30 hansa konsul Img2 1929-39 HANSA-03 (Hansa-Lloyd) (Grupo Borgward) 1930 Hansa Konsul en cabriolet 1930 Hansa Matador 1930-31 hansa konsul Img1 1931 goliath back 1931 Hansa 500 L3- the first model produced after the Borgward-Goliath takeover 1931-34 Goliath Pionier Dreirad-Pkw, 1-Zyl.-Zweitaktmotor von ILO, 200 und 250 cm³, 5,5 bzw. 6,7 PS bei 3200min 1932 goliath hansa-schoenow-bei-bernau-65308 1932 goliath pionier 1932 goliath schoenow-bei-bernau-65309 1932-35 Goliath GD 750 für die Firma Saade im Einsatz. 1933 Borgward Goliath Lloyd dreirädriger Lieferwagen 1933 goliath 2 Germany Hout en driewieler 1933 goliath pionier cabrio 1933 Hansa 500 1934 goliath pionier 1934 Goliath Rapid Alga 1934 hansa 500 1934 hansa 1100 1934 hansa 1700 1934 hansa a 1934 hansa UG-31-90-3 1934 hansa 1934 images (1) 1934-37 Hansa 1100 1934-39 Hansa 1100, gebouwd als two door limousine 1935 - 1941 Goliath Goli by Georg Sander 1935 Goliath 9 1935 Goliath Dreirad GD 750 Kofferaufbau BOSCH 1935 Goliath Dreirad 1935 Goliath F200 1935 Goliath flying 1935 Goliath GD 750 1935 goliath goli 6ru 1935 Goliath images 1935 goliath van by mechanicman-d27de1l 1935 goliath 1935 Goliath-Goli-Dreirad-Kasten-blau 1935 hansa 35 1935 hansa 1700 sport (2) 1935 Hansa 1700 Sport 1935 Hansa H 1700 Cabriolet 1935 MHV Goliath Truck 01 1935 TRICICLO BORGWARD GOLIATH 1935-41 Goliath GOLI Kastenwagen 1936 Borgward werpt zich op grote luxe personenwagens en ontwerpt de Hansa 3500 Privat 1936 borgward-goliath-am-29062009-76689-20375 1936 Goliath Goli 1936 hansa 3500 1936 hansa 1936 hansa-lloyd-busse-oldtimer-02b-0121 1936 tempo dreirad wood 1937 Borgward Hansa 1100 1937 Hansa 1100 a 1937 hansa 1100 cabrio 1937 hansa 1100 i 1700 1937 hansa 1100 1937 hansa 1700 cabrio 1937 hansa 1700 coupe 1937 hansa 1700 kabrio 1937 hansa konsul Cabrio 1937 hansa Lloyd express 1937 Hansa rosier ad 1937 Hansa-Lloyd Express 1938 Borgward B-4500-RKW-MB-03

1938 Borgward FW 200, 199 cm³B 1938 Borgward Hansa 1100 Cabriolet 1938 Borgward-FW-200-170905-02 1938 Goliath Goli ein-optisch-sehr-gut-erhaltenes-38638 1938 Goliath L35212f2 1938 Goliath 1938 hansa 2000 (2) 1938 Hansa 2000 1938 Hansa Konsul 1938 Hansa Lloyd Merkur IV Omnibus 1938 Hansa Lloyd NSDAP Propoganda Vehicle 1938 1938 hansa 1938-39 Borgward MHV Hansa 2000 01 1939 Borgward 2300 kabriolet na IAA w Berlinie 1939 Borgward Hansa 1100 1939 Borgward RS 55 racer 1939 Borgward В3000S 1939 Goliath 3-2-19-wib.large 1939 Goliath Dreirad 1939 hansa bus e 1939 hansabus RP-33990Zamosk 1940 Borgward Hansa 2300 (6 cyl, 2247cm3, 55 KM) 1940 Borgward HLkl6 (Sd.Kfz.11) 1940 Hansa Merkur Bus 1940 Hansa sammel-stern33 1942 Borgward ad Russland, Sprengpanzer "Goliath" 1946 borgward police 0310 2 1946 borgward police 0310 1947 borgward-toledo B-1000Z 1948 borgward-b1500-krankenwagen-b 1948 Goliath 4