The Remarkable Borgward Isabella TS

A Spacious 1 1/2-litre Family Saloon, Luxuriously Equipped, Which Will Reach Nearly 100 m.p.h., and is Capable of Over 70 m.p.h. in Third Gear, with Outstanding Economy of Fuel

The Borgward Hansa Isabella TS is a truly deceptive car. Outwardly it is a large, very spacious 5/6-seater (or seven-seater in an emergency) saloon of unquestionably handsome appearance. Enter it, and you find it very fully equipped, only radio of the normal amenities being an extra, and finished in that high-quality for which German cars are famous. Drive it and you would imagine that a 2 or 2 1/2-litre engine is propelling you.

In sober fact the Isabella TS, which is the high-performance version of the normal Isabella 60 tested by Motor Sport last October, has an engine with four cylinders of 75 by 84.5 mm., giving a capacity of 1,493 c.c., in a chassis which has independent front suspension by coil-springs and wishbones and independent swing-axle rear suspension, also employing coil-springs. The price, let us state here and now, is the modest one of £1,376 11s. 8d., inclusive of purchase tax and import duty.

The compression-ratio is 8.2 to 1 instead of 6.8 to 1 on the normal engine, which increases the b.h.p. by fifteen, to 75 b.h.p. at 4,700 r.p.m. The same single d.d. Solex 32PATJA carburetter is used, and Bosch ignition equipment is retained. This engine is a handsome unit, the carburetter with its big air-cleaner being set right on top of the valve casing, the covers of which are therefore fitted on the sides of the casing. Cooling is by pump and fan. Rather higher indirect ratios are used in the gearbox (i.e., 3.86, 2.15 and 1.36 to 1, instead of 4.18, 2.32 and 1.47 to 1 on the standard Isabella) but the same 5.90 by 13 tyres are used on both models.

The handsome two-door saloon body is identical, so that the spacious luggage boot (its lid-lock released by a lever inside the car, thus rendering it thief-proof with the car doors locked) and the smart curved body sides and windows falling away from the roof, as well as the curved screen and back window, are retained. The only differences are that the TS has a chromium-plated rear lamp and “blinker” covers, one pair of front direction-indicators being atop the wings, there are twin sun vizors within, a convenient horn-ring for operating the excellent horn, and a few additional chromium embellishments without.

This is an outstandingly roomy and comfortable car, its interior arrangements and fittings providing a sense of quality and well-being. The doors possess useful pockets, supplemented on the car tested by spring-loaded map-racks on each side of the scuttle. The separate front seats are spacious, substantial, wide and comfortable, and nicely upholstered in piped leather. They have squabs adjustable by lifting a tiny lever by the seat cushion – this adjustment goes from the very upright until the seat backs are fully folded flush with the rear-seat cushion to form a double-bed. The facia is nicely laid out, with white pull-out knobs for the lights and minor controls, the steering-wheel hub possesses a lamps-flasher for night signalling, and the wheel itself is small and set sensibly low. There are two scuttle ventilators, each with its own operating handle. The pendant pedals are not uncomfortable and the steering-column gear-lever is convenient to the left hand, the “flashers” control stalk to the right hand. The “flashers” self-cancel.

I do not like steering-column gear-levers, but that of the Borgward functions firmly and usually precisely, the reverse position being properly guarded, but it is sometimes difficult to select a gear when at rest. The clutch action is pleasantly light.

When the self-supporting alligator bonnet is opened the engine is rendered amply accessible, likewise the Bosch coil, Exide battery, fuseboxes, oil and water fillers, etc., but the dipstick is very close to the three-branch exhaust manifold.

Armrests in the doors are formed to function as door “pulls”, and each door has a triangulated (not pivoted, however) ventilator window operated by a handle separate from that which works the main panels (2 1/2 turns and 5 turns, up to down, respectively). The handles, especially of the main windows, are awkwardly placed. Very good ventilation is possible by opening slightly the rear windows, which are hinged for this purpose. The interior lamp is operated by the doors and equipment includes heater, demisters, convenient ashtrays, lidded cubbyhole (rather shallow, however), cigar-lighter, portable inspection lamp, rear-seat armrests, push-button door handles, and good-quality, curved-blade, self-parking screen wipers (wired with the ignition circuit). The instruments are nicely set out, with gold figures on black dials, with a separate clock matching the 105-m.p.h. Vdo speedometer and the combined water thermometer (which reads to 195 deg. F.)/fuel gauge dial. Discreet little windows show lights for full headlamp beam, low dynamo charge and lack of oil pressure. The speedometer is calibrated every 15 m.p.h. and has a total but no trip-reading odometer. The diamond-pleats in the upholstery on the doors are pleasant and the front-seat squabs fold for access to the wide back seat, although not possessing the additional swivel-at-an-angle action of those on the normal Isabella which we tried last year. Beneath the doors there is a useful panel of protective metal. The inbuilt headlamps are 7-in. Hella, with foot dimmer. The passenger’s door locks with a separate key and the fuel filler is beneath a hinged panel in the off-side back wing. The fully-swivelling anti-dazzle central rear-view mirror is supplemented by a Sparta mirror on the off side of the scuttle. The spare wheel lives under the floor of the boot, so that it does not spoil the luggage, but it is necessary to remove the luggage to give access to the wheel.

This Borgward Isabella TS is, then, a spacious saloon which belies its modest engine size both when at rest and in action, and makes many so-called sport saloons of identical engine but smaller interior dimensions look sluggish.

On the road 80 m.p.h. is obtainable along any convenient straight, but naturally it takes an appreciable distance in which to work up higher speeds, the claimed maximum being a remarkable 98 m.p.h. That the little o.h.v. engine is willing will be evident when we remark that although when Ian Metcalfe handed us the TS for test it had run only just over 1,100 miles (indeed, we were asked to add Redex to the B.P. petrol), the next day we obtained indicated maxima in the indirect gears of 28, 51 and 76 m.p.h. In fact, 60 m.p,h. is merely idling and is the normal speed at which top is selected from third. In spite of its excellent acceleration and astonishingly high speed the Borgward Isabella TS is as docile as a Yank. You can idle along without snatch, open up free from “pinking”, from a crawl in the 3.9-to-1 top gear. Some engine noise is evident at a decent cruising speed or when the car is extended in the indirect gears, accompanied by a just-audible exhaust crackle on the overrun, music whereby the enthusiast knows he is at the wheel of a TS and not the 60!

The car has a supple, comfortable ride, yet it corners well and exhibits only modest oversteer, with not a trace of the vicious roll-oversteer common to some flexibly-suspended saloons with rigid rear axles. The steering, not particularly light and a shade spongy, requires just over three turns lock-to-lock (the turning circle is however notably small). There is some column vibration, no transmission of road shock, and mild castor return-action. The “Americanised” ride would seem to spell instability at speed, yet the faster the Isabella is cornered the more confidence the driver gains. Roll is not excessive and the wheels remain on the road, as Reg. Parnell demonstrated so ably, during the saloon-car race at the Daily Express Silverstone Meeting, to which we took the Isabella TS, and where Reg. in his similar roomy saloon held off the works M.G. Magnette.

The brakes are deceptive, being very powerful providing the pedal is firmly and fully depressed. The action seems rather sensitive until this is realised, giving rise to the impression that the brakes are not unduly powerful. They emitted a squeak on initial application and if any criticism is due it is that the action could be more consistent over the full travel of the pedal, but probably the linings hadn’t bedded in. In an emergency stop, however, all was transformed and the car could be stopped very effectively. The hand-brake lever is under the facia and twists to release the ratchet.  On right-hand-drive cars it is set rather far over to the left, but it is not unduly inconvenient to operate and holds effectively. The small tyres protest only when “rally cornering” is indulged in and then only slightly, and without possessing harsh sports-car-type handling, the Borgward TS is a pleasure to drive fast, the ride proving unexpectedly flat for such a softly-sprung vehicle. Visibility is good, and both front wings (the near-side one by reason of its raised side-cum-“flasher” lamp) are visible to a driver of average height. Incidentally, additional conical “flasher” lamps are fitted below the headlamps.

To this Jekyll-and-Hyde character of being a roomy boulevard saloon (and a very “eyeable” and comfortably-appointed one) one moment, and an accelerative, very fast, responsive sports saloon the next, can be added to the Isabella’s credit an economical consumption of petrol. A consumption, driving hard, of 27 1/2 m.p.g. was obtained from this vehicle, which looks as if it would do well to return 20 m.p.g. This economy cannot be said to justify the use of a 1 1/2-litre engine, for the flexibility and astonishing performance available from it make justification unnecessary. But such economy, and the fuel range which accompanies it, are well worth having. In a total of 745 miles a quart of Esso Extra was added to the sump, no water to the radiator. The engine showed no temperament apart from sometimes being a little reluctant to start instantly when hot. The petrol tank, by the way, is located below the off-side back wing.

The Borgward Isabella TS is, then, a remarkable and unique motor car, priced modestly at £916 15s., which inflates to the afore-said figure in this country.

The Isabella 60 costs £1,210 11s. 5d. with purchase tax, and the Borgward Hansa range includes a very commodious station wagon, a drophead coupe and the 100-b.h.p. 100-m.p.h. Pullman 2400, a 2 1/2-litre all-independently-sprung saloon priced, with purchase tax, at £2,115 0s. 2d., or at £2,253 7s. 6d. with Hansamatic automatic fluid transmission.

These Borgward products are gaining many friends in England and can be inspected at the premises of Metcalfe and Mundy in Old Brompton Road. – W.B.

The Borgward Hansa Isabella TS Saloon

Engine: Four cylinders, 75 by 84.5 mm. (1,493 c.c.). Push-rod overhead valves; 8.2 to 1 compression-ratio; 75 b.h.p. at 4,700 r.p.m.

Gear ratios: First, 15.0 to 1; second. 8.4 to 1; third, 4.7 to 1; top, 3.9 to 1.

Tyres: 5.90 by 13 Michelin, on bolt-on steel disc wheels.

Weight: 20 cwt. 2 qtr: 14 lb. (without occupants, but ready for the road, with appoximately 24 gallons of petrol).

Steering ratio: Just over three turns, lock-to-lock.

Fuel capacity: 8.8 gallons. Range approximately 242 miles.

Wheelbase: 8 ft. 5 7/16 in.

Track: Front, 4 ft. 4 5/8 in.; rear, 4 ft. 5 5/8 in.

Dimensions: 14 ft. 5 in. by 5 ft. 7 3/16 in. by 4 ft. 9 3/4 in. (high).

Price: £916 15s. (£1,376 11s. 8d., inclusive of purchase tax and import duty).

Concessionaires: Metcalfe & Mundy Ltd., 280, Old Brompton Road, London, S.W.