from the "large" Goggomobil to the Glas Isar


A Chronicle (by Jürgen Böttger)

On June 12, 1958 - it was the birthday of company founder Hans Glas - the first production model of the "Large" Goggomobil rolled off the line. Since the introduction of a non-drivable prototype at the IAA in 1957, just nine months had passed. The time between the introduction and the start of the production was filled with extensive redesigns and road tests.
Unfortunately, with development of the car not yet completed, the first cars were delivered to customers. After years of costly setbacks and continuous improvement the last GLAS Isar rolled off the line in 1965. After all these years, it had now acquired the design maturity that was expected from the beginning.
But obviously its time had expired; the customer no longer wanted it. Now they asked for cars which were ranked in a higher class.

Hans Glas: "Those who never left the narrow band of caution were never foolish, but also not wise." (Quoted in Spiegel No. 21/57)

Mid to late 50s - it was the time back then so aptly described as the "economic miracle" in Germany - the small Goggomobil, the Isetta, the Messerschmitt, Maico or Kleinschnittger, the Fulda Mobil or the Heinkel no longer filled the increasing demands of the customers. These were so-called scooters cars, which were still in the infancy and automotive development and reminded too much of the early days of motorization. People earned a good living again and most no longer were satisfied with the motto "The main thing is, that it has roof over my head".
The move to Volkswagen, however, was for many who could up to this point only afford a "better mobile weather protection" a little too much. For them the lesser costs (taxes, insurance and fuel consumption) was an important argument for buying a vehicle in the 600 cc class.
Hans Glas had recognized the signs of these times correctly. In this new emerging class of vehicle, above the simple scooter cars, growth rates in a double-digit percentage could be expected. A larger Goggomobil was needed, because the GLAS did not want to leave the looming boom solely to the competition. The confidence of the Dingolfinger was great and they believed to have amassed enough experience in the construction of automobiles. After all, they had managed in recent years, through their intelligent developments and sensational sales success to gain respect in the automobile industry. So why not try a new construction territory?
So in a few months a brand new vehicle was put on wheels, which had neither technically nor stylistically anything in common with the previous Goggomobil.

The "Large Goggomobil" was a: (Quote: Kleinwagen) "A star on the horizon of the new 600cc class!"

In 1957 at the IAA, the "Large Goggomobil" was a sensation. No one had this newcomer expected. "A brazen kick to the shin of the opponents" (Quote: Auto Motor & Sport) left the established competition suddenly look out dated and made the hearts of potential customers beat faster.
as presented at the IAAas presented at the IAARelative to that time, the car offered enough space for four adults, there was a bench front seat and the trunk had an above average size.
The new Goggomobil impressed, for this class, by an unusual body, which followed the American fashion trend (Hans Glas loved American cars). Obviously the design was based on the 1956 Buick Century. Exactly like this car the large Goggomobil had a panoramic windshield and on the sides the snappy crease pressed into the side sheet metal which enabled the up till now unique two-tone paint (set off three times). Whitewall tires completed the pleasing appearance.
These typical physical characteristics made it unique among the competitors. The driver could enjoy the standard head light flasher and the automatically to the start position returning windshield wipers and turn signal stalk. Also the crank up door windows were then in this class not a given. The front-hinged hood and the steering wheel with a deep recessed hub were prove, that the design included passive safety details. The front mounted, air-cooled two-cylinder, four-stroke boxer motor with its 600 cc and 25 hp was supposed to drive the front wheels. The former BMW engineer, Leonhard Ischinger was responsible for the motors design.
The "large" Goggomobil was now a serious alternative to the Lloyd 600 or NSU / FIAT Jagst which were already available for some time. Together with the also introduced NSU Prinz and the BMW 600 they formed the successful new small car class in the following years.

The production start

In 1958, came the moment of truth. Potential customers were beating a path to the dealer's doors. But they had to be put off. There was only sparse information with the vague statement that the wait would be worth it. The dealer however insisted on the imminent delivery, to finally offer the step-up model to the previous Goggomobil.
The factory however was pressed for time, because it had been decided not to offer the car for sale as it was shown earlier. It had been said (and written) that the position of the engine forward of front wheels on a front wheel drive car, would result in an unfavorable load distribution. A poor road handling performance would have been the result. Insiders however doubt the truthfulness of this statement, because it was not technically justifiable.
Since the show car was not a drivable prototype and still required a lot of design, it's more likely that Glas and Dompert, during talks at the IAA, convinced them self to offer a "real car" with a standard drive train, engine up front driving the rear wheels. That is also the version the grandson of the boss heard from his uncle.
The design department was now under pressure. It required night shifts to change and change again the design: the large Goggomobil was given a rear-wheel drive and could boast now to be the only small car of its time with the same drive concept as the far more expensive middle class. The transmission was a fully synchronized 4-speed unit from Getrag, which because of the gear set arrangement had an "upside down" shifting pattern.
A few changes were also made on the outside: the window framing was smaller than in the original model, the front grille was made flatter and now included the two directional indicator lights. The tail lights were enlarged. Since there was enough space to store the spare wheel over the low mounted engine in front, the trunk space increased now to more than 300 liters.
that, for back then, very modern dashthat, for back then, very modern dashChanges were also made to the interior: Wider armrests disguised now the rear wheel arches and the originally from the Goggomobil Coupe acquired speedometer in the prototype was replaced with a ribbon speedometer, whose hooded upper edge was to prevent unwanted reflections from the windshield. This modern instrument cluster had also integrated rocker switches for lights and wipers. (The idea of using flat rocker switches instead of protruding buttons or knobs was later also adopted by other companies.)
In the summer of 1958, when all this frantic work on the various test cars, GLAS finally was convinced that all these new design changes would meet the targeted expectations, they rolled out "twins" (but now 100 kg heavier than originally planned): the "Goggomobil T 600 "(20 hp, 100 km / h) and the "T 700" (30 hp, 110 km / h). The prices were attractive: 4,330 German Marks (T 600) and 4,470 German Marks (T 700), including standard heater - which at that time was certainly not a given.
Sales in the first few months were very encouraging. By year-end 1958 6,740 cars were delivered. The following year, then the annual production actually rose to nearly 25,000 units - a figure which was never reached again.

Unfortunately, not everything which shines is gold!

It had become common knowledge that this Goggomobil was put on the market too soon. It was not nearly as reliable and well put together as its smaller brethren. The first buyers felt like an extension of the Dingolfinger testing department.
The fuel consumption was more than 10 Liters/100 km and the adjustment procedures of the two carburetors overwhelmed many repair shops. But that was probably the lesser evil. The list of complaints was long: Too much heat deformed the motor case and an engine failure was inevitable. And in sharp cornering, it could happen that the low oil pressure light indicated a lack of oil supply. Also the front suspension had its problems resulting in a high tire wear. Although the body was rigid enough, still at the B-pillar paint cracks developed. (Re-bounce from slamming the door). The small radius in the corners of the windshield was creating another problem: after rain, the interior was flooded.
The factory, very accommodating to the deceived feeling customers, reacted in response. The Service Department had its hands full. I can remember that in extreme cases, silently the car was simply taken back.
These were not happy times in the house GLAS. They worked feverishly, trying to get a grip on the "growing pains" and fix the construction defects.

No one is a born master! The station wagon and the S 35 drew attention to the progress.

Apparently at the IAA in 1959, GLAS was ready. They presented a thoroughly revised model in which the defects of body and engine were taken care of. The front suspension was completely redesigned and the sheet metal section of the B-pillar had been strengthened. A voluminous windshield gasket solved the flooding problem. In order to reduce fuel consumption, the two Bing carburetors were replaced with a single Solex downdraft carburetor. The clutch was now much easier to operate.
The progress of development work on the "problem child" could not to be overlooked, and from now on nothing should be reminiscent of the failed production start. The "Large" Goggomobil was renamed to the "Goggomobil Isar". Since it was recognized, however, that the emerging new clientele continued to associate the name "Goggomobil" with the rattling mini 2-stroke car, the name was pushed more and more into the background.
The "Goggomobil" lettering on the fenders was replaced by "Isar". This writing of "Isar" was so stretched, that the attachment points of the older, longer word could be used. Only the winged "G" on the hood was retained. In order to boost sales even more, the prices (now without heater) were decreased by 340 DM just to stay under the psychologically important 4,000 German Mark ceiling.
Station wagon - also with two tone paint jobStation wagon - also with two tone paint jobAlso at the 1959 IAA, the model family expanded with a station wagon, the K 600 and K 700. At 240 German Marks more, it was more expensive than a comparable sedan. Its extended roof line gave it a more harmonious appearance compared to the sedan and the rear passengers benefitted with more headroom.
For small businesses it also was offered as a delivery van without the rear seats and rear side windows. Also, an ambulance with retractable stretcher was designed, but never built in series. Also the van could be ordered for 50 German Marks less just primed on the outside. The three-door car had a lift up tailgate which, after folding down the rear seat bench, provided accesses to about 1000 liter of cargo space. His unrivaled payload was 460 kg. The station wagon was available from the beginning and in its time very successful. By 1965 its share of total production was 16.3%. In the last two years of production it was even close to 45%.
The S 35 was never producedThe S 35 was never producedTo make the public aware of the many improvements, GLAS presented at the same time the Isar S 35 coupe, a Goggo Coupe built on a greatly altered 700 chassis. Since the engine sat in front, this coupe got a new fiberglass front with a large oval air intake reminiscent of the Ferrari Superamerica from 1956. The front bumper was split and now consisted of two short corner pieces. The headlights were from the Isar, the door hinges were sitting in front. The wheel arches were changed for clearance of the 4.80-12 tire size. The narrow rear child seat bench was replaced with a parcel shelf for the benefit of additional storage and the small trunk was now accessible via the former engine lid.
The higher compression engine developed 34 hp at 4,900 RPM (in some publication 5,700 RPM are mentioned) and accelerated from 0 to 100 km/hour in 22 seconds. The top speed was for back then a sensational 135 km/hour. The factory spoke of a "four-stroke boxer sports engine." The first driving tests in the car magazines were encouraging and made the public curious.
The "pocket-sized Ferrari" was to be sold for 4,750 German Marks. But the planned mass production did not happen, because in practice the highly modified motor did not fulfill all of the expectations. Chief designer Dompert commented: "This vehicle was abandoned because of its high noise level and the problems with the fiberglass front section." The S 35 remained a technology showcase for future developments.
To demonstrate the durability of the engine and the robustness of the chassis, the Isar was sent with two engineers on a trip in North Africa through the Libyan Desert. The finish line was reached after more than 1,000 miles without any problem issues the car. One could see the pride of this achievement in the ad: "A proof of performance - down to the last detail!"
The front wheels of the new Goggomobil Isar were individually sprung with coil and progressively acting hollow rubber springs. That was to guarantee, together with the hydraulic shock absorbers and worm and roller steering, a smooth ride.
In a road test (issue 10/1959) about the new Isar wrote Roller, Mobil und Kleinwagen:
"... the progress is undeniable. Although teething trouble and the lack of development are not hereby excused, but we must nevertheless also report that the factory, at high financial effort, took care of all customer claims and that the car which was given to us for this road test, despite the punishing tests ... was really reliable."
As an overall impression it was noted: "First-class handling, economical engine, clever usage of space and exemplary visibility, a very sensible designed and now also well-built car, ....., with some of the good features superior to the competition."

The statement "English in front - in the rear Dingolfing" (quote: Roller, Mobil und Kleinwagen) should be refuted.

In 1960 the Isar received a thorough renovation. To stretch the rear on the sedan a bit, the tail lights were enlarged once again. They were now surrounded by sheet metal and the extension, viewed from the side was given a flush fit to the rear fenders. (Curiosity: This sheet extension originally was to be painted separately, because the car with them in place was too long to fit into the immersion painting bath. But by the start of the production this system was already abolished..)
The license plates were now illuminated from the bumper, and now could be mounted in the wide format.
The redesigned slightly higher roof in back provided more headroom for the back seat passengers. The rear window was enlarged considerably and swing out rear side windows (for an additional 49 German Marks) were the new trunk linethe new trunk lineavailable on request. The chrome letters ISAR now shone on the trunk lid.
The tire size was adjusted to the one used by the station wagon (5.20-12). The station wagon kept however the old taillights for some time.
For insurance cost reasons, the engine performance of the T 600 was reduced to 19 PS.

In 1961, the Isar was offered in two versions: Standard and the with a lot of chrome furnished deluxe version that came standard with two-tone paint job and whitewall tires. The deluxe version's side trim piece became for many Isar drivers a popular accessory.
The station wagon was now offered also as a "camper". This version had a bolt-in back seat, which gave the customer the advantage that they could register it as a sedan. The payload was 110 kg less than the wagon, but the buyer could save almost 100 German Marks in insurance premiums with the C 700. After loosening some bolts the rear seatback could lay flat. Together with the folded front seat, a 2 meter long and about 1.10 meter wide bed was created.
This option made it clear to the young family that a station wagon did not necessarily serve just for commercial purposes. And if you think about it: was this camper version the precursor of the in the 80's so popular the estate cars?

The performance of the Isar was demonstrated in motorsport

1962, only 12,000 vehicles rolled off the assembly line. The continuous design improvements and the finally by testers certified maturity of the Isar did not alter the fact that production figures steadily fell.
The durability of the engine was demonstrated in successes in motor sport. But that was unfortunately only registered by the public in passing. With their T 600, the drivers Bodmer / Pohl were repeatedly class winners at the Nurburgring. In the 12-hour race they drove, with 106 km / hour the fastest lap. They saw the checkered flag ten minutes (!) before their competitors.
Also in Austria the Isar left the competitors far behind. In the 29th Berglandfahrt won state champion Loisl Wiener in his T 600 the "up to 700 cc" class, and at the hill climb at Reichberg near Graz he won the gold medal with the best times in all disciplines.
the two cylinder boxer motorthe two cylinder boxer motor100,000 km with the Isar was nothing special anymore. Since all their other engines were also very reliable, GLAS as the first German automobile manufacturer, gave starting in September of 1962 a one year warranty with no mileage limitation on the engines for all models. (The accepted timeframe in the car industry at this time was only six month)
But the successes in motorsports and the extended engine warranty could no longer turn the tide. The customers were more demanding and even flirted with cars, which were ranked half a class higher. These were the Ford 12M, Opel Kadett, DKW Junior, BMW 700 LS or NSU 1000th They were only slightly more expensive than the Isar. The Isar was now with the 700 engine 4,720 German Marks.
The pressure of the increasing competition was very noticeable, and a newer model would have been due. But in Dingolfing the focus was now on the recently introduced GLAS S1004.

A final attempt was made to adapt the Isar to the now higher consumer demands.

In 1963 the Isar was made even more attractive. The standard version existed only for a short time in the price lists. It was gradually supplanted by the "deluxe" version. This version received once more larger tires (5.50-12), as well as individual front seats and the steering wheel from the 04 series. The dashboard was covered with dark vinyl and the passenger grab handle was now standard. Instead of the fabric type head liner, an ivory-colored, washable plastic material was used (same as on the station wagon).
Also there were mechanical changes. Among other changes, the modified rear axle from the S1004 / 1204 was used and the oil pan got a deeper oil sump. Station wagon and Camper got the same improvements. In addition, they now also got the big tail lights of the sedan. Since the luxury version was now offered as the standard version, the price was lowered by 240 German Marks.
a rare jewel (picture of an ISARD)a rare jewel (picture of an ISARD)These last changes were enhanced by the fact that the car after this facelift was allowed to carry its new name on its fenders. The name was now "GLAS Isar". But the time for small cars with limited passenger space was finally over, the production numbers remained very low.
In a final road test in January 1964 the magazine "MOT" wrote: "The Isar feels like a solid piece of craftsmanship"
As positive points were noted: "Very good workmanship - large luggage space - good handling characteristics - for the type and class a quiet motor and a very good heater - a low price for the level of features."
This was offset by, among others, the following negative points:
"Rough running motor when accelerating - tight leg and head room and uncomfortable entering and exiting of the rear seat passengers - badly illuminated speedometer - vibrations when braking from high speeds - quality of customer service locally varies - outdated maintenance requirements"
The factory-prescribed maintenance intervals (after 3,000 km lubrication, after 6,000 km inspection with oil change) were indeed out of date.

In 1964 there were no more significant improvements on the Isar. The car was now technical sound and as reliable as the buyer were hoping for from the beginning, but it no longer was attractive. The end of its production run was in sight. Production fell this year to less than 5,000 units (15 cars per day).
In Dingolfing the focus was now on the production start of large sedan, the GLAS 1700 and the GLAS 1300 GT coupe.

The end

In August 1965 the production line, after almost 87,600 vehicles built, was shut down. Thus, the Isar reached after the GLAS Goggomobil sedan the highest number of cars produced by GLAS. The Isar was (next to the scooter) the only vehicle produced by GLAS were the Hans Glas GmbH actually stopped the production. In addition, the Isar remained the only model in the GLAS family of cars, which had been given a unique name.
The in the planning phase projected target of 100,000 units was not reached in Dingolfing, but the Isar was still a success: in Argentina, the car was produced under license for the Latin American market. Here alone, up to the end of 1962 more than 14,000 vehicles left the assembly buildings. For comparison, the numbers of competitors: Lloyd sold about 170,000 Alexander models and NSU from Prinz I to III about 94,500 vehicles. The production figures of the BMW 600 with 34,800 and the BMW 700 - short version - with 79,600 remained below the Isar.

The difficulty in finding a name

Back then it must have been very hectic in the Goggomobil factory: In 1955, the Goggomobil, the T250 sedan was introduced. The "T" was probably just short for "type" (?) and the following numbers were the displacement of the motor in cc. Just one year later, the coupe came with the letters TS (TS = type sport?) and shortly thereafter the van TL (TL = type loader?) was introduced.
In Dingolfing there was obviously little time to worry about a name, because by 1957 the public would again be presenting with a new model. Also this car remained nameless for now, it was simply called "The Large Goggomobil" - a term that was willingly accepted by the media.

The time until the start of the production however was used to come up with a name. Quote: "When a lot of heads start thinking you get a lot of different ideas and since the design team of the larger Goggomobil could not reach an agreement on how to name the "new child" it was decided, unanimously, to call for a family contest. This was done in the form of a prize competition." There was little time and just under 10 days and 4,000 entries the competition was ended in the middle of June 1958. 1,000 different names were looked at, evaluated and categorized. At the end the following names in this order emerged as the winners:

1. Senior 2. Delphin (German for Dolphin) 3. Isar 4. Mikado and 5. Dingo.

Quote: "Only the gods will know if this really were the best names, but this order followed the principle of majority. Now the jury asked themselves which of these names should they choose as the winner. "Senior" certainly was not right for such a young and lively vehicle and the name Delphin made them uncomfortable since it nearly sounded the same as a foreign vehicle (Renault Dauphine). In short, faults were found on each one of these names but at the end "Isar" won the race. "
But the jury did not prevail. Their work and the work of the participants in this contest was (tentatively) for nothing. The sales brochures were printed and there was no turning back. When production started in August 1958, the large Goggomobil, based on the description of its smaller brothers/sisters, was simply named "T600" or "T700". The factory magazine "Goggomobil" asked its readers to show understanding. "Names are just smoke and mirrors. If you will be asked what kind of car you drive, so you will simply answer: A Goggomobil 600. Perhaps you will even be shorter and answer in full awareness of your recommendation: I drive a "T600." There is no name, just a label, as it is common in the automotive industry and which has propelled many other particularly good cars to glory." (did they attempt here to establish a mental link to the nomenclature of the Mercedes?)
One year passed. Did the competing vehicles with the more or less illustrious names, like Alexander, Junior, Jagst or Prince cause a rethink in Dingolfing? Or was it the fact that the models 'T600/700' had been thoroughly revised and that one wanted to inform the public of this with a new model name? In any case, after the summer vacation in 1959, the cars were officially renamed to "Goggomobil Isar". (But the names T600/700 remained as an additional identifier.)
In subsequent years, the Goggomobil name was omitted more and more - nothing should remind the public of the little, smelly and rattling two-stroke engine, the actual Goggomobil. They spoke only of the Isar. But only in 1963 was the brand identity officially removed. The Isar was "knighted" and lifted with it to a higher-value state of automobiles from Dingolfing. From now on, it was called, the "GLAS Isar." With this it became and remained the only vehicle in the GLAS automobile factory with a unique name.

(The passages in italics are quotes from the magazine "Goggomobil", Issue are 7 / 1958.)