Goggomobil TL, the baby-truck

In response to request for proposal from the German Mail Service, GLAS created in 1957 a tiny van based on the Goggomobil. Its compact size, sliding side doors and the two-stroke engine with electromagnetic pre-select transmission made it an ideal vehicle for collecting the mail from mail boxes. A civilian version, because of its low load capacity, could meet the requirements of some municipal enterprises but only a few from the trade industries. Nevertheless 3,665 examples were built.

In 1956 business was going strong at GLAS, and the model range grew leaps and bounds. Thus, at the International Bicycle and Motorcycle Exhibition in Frankfurt (IFMA) GLAS presented three new models: The Goggomobil Coupe, the later not implemented Convertible and the van. Its trump card: The new electromagnetic pre-select transmission from the coupe and the more than 300 kg payload. This seems little, but the van followed a specific tender request of the German Mail Service.

Since the early 1950s they had used the three-wheeled mini-van Tempo Boy to empty the urban mail boxes. The small single-cylinder two-stroke engine with 7.5 to 9.5 hp didn't allow fast speeds (40 km / h in a loaded condition at full throttle), but the good handling and the 400 kg load capacity compensated for the asthmatic performance. Now, in 1956 the production of the Tempo Boy moved to India which left the German Mail Service without a suitable vehicle. An invitation to propose a suitable vehicle followed with the guaranteed to purchase 2,000 small vans. BMW responded with an Isetta, in which a revised rear window design increased the interior space only marginally. The payload increase was not enough for the German Mail Service and so were, for decency's sake, only 33 vehicles put in service.

Prototype being worked onGLAS however addressed the tender request with great vigor and designed in a few weeks a boxy-looking, but practical prototype, based on the chassis of the Goggomobil sedan. The body had completely flat surfaces and a flat windshield, with an almost shy looking little Goggomobil badge under it. Our research today cannot figure out why this prototype van had pop-out direction indicators (trafficators) - after all, the sedan was already equipped from the beginning with turn signals flashers. In general, much indicated the rather hastily construction and development of the car. Take the door handles. "These are definitely the handles of one of the electrical control cabinets in the factory ..." says Ralf Bösser, Goggo expert for more than 20 years, "They just had to hurry up!"

the first prototype

The second prototype looked already more like the later production models, although the door handles and pop-out direction indicators were still used. By the way, those things where pictured right up to the end in all the brochures, though the TL rolled of the Dingolfinger assembly line only with blinkers. This is also the prototype in which the German Transportation Minister Seebohm and Hans Glas were seated which proved rather impressively that the van offered ample of space for two "well nourished" men. The present journalists called out very amused: "This, Mr. Minister, must be the right size trucks you like to see on our streets"

With the order of the German Mail Service wrapped up, GLAS wanted to sell this van naturally also to private industry. Thus, they offered the van with any of the three known engine options for between 3,570-3,810 German Marks, a very attractive price if compared to the 5,975 German Mark price tag for a new VW Transporter, almost a bargain. However only if the customer could accept the weak 300 kg max. payload. It was impossible to compete against the 800 kg of the VW or the 475 kg of the Lloyd LT 600, which was offered for 4,760 German Marks. Therefore only 3,665 copies of the most practical of all Goggos were built, which includes the 2,000 "mailboxes." However, back then there was no shortage of arguments in the advertisements. The load area of 1.6 cubic meters could not only accommodate either "2,500 bars of chocolate or 170,000 cigarettes or 500 pairs of shoes," but also objects up to 2.70 meter in length. GLAS even went a step further and offered a pick-up model, an option which was preferred by municipal enterprises for its diversity. Since the number 4 drivers license reason for the smaller displacement engines was not a factor for most of the main clientele, most TLs were delivered with the 300 or 400 cc engine.

versatile usagesEven the German Mail Service bought only 300 cc model with Selectromat, the electromagnetic pre-select transmission. The problem was that Getrag apparently had underestimated the carelessness and bad habits of drivers in the development of this electromagnetic pre-select transmission. "The shift lever is an electrical switch" Ralf explains "Designed to prevent the engagement of the first gear while driving. Before starting, you have to move the small lever to the first gear position and hold it there so that the first gear can be selected and engaged. If the switch is however defective or the lockout does not work anymore, one is tempted to leave the foot on the clutch pedal and hope that the gear was engaged. But one needs to realize that when depressing the clutch pedal, the electromagnets are energized. In first gear, 25 Amps, the other between 15 to 18 Amps. When the foot is longer than 30 seconds on the clutch pedal, which can easily occur at traffic lights, the coil will burn out."

as used by the German Mail Service

Are you, in this case, left without a gear? "Not quite, the reverse gear can still be engaged. Also, under the engine, there is a pull lever with which the second gear can be engaged manually. Many of the drivers however did not know this and drove backwards to the next service station!" To make this design perfect, the inventors, underestimating the maintenance and repair needs of their system, moved the coils directly into the oil bath of the gearbox. Their exchange therefore requires for a complete disassembly of the engine. "You could have, without too much of an effort, moved the coils to the outside in their own enclosure, but apparently no one at the time gave it much thought that the coils could burn out", Ralf explains, shaking his head.

Back to the chassis: it is fundamentally identical to that of the sedan, but has an additional cross member above the front wheel arches and rockers with a square cross section. The bodies were produced with limited effort, since the production numbers were always low, much was done by hand. The results were mostly cars with impeccable drive train, but only "sufficient" quality on the appearance. The latter changed fundamentally once production started, because the body received now reinforcing ribs and the characteristic big G in the front. The air louvers at the back were either vertical or horizontally "depending on the body type" as per sales brochures, but without clarifying what arrangement was used for what body type ... "Towards the end of production, they were eventually all vertical, "but all TLs have a heat related fuel vapor lock problems." added Ralf. "My wife's Beate Grey 1963 TL, has additional ventilation slots on the engine cover, but they don't help at all."
Heat, for the driver is never a problem. Since the car does not have to door windows which can be opened, the doors simply remain open while driving. They should be locked in one of the three positions, since in a case of an accident several limbs could suffer ...

also used by the German Railwayalso a mini bus version was planed

The seating position in the TL is so high that you could almost let the legs dangle. But odd is the position of the accelerator pedal on top of a box mounted to the center tunnel, requiring that the driver has to permanently keep his right leg elevated. The passenger sits even more uncomfortable on a barely padded seat, but the seat can be folded up to allow access to the rear.

"Caution, curve," warns Ralf and he turns his "mailbox" with independent suspension with a sporty flair into a curve. "If you put your right foot on the inner wheel cover, you can brace yourself better!" advises Beatrice, who is sitting on a mattress in the back. I glance at the dashboard. The position of all the (relatively numerous) buttons seem to be arranged in the shape of a cross. Is this a tribute to religious Bavaria or is this trying to tell me something else?

The tank is located under the driver's seat. To fill it, you either have to move it l little forward or remove it. Another feature is the manual fuel valve. At T and TS, this valve must always be closed when the car is parked, to stop fuel from flowing to the carburetor. With the motor not running the overflow will get into the cylinders and cause "wash out". Or, even worse, finds its way into the crank case and does the same with the crankshaft bearings. No problem on the TL. Here the fuel is not brought to the engine by gravity, but by a diaphragm pump.

On the road it quickly becomes clear why the electromagnetic pre-select transmission goes particularly well with the two-stroke engine. Manual transmission Goggo drivers know what I mean. Once one starts in first gear you better be ready to shift into second, because the gear change does not happened fast enough, the speed of the car drops too much and the car's movement becomes too sluggish. But here with the electromagnetic pre-select transmission there is not the slightest problem! Start, accelerate, select second gear, wait for proper speed, depress the clutch and joy, the gear changes in exactly the right moment.

1965 was the end of the Goggomobil TL, because the German Mail Service had the VW Fridolin in the wings. Ralf and Beate Bösser are passionate about their two vans, two of only about 25 still in running condition. Ten of them run in the USA alone. One of their favorite stories is the one of real style roadside assistance with their gray GLAS Service Vehicles, "People driving past and probably were just amazed that GLAS must be an exceptional car manufacturer that after all these years they still provide customer road side assistance!"

Frederick Scherer