Curbside Classic: Goggomobil – Germany’s Beloved Goggo Found In The USA

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Germany is famous for its post-war “bubble cars”, like the Isetta, Heinkel and Messerschmidt. But by far the most enduring of the micro-cars was the Goggomobile. Unlike the others, which were mostly short-lived, the “Goggo” was built from 1955 all the way through 1969. Why? It was the only nominal four-seater of the bunch, making it the most versatile. And since it could be driven by holders of a Klasse IV driver’s license, which was drastically easier and cheaper than a proper license and otherwise used for motorcycles, those that didn’t want to upgrade their licenses just kept on buying them. Or maybe it was that adorable face?

Eric Clem found this one, in the Seattle area, and it begs the question as to whether this was an original US import from the 50s, or whether someone brought it over later. Yes, these were imported, and sold for as little as $995. There was even a DeVille Coupe version. Just the thing for a safety-minded parent to buy for Junior to drive to high school  instead of a Harley Hummer. Dad!!! What the hell is this thing in the driveway?!?

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In Germany in 1955, Junior might well have been readily satisfied if Dad had bought a Goggo for the family, as their first car, especially if it came with the hot 400cc engine. Here he is, pondering the little air-cooled two-stroke twin in the rear, which also came in 250cc and 300cc versions. The Goggo was first shown in 1954, by Hans Glas GmbH, a manufacturing concern eager to participate in the nascent post-war auto boom. Glas was ambitious, and eventually built quite a diverse line of cars, from the tiny Goggo to the over-reaching 2600 and 3000 V8 models before BMW bought the company mainly to get its hand on Glas’ production facilities in Dingolfing.

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The Goggo brought mobility to a lot of Germans. I’m sure she was driving a BMW twenty years later to the tennis court, but in the mid fifties, having one’s own car was a big deal, even if it only could do about 52 mph (70 kmh) mph with the 250 cc engine, which spit out some 13.6 hp along with a plume of blue smoke. Klasse IV drivers licenses were restricted to 250 cc, so that was the version that was most popular, and built right up to the end for that reason. The 300 cc mill cranked out 17 hp, and the 400 a whopping 20 hp, with a top speed of 105 km/h (65 mph).  On a level road, no headwind, and with plenty of time to get it up there.


For the more upscale and fashion-conscious micro-car buyer, there was also the Goggo TS coupe, called DeVille Coupe, no less; at least the ones imported to the US. Ironic, given that the more well-known DeVille coupe had an engine that was as much as 33 times larger (8.2 Liters). That has to represent some sort of record for two cars with the same name. Tom Klockau did a post on one a while back, but he seems to have missed the DeVille name; also ironic, given his proclivities for them.

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There was even a line of Goggo trucks, both a van and a pickup (Pritschenwagen). Just the thing to patrol the streets with.

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There were some rumors in about 1958 that Studebaker might build Goggomobiles in the US under license. That didn’t come to fruition, and probably just as well. Studebaker was pretty desperate just then, and a Goggo certainly would have undercut its Scotsman in price. BTW, that’s a 1960 NSU-Fiat (Neckar) 500 Weinsberg next to the Goggo. Maybe we’ll look at it later.

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I’m not sure of the exact year of this Goggo, but it has to be before 1963, when the suicide front door became front hinged. But it’s also not from the very earliest years, as it carries this delightful non-functional grille, given its rear air-cooled engine.

That’s the short story on this very short car (114″ or 2900 mm). Anybody ever driven one?