This toffee-colored Hansa 1500 sedan may look like a highly regarded piece sitting next to sleek new Maseratis in this museum, but time was not particularly sweet to its maker, Borgward. One of the company’s more upscale–but still mainstream–models, it was also one of the best alternatives to more established German makes after World War II.
An overhead valve four cylinder sat underneath that side-hinged hood and drove the independently-sprung rear wheels. Unlike the Opel Olympia and Mercedes 170-series, the car was fresh and up-to-date; it would be a few years before those manufacturers got a true clean-sheet design on the market, and the Hansa was priced competitively to boot.
Other innovations included electric turn signals and an optional fully automatic transmission (called Hansamatic), to name a few. Other efforts making the car palatable to a wide range of owners included a variety of body styles, including a four-door sedan, a three-door combi, a panel van and a custom convertible.
1952 brought a bump in displacement and the car was renamed the Hansa 1800. Its more famous 1954 successor, the unibodied Isabella, suffered rushed development and was deemed to have subpar quality. While it was nevertheless Borgward’s most popular model, the Bremen-based company entered bankruptcy in 1961 and with that, the aspirational compact sedan baton was handed off to the BMW neue klasse lineup . Try to imagine a world in which yuppies in the US brag about their Borgwards instead of their BMWs; doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?