Automotive History: 1973 BMW 2004 – The Curious Story Of A Different Sort Of BMW

The front end on this car looks quite familiar, but as soon as the eyes drift rearwards, it’s quite obvious that this is not a BMW model that we’re all so familiar with, even if it does have a Hoffmeister kink.

What gives? The location of the steering wheel might be a clue.

We’re going to this story chronologically. In 1960, Carl Borgward’s auto empire, which included the Lloyd, Hansa and Borgward brands, was looking to expand its mid-priced Hansa brand upwards, with an all-new 1300cc sedan. They commissioned Pietro Frua to design and build two prototypes, resulting in this proposed Hansa 1300.

It was a clean and good-looking design for 1960.

Borgward’s bankruptcy in 1961 meant that the Hansa 1300 would never be built. It obviously foreshadows the coming BMW Neue Klasse cars in size and concept, although a tick smaller; more like a four door version of the 1602/2002.


Amazingly, one of the these two prototypes ended up as a daily driver and racked up 400,000 km over several decades,  and is now in a city owned facility in Schwelm, Germany, but without its original engine.

Meanwhile another small German manufacturer, Glas, maker of the diminutive Goggomobil and the somewhat bigger and oddly-styled Glas 1004/1204/1304 (above), which featured the first production use of a rubber overhead camshaft drive belt, was ready to move up the ladder into the heart of the four door sedan market.

It too commissioned Frua to design it, called the Glas 1500. Not surprisingly, Frua used essentially updated his Glas 1300 to do that, now sporting a Hoffmeister kink. That design element was hardly new or unique to BMW, having been used by Kaiser back in 1951, among others.

A handsome coupe version, the 1300 GT (later 1700 GT) was also presented. This was a very ambitious undertaking for such a small company. The 1500 was first shown at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1963, two years after the BMW Neue Klasse 1500 four door (later 1800/2000). Their wheelbases were almost identical, at 2500 mm (Glas) and 2550 mm (BMW).

The production version had a larger 1.7 L version of the SOHC four, making 80 hp. A twin carb TS version was announced two years later, making 100 hp and capable of exceeding 100 mph, with a top speed of 106 (170 kmh).

Glas struggled to achieve any kind of volume production with the 1700, essential to achieving economies of scale and profits. BMW had encountered similar challenges, but was able to meet them, thanks to the capital infusion from Herbert Quandt.

Glas was floundering, and in 1966, BMW took over the potential challenger. It was a way to both get rid of the competition as well as expand its production facilities at Glas’ Dingolfingen works, which went on to become BMW’s largest plant. In December of 1967, BMW pulled the plug on the 1700, after a mere 13,792 had been built.

But BMW spared the GT coupe, and made it its own, dropping in its 1.6 L Ti engine making 105 hp, and rebadging it as the BMW 1600 GT. The BMW 1600 Gt was built only for a bit over a year, from June 1967 to August 1968. I remember vividly reading about this in Auto Motor und Sport. The idea of taking over a competitor’s car and making it your own seemed a bit curious, but that happened a number of times in Germany, as well as other places.

But that wasn’t the end for the Glas 1700 sedan either. In far away South Africa, BMW importer Johannes Hermanus Pretorius, who had been assembling BMW models from CKD kits, was eager to start building the Neue Klasse 1800/2000 models. But the advanced partially-automated welding techniques required to assemble the bodies was beyond the scope of his operations. So BMW shipped him the tooling (or was it the body parts in kit form?) for the sedan, along with a the drive train from the real BMW sedans.

In 1968, the 1800 GL and 2000 GL started rolling off the lines in South Africa, with a modest little BMW roundel in its grille.

It was a happy solution for all involved, and the South African BMW was well received for its excellent performance. More than twice the number of Glas 1700s that had been built in Germany were now built in South Africa over its four year lifespan.

In 1973, these cars got a well-needed stylistic refresh, again by Frua, with a genuine BMW front end. Supposedly all or parts of the grille are from the E3 coupes, and the lights from the new 5 Series.

The 5 series also contributed its tail lights. They also got new model names, 1804 and 2004.  Production volumes were modest, with some 1404 built over two years. It was replaced in 1974 by genuine 5 Series cars assembled from CKD components.