The best bread never lasts.
For a company that claims to have brought mass produced direct petrol injection to the engine world, few have heard or remember the short lived German firm of Gutbrod – the English translation being good bread. If Lloyd were a flash in the pan for their eleven years, Gutbrod was the mayfly – forty two months and gone.
Founded in Ludwigsburg 1926 by Wilhelm Gutbrod, their initial wares were motorcycles under the Standard brand name. Light agricultural machinery soon followed as did their first car – the rear engined Standard Superior. Expansion saw them move to Feurbach, a district of Stuttgart, come 1933. Similar to their Lloyd counterparts, the Gutbrod name laid pretty much dormant (aside for military purposes) until after the war when the nation grasped for transportation.
Relocation to Plochingen am Neckar in 1949 saw the Gutbrod name resurrected and the Calw factory begin production. Their first post-war pre-production model, was named 600 – rather decadently being a convertible! The entire cloth roof could be retracted which one could expect the car’s frame to shudder, although I have yet to read a report acknowledging this.
With its diminutive dimensions: 3.6 metres long (with a two metre wheelbase), just less than 1.5 metres wide and standing a full 1.4 metres high with its water cooled two cylinder, 583 cc two stroke engines with carburettor producing around 25bhp, the model cost Dm 3,990. The Luxus 700 model with the 663 cc plant pushing an extra eight horsepower, arrived later in 1953 could be had for Dm 4,380.
Running before they could really walk, Gutbrod had early ideas above their station. For 8,000 Deutschmarks, a Wendler bodied roadster named Superior Sport could be had, an unwise and untimely decision as only twelve were sold and vital cash assets were lost developing this handsome enough dead-end.
Walter Gutbrod (his father and company founder, passed away in 1948) must have held some sway in engineering and monetary terms, enticing technical director Dr. Hans Scherenberg from Mercedes at the very beginning. After the war, the Allies had put a halt to all production, including engine development.
Scherenberg took on the role of introducing direct petrol injection to the tiny cars engines – this upped output to 30 bhp. The technology was not new; surfacing near the beginning of the twentieth century, it took the might of Bosch along with Scherenberg’s know how to achieve mass production for the re-emerging German car industry.
Utilising a diesel high pressure pump combined with an air intake throttle linkage, with a separate tank for engine oil, this was blended by the system; the owner no longer having to combine his own oil/ petrol mixture. And this pre-dates Mercedes’ own systems by some two years, although Scherenberg became frustrated at Gutbrod, returning to Stuttgart-Sindelfingen in 1952.
Contemporary reports state a car with very decent handling, a turn of speed (more in a moment) but best to keep below 80Kmh if you wished to hold a conversation with your (extremely close) passenger as interior noise became excessive. Speeds for such a small fry depended on how the fuel was metered out. With the carburettor, roughly 110Kmh could be achieved by the brave. The foolhardy FSI powered driver might add another five, downhill with tailwind. Station wagons being naturally a little slower due to their heavier stance.
Initial examples had coach doors, but late in ‘51 the decision was taken to use conventional openings, adding such luxurious items as carpets. Consider the chrome laden behemoths that the United States were building to contrast with that last sentence – the gulf of excess. Even Blighty’s wares, although austere were at least accommodating. The next Gutbrod level of decadence was a boot flap, as lid really is far too strong a description here.
For the entire 7,726 production run, the chassis was that of a “forward bifurcated central tube frame.” Drum brakes all round attached to coil sprung suspension. The styling may have influenced the (much later) Nissan Figaro, or possibly something out of Enid Blyton. Regardless, Gutbrod’s coffers ran dry in 1954. Bankrupt, the Gutbrod car dream was over.
The German light of Gutbrod may have been extinguished but there was a minute glimmer from more northerly regions – the Troll car from Norway. Having a two year production run from 1956-58 is again notable for its brevity, along with a non-committal government leaving the Troll & Plastik Bilindustri company caught as a fly in the web.
Just five examples were made. Engineer Per Kohl-Larsen secured the German moulds, bringing Gutbrod chassis and extending them. Hans Trippel is deemed the Troll’s designer, he of Gullwing door and director of the Bugatti atelier during wartime, fame. Fibreglass bodywork styling that perhaps only a mother could love was not the cars undoing – plans being hatched for up to 2,000 per year with all but fifteen planned for export to Denmark and back to Germany.
The Norwegian government permit only allowed those fifteen homespun affairs, fearful of upsetting a long standing barter arrangement between Europe and Russia for Norway’s fish.
With halted investment, this company also went bankrupt early in 1958, closing the door on this slice of German car history for good.