In well over a century since the birth of the automotive industry, many scores of automobile manufacturers have been established, with just a tiny minority of them ultimately surviving to the present day. This series aims to provide compact accounts of a selection of nameplates that have fallen by the wayside, starting with Glas. This is the story of how overambition fatally undermined a healthy company in the space of little more than a decade.
By the time it introduced its first car in 1955, the Glas company had already been in business for about 70 years selling farm equipment and, during the building of ‘new Germany’ after the Second World War, motor scooters. Named ‘Goggo-Roller’ – Goggo being the nickname of Hans Glas’ grandson – and available with or without sidecar and even as small delivery contraptions, these were quite popular for a while, Glas selling about 40,000 of them between 1951 and 1956.
The growing popularity of the Volkswagen and tiny, mostly three-wheeled ‘bubblecars’ however prompted Glas (as well as others such as Lloyd) to develop a small car that undercut the Volkswagen in price and did not require a full driver’s permit, but rather just a so-called ‘Class IV’ licence that was both easier and cheaper to obtain, which mattered in the difficult economic climate of early post-war Germany.
The sales succes of the Goggo-Roller generated good profits, which Glas invested in extending its Dingolfing factory and purchasing machine tools to produce engines in-house(1). In early 1955, Glas’ first car was born: less than three meters long, rear-engined and powered by an in-house developed 250cc aircooled two-stroke two-cylinder engine that produced barely 14bhp, the Goggomobil T250 met with immediate approval from the German car-buying public.
The reason was not just its low price and Class IV licence classification, but also that it actually looked like an – admittedly tiny – proper car, a characteristic which competitors such as BMW, Heinkel and Messerschmitt lacked, looking like the compromises they were.
The Goggomobil cost just 2,490 Deutschemarks, weighed just 415kg and had a maximum speed of around 80km/h (50mph). Theoretically, it was a four-seater, but the rear seats were really suitable only for children, and young ones at that. But the demographic at which the Goggomobil was aimed did comprise mostly couples with young children and of limited means, so something like this was their only realistic option if they wanted a new ‘real’ car and finances didn’t stretch to a Volkswagen. Consequently, by 1958 the 100,000th Goggomobil had been built and Glas had a winner on its hands. By that time, a cute coupé and practical delivery van had been added to the range, as well as larger 300cc and 400cc engines, producing 17bhp and 22bhp respectively.
The next addition to the as yet modest range of Glas vehicles would be the cause of the company’s first significant difficulties: the larger T600 and T700 models were introduced in 1958 and became known as ‘Das grosse Goggomobil’(2). They were plagued by several teething problems, a result of them having been rushed to market prematurely and, in particular, by a late switch from front to rear-wheel-drive because the original FWD prototype had proved dangerously unstable.
With its obviously American styling influences, complete with a panoramic windshield and reverse-rake windscreen pillars, Glas’ newest followed the contemporary styling trends, but was certainly not alone in this regard. The car was quickly renamed Isar T700 and a station wagon variant added, but it remained hobbled by driveability, reliability and structural issues. Initially, however, Glas was not too badly affected because the little Goggomobil was still selling very well and the company was in better financial shape than BMW at the time, although this would soon change dramatically.
Glas’ first foray into the lower end of the family car segment was a much more interesting and convincing product: this was the 1004, unveiled at the 1961 Frankfurt Motor Show. It may have been a bit homely in appearance, being styled in-house by Hans Glas and his son, Andreas(3). However, its new water-cooled 1,000cc four cylinder engine boasted a world first: its overhead camshaft was driven by a toothed nylon belt. It was designed by Leonhard Ischinger, an engineer who had come from BMW.
The 1004 stood on a version of the Isar platform – perhaps not the wisest choice – which was extended by 100mm. Even so, the wheelbase was still quite short, resulting in ungainly front and rear overhangs which did not help the car’s looks but, more importantly, gave it a tendency to pitch alarmingly under heavy braking.
Still, the largest Glas thusfar performed very well in domestic touring car racing as its engine was strong and highly tuneable; a year after its introduction, the 1204 with a slightly larger engine became available, as did a two-door saloon and a convertible. Topping the range was the 60bhp 1204TS, succeeded in 1965 by the 1304TS with 75bhp.
In the summer of 1966, a final body variant was presented, the 1004/1304CL (CL standing for Combi Limousine). The luggage capacity of the CL was disappointingly small for a car of this size, but it was nevertheless a novel concept and served as partial inspiration for BMW when developing the touring version of the ’02 series.
With the 1004/1204 a modest success for the small firm and the Isar embarassement mostly in the past, Glas again sought to expand its model range, this time with a small sports coupé and convertible plus a true medium sized family sedan. The less than complimentary remarks from both press and public about the styling merits of the 1004/1204/1304 line likely made Glas turn this time to the go-to place for attractive car bodies at the time: Italy and, in this case, Carrozzeria Frua.
The results were indeed pleasing to the eye and modern, although the sedan showed more than a few styling similarities with the Maserati Quattroporte that had also flowed from Frua’s pen. The base for the 1500(4) sedan was a virtually production ready Borgward Hansa styling proposal (also by Frua) that Glas had purchased when the assets of the bankrupt carmaker were sold off, saving a substantial amount of Deutschmarks compared to developing a new sedan themselves from scratch.
Although one can understand with the attraction of being able to add a medium size car to the range relatively cheapely, the addition of these two car lines meant that the still quite small-scale carmaker now offered no less than five quite different lines of cars: the Goggomobils, the Isar, the 1004/1204/1304, the 1300 Coupé/Cabriolet and the 1700. The Dingolfing plant, however, had remained more or less the same in terms of production capacity and square footage, which should have been a cause for concern(5). The capacity of the plant was for around 30,000 cars annually, a limiting factor in terms of amortizing costs, and the little Goggomobil remained the only Glas offering that really sold well.
If Hans and Andreas Glas had left it at that, their company might have survived a little longer than it did. The pretty but pricy coupé and cabriolet(6) were not selling in great numbers, but were ostensibly intended to enhance the brand image rather than bring in profits. Available from late 1964, the 1700 sedan and its later TS variant were also modest sellers: in total, slightly fewer than 14,000 came off the line in Dingolfing before the end came in 1967. In roughly the same timeframe, however, a resurgent BMW sold about 80,000 examples of its 1600 and 1800 ‘Neue Klasse’ models, while Opel and Ford shifted many more of that with their Rekord and Taunus models, although these cars were, image-wise, not really direct competitors to Glas or BMW. They do, however, put in perspective how small the output of Glas was in relation to the breadth of its range of cars.
The Goggomobil now also suffered a decline in sales as it was becoming outdated in styling and performance. What Glas needed and could have extended its life was a more modern, safer, slightly larger but still compact and better performing successor to its core model(7). Instead, the company inexplicably went completely in the opposite direction.
The 1965 Frankfurt IAA Motor Show was the stage for Glas’ final act. Proudly displayed on the stand was, of all things, an impressive GT coupé powered by a 2,600cc V8. It was based on the existing 1700 platform, but now with a De Dion rear axle instead of the 1700’s simple live axle. Pietro Frua was again responsible for the staying which, while eye-pleasing, now leaned even further towards a certain Italian manufacturer, hence it quickly received the nickname ‘Glaserati’.
The engine was again an in-house development, using two 1,300cc four-cylinder units as a starting point; its 150bhp enabled a top speed of around 200km/h (120mph). As was by now par for the course with Glas, its rushed development and introduction was accompanied by several teething issues, causing deliveries to be delayed to mid-1966. By that time ,the young Bundesrepublik experienced its first recession: the Wirtschaftswunder had come to an end, and so in essence had Glas.
The expensive development of a prestige car that didn’t sell, too many different models spread over not nearly enough sales and faltering interest in the Goggomobil meant that Glas’ situation had become untenable. Facilitated by the state of Bavaria, a takeover of Glas by rival BMW was arranged and completed on 10th November 1966.
Itself on the brink of disaster not long before, for BMW the acquisition of the Dingolfing factory was a boon, as were the many highly qualified engineers and technicians that came with it. The Glas range of cars, however, was a different matter. At first, production of those cars continued albeit (except the Goggomobil) hastily rebadged as BMWs. They were, however, really competing in the same car-buying segment as the BMW range except for the 1300/1700GT and 2600V8. Consequently, BMW phased out the Glas models in quick succession: first to go were the 1204/1304 and 1700 at the end of 1967. The latter was, however, not totally discontinued but exiled to BMW South Africa and Zimbabwe where it continued to be made until 1974(8).
For about a year, the 1700GT continued in coupé form only, now powered by a BMW engine and with a semi trailing arm rear suspension. BMW ‘kidneys’ at the front and 02- series taillights were an attempt optically to move the car a bit closer to the other models in the BMW arsenal. The big 2600 V8 would live on as the BMW – Glas 3000 V8 until May 1968, having received a larger 3,000cc version of the engine that had already been developed at Glas, with just over 400 produced.
Ironically, but somehow appropriately, the car that Glas started with in 1955 was also the final one to be discontinued: on June 25, 1969 the very last Goggomobil(9) – by then an anachronism in a quickly changing automotive landscape – was completed. It concluded the final chapter on a carmaker that might very well have survived longer if it had stuck to what it knew best.
(1) The Goggo-Roller was powered by bought-in ILO engines.
(2) The big Goggomobil.
(3) Interestingly, the front end displays some similarity with the later Fiat 124.
(4) The original 1,500cc engine the car was introduced with turned out to be not powerful enough for this size of car so a larger 1,700cc version was substituted, prompting the model designation to change to 1700 by the time the car was available to the public.
(5) The bodies of the 1300 Coupé and Cabriolet were however produced in Italy.
(6) They would both be available with the 1,700cc engine starting in late 1965.
(7) Glas did work on a new Goggomobil, but the prototype,codenamed M-61, was never developed into a production-ready car.
(8) See Die BMW Dit Was Nie’n BMW.
(9) Including all its variants almost 285,000 Goggomobils were produced at the Dingolfing works.
51 thoughts on “Book of the Dead – Glas”
German ‚Klasse 4‘ driving licences allowed you to drive farming tractors as long as they were not faster than 20 kph and anything with two or four wheels as long as the engine was not larger than 250cc.
Getting the licence meant filling in a questionnaire and paying a fee. No driving lessons and no driving test. These licences were mostly held by motorcycle owners for whom 250cc meant a pretty large bike at that time when most bikes had (tax free) 98cc or (taxed) 125cc.
As a result many of the motorcycle replacement micro cars of post war Germany had 250 cc like the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller, Heinkel Kabine, BMW Isetta and Glas Goggomobil. In contrast a 600cc Lloyd Alexander was a proper car demanding a ‘Klasse 3’ full car driving licence.
These regulations were phased out in 1954 and in the Sixties it was mostly elderly people and pensioners holding the old 250cc licence. For them the Klasse 3 car licence was known as ‘Angstschein’ (licence of fear) because of their fear of the practical test.
After the end of Goggomobil production this particular customer base was served by companies like Steinwinter who converted Fiat 500s to either Goggomobil engines or to 250cc by removing piston and con rod of one cylinder.
From 1970 to 1974 there was the AWS Shopper, a primitive vehicle with Goggomobil drivetrain and bodywork from DIY shop profiles and flat aluminium-GRP compound panels normally used for commercial vehicles. The Shopper was frighteningly expensive but quickly died with the customer base.
The Goggomobil engine was closely related to the one of the Adler MB250 motorcycle. No wonder as it was designed by the same engineer.
There also were 300cc and 400cc versions of the Goggomobil, the latter first with 22 PS which were reduced to 20 because the power was too much for the chassis. Goggos were famous for reaching their handling limits in reverse parking manoeuvres – swing axles at both ends made driving very interesting.
The market moved away from 250cc driving aids and towards proper cars with larger engines. Glas knew they stood no chance against the Beetle against which even an Opel Kadett or a Ford ‘Cardinal’ P4 struggled. For anything larger there was no money as you rightly pointed out with regards to the 1700 saloon which was much more of a Neue Klasse competitor than anything Borgward ever made but was too crudely made and agricultural to drive.
A lot of Glas’ particularities can be explained by the fact that the company was run by people from Lower Bavaria. If there are people on Earth who stubbornly insist on doing things their way then you will find them there.
Hans Glas took particular pride from the fact that all investments were paid for in cash without any credit from a bank. This is an explanation for many of the shortcuts taken in development and design of the larger Glasses but it also made them very inventive when they designed their own unique painting equipment for the Isar instead of buying it in.
Glas was proud of being debt free when they sold the company to BMW. They knew they stood no chance in the market and saw this as the best solution to save the working spaces of which there otherwise was no overabundance in the region.
The V8 Coupé was developed on an absolute shoe string budget and many parts bins were raided for it. Mercedes door handles, BMW indicator stalks and so on. They knew it was not a serious long term proposal and that they would not sell more than the 600 or so they made. But they gave it the wonderful Glas dashboard already seen in the GT.
Good morning Bruno. Before reading your enlightening piece, I knew nothing about Glas, so another worthwhile school day at DTW. The 2600 coupé is a lovely thing, even if Frua merely dusted off a Maserati proposal for it.
The 1700 saloon reincarnated as the BMW 2004 messes with your head somewhat. From the front, it is highly plausible, making you question your recollection of BMWs from that era:
It all goes horribly wrong at the rear, however:
That said, the integral rear spoiler is interesting, and a very early example of such a feature. I wonder how it came about?
The integral spoiler was already there when the car was still a Glas 1700.
Pietro Frua put particular attention to ease of manufacture of the 1500/1700’s bodywork. An example is the front where wings and front meet in a seam covered by the lamp’s chrome ring.
Therefore the spoiler should serve a purpose beyond being merely decorative.
The brother of a classmate had a collection of NSU TT/TTSs which he used for uphill racing and he also had a sizeable number of Glases of all types. His daily driver and tow car for the NSU was a 1700 saloon, he had a couple of GTs (of which I very nearly bought one) and it culminated in two Glaseratis. This guy would never have touched a Glas made by BMW.
After BMW bought Glas they refurbished and extended the factory in Dingolfing and used it for production of the then new E12 Fünfer.
I just discovered that BMW made more than twice as many of the South African version than Glas had built of the original.
Then my memory must be completely distorted because during my teenage years Glas cars were a quite common sight on (admittedly Bavarian) roads and that’s not only smelly Goggomobils with two stroke cloud of smoke.
Found this video on the M61 prototype, together with a German language page on the M61 that in the Prototypen section takes on to other Glas projects.
Had by some odd luck Glas been able to survive longer, intrigued to know how they would have transitioned away from the old-fashioned two-stroke in the Goggomobil or if like DKW pre-VW and barring any changes in Klasse 4 they would have persisted to the end.
The time for 250cc cars in general and for two strokes in particular was over and there was no market for them in Germany outside the ‘Klasse 4′ community. The membership numbers of this community continuously decreased for biological reasons until there was nobody left in need of such a car. This was when the AWS Shopper and Steinwinter experiments came to their end.
Glas built two or three M-61s which all were not ready to be driven after a cost estimate showed they would not be competitive. One of the cars was completed to driveable condition in 1969 and is shown at rallys – the one in the above picture.
Glas knew they didn’t have the funds nor expertise to build properly developed cars that were able to compete at eye level with the established manufacturers. They discovered this the hard way with the Isar which initially suffered from a large number of easy to fix faults like an air cleaner directly mounted to the bodywork, transmitting lots of hollow resonance noised until it was mounted on silent blocks. Another example was the belt drive OHC engine which had no guide wheels or tensioner for the belt but used a two layer cylinder head similar to Lampredi’s designs for Fiat but with shim plates between the two layers to adjust the belt tension. Ingenious but crude – and powerful, willing to rev but noisy and with truly bad NVH characteristics in case of the 1700 which was already stretched too far.
It’s to Hans Glas’ immensely high credit that he did not wait until his company sank into the red and wasted money but when he saw no future he sold to BMW (rather than being taken over by them) a debt free company, walking away upright.
Hans Glas by the way was a prominent victim of the Hong Kong influenza pandemic of 1968/69 of which he died a couple of days after he got infected.
I love the drip tray under the rear of the M61.
The Glas afterlife is very different from the fate of the many British vehicle manufacturers which fell by the wayside, with their sites redeveloped as housing estates, retail parks, and hypermarkets, and only trite street names to mark their past use.
I visited Dingolfing last year. The BMW plant covers as much land as the town itself, but is a quiet and rather charming place which gives little hint of the industrial colossus on the north side of the A 92. As for the people of Lower Bavaria, my stay was too short and I wasn’t sufficiently attuned to perceive the characteristic inflexibility Dave mentioned.
Since my visit I have bookmarked the Dingolfinger Anzeiger website. It really is a town of 20,000 people where nothing ever happens. The news is mainly minor car crashes, retirements of council employees, changes to refuse collection days, and in one more dramatic case, a middle-aged man who went missing for four days, but was found safe and well “and would have some explaining to do”.
I didn’t imply that people from Lower Bavaria are inflexible, they just insist on doing things their way.
That’s because Bavarians in general tend to be anarchists – their favoured form of government would be a strong anarch, when they swear an oath they only do it with a lightning conductor (the left hand does the same sign as the right one but points downwards along the trouser leg, so the oath loses its power). This mentality is strongest in Lower Bavaria (‘You eat potatoes? We don’t do this over here, we use potatoes to feed out pigs’).
That’s why Bavarians and Swabians usually don’t get along too well.
I should know, I grew up there, Alps in sight (Watzmann in my case).
Thank you for the article Bruno, I had no idea this company ever existed, so consider me educated.
Interesting seeing how they fell into that trap of spreading themselves too far and too thinly. Like you said, they should have just stuck to what they knew.
Maybe instead of trying to move upmarket they should have concentrated on making some sort of mini like city car with a (small) 4 cylinder engine to replace the Goggomobil.
Here’s something unexpected from the Dingolfing town museum.
A scaled down Healey Hundred, built for the amusement of the Glas children.
The museum has a good Glas section going right back to the Isaria agricultural machinery days. The cars display is good for informative descriptions, but the exhibits are pushed into far too little space, unlike the expansive BMW shrine on the floor below.
We all know what an E12 5 Series looks like, but most visitors have probably never seen a Glas Isar or 1300GT. Disappointingly there was no 1700 on show, but the very neat Frua-designed 3XL prototype more than compensated.
I remember seeing first gen Goggomobils in London in the late 50’s. The Suez crisis was fresh in everyones’ mind, so a tiny economy car with four wheels was a welcome innovation to some folk. Then the Mini arrived, and all other economy cars were redundant – unless they could be driven on a motorcycle licence.
In Spain a company based in the Basque Country started to build the Goggomobil in 1963, with modest success. It happened the same: the Seat (Fiat) 600 was launched and suddenly the Goggo (and the rest of microcars) were absolutely outclassed.
The GLAS 1300 Limousine project.
As for Glas, there was said to have been an episode where before Innocenti were considering some involvement with Glas only to go with BMC instead.
The X3L is as neat in real life as the pictures suggest. Not a hint of awkwardness, and very subtle detailing of junctions as you would expect from an Italian stylist in his prime. It’s a very small car, around the same size as an Escort Mark.1 but had the 1.0 to 1.7 litre Ischinger ohc engine range available. Regrettably leaf springs were used at the rear, as with the 1700. Nothing wrong with them per se, but the German industry – Ford excepted – had moved forward by the mid-’60s.
Its chances of being adopted as a BMW were slim – the 1600-2 was being readied for that niche. It’s just a pity the design wasn’t recycled as a Daihatsu or Suzuki.
If X3L was to include the 1.7-litre Ischinger OHC, than what were Glas planning for the 1700? Did they envisaged discontinuing the 1700 in favour of the smaller X3L? If not either finding more stretch in the Ischinger OHC to take it to 2-litres (with implications for the V8) or resolving the overlap with the larger model being upgraded to the planned DOHC development?
That is provided the DOHC development was intended for production rather than limited to motorsport (if its 130 hp 1.3-litre output to displacement is any indication), since it would enable the larger 1700 to revert back to a version of the originally planned 1500 unit.
Mention is made in the Curbside Classics article on Glas reconsidering a small 800cc car (possibly with FWD) to fill the gap left by the Isar, however while the latter was originally designed to use FWD there is little concrete information on the project or its projected engine unlike the X3L, M61 and 3-litre (if not 3.4-litre) V8 projects.
For some reason am envisioning the 800cc car resembling a modern Frua bodied Volkswagen EA48 (if FWD) or DAF 33 / P300 (if RWD) in the event it is powered by a Flat-Twin, with the basis chassis featuring a stretch in wheelbase from 78.7-inches of the Isar to around the Glas 1004’s 83-inch.
The 1700 was a class bigger than the X3L 4415mm L x 1610mm W as against 4039mm L x 1548mm W, with a 2500mm wheelbase – 120mm longer than the X3L.
I’d guess that the 1700 engine was on its absolute limits for expansion. The 1500/1700 got a new block, with a higher deck height but the same cylinder centres as the 1004/1304
The 1500’s proportions were 75 x 84.5 – same bore as the 1300 but 11.5mm longer stroke. The 1700 expansion required a 3mm wider bore, and a 3.5mm longer stroke. To go any bigger would require losing the water passages between the bores – probably intolerable to German engineering sensibilities at the time, though certainly not the case now.
There’s also mention in one of the X3L descriptions of three examples of an incomplete DOHC 16 valve engine with a notional 130PS from 1300cc. It may not have been intended for the X3L, more likely a racing engine, but possibly an indication that Glas were looking for ways of developing more power other than increasing capacity.
As for the Isar replacement, this appeared on the Suzuki stand at the 1962 Tokyo Motor Show.
Said to be styled by Frua, with an 800cc, or possibly 1000cc engine. After the show nothing further was heard of it. Possibly a Glas reject?
Glas OHC engines already had astonishing power in relation to their capacity for the time.
The 1300 GT had 85 PS if memory serves me right and the 1700 TS saloon had 100 PS which was a lot.
These engines also were very willing to rev – the rev counter of a 1300 GT has its red sector starting at 6,500 or 6,700 rpm which was quite high for the time. The 1300 GT sales brochure stated that max power was developed at ‘relaxed and trouble free 5,200 rpm’ at a time when a Beetle would not rev beyond 4,500.
If noise and NVH are an indicator then the 1700 was stretched beyond its sensible limits and showed it. I spent enough time in the passenger seat of a hard driven 1700 TS and alway felt sorry for the engine which invariably was operating close to the red sector of its rev counter.
Here’s a picture I finally found.
Look at the way the rockers are suspended in the upper half of the cylinder head to preserve their geometry when shims are inserted to adjust cambelt tension.
The rockers are prevented from slipping off the valve stems by white plastic clips.
If 1700 was the absolute limit Glas were willing to go for the Ischinger OHC, unless other modular options were considered by Glas. That only leaves the 1700 saloon with having to use a version of the V8 possibly in peculiar 120-140 hp (?) 2-2.4-litre displacement form (via the 1004-1204 units) to start with, since it is unclear if they were intending to outright produce a 4-door Glas V8 to replace the 1700 whilst leaving X3L powered by the 1.0-1.7-litre Ischinger OHC units.
The BMW takeover and Glas’s own situation undid any such future plans the latter may have had, at the same time it is worth speculating what direction they were likely intending on going with.
Difficult to image an Isar successor possessing 4-doors as on the Frua designed 1962 Suzuki Fronte 700 concept, whilst having FWD ambitions can see Glas playing it safe by sticking with RWD and resulting in a Frua styled model not that different to the DAF 44/46 (if with Flat-Twin) or DAF 55/66 (if with 1.0-1.3-litre Ischinger units).
One of my father’s brothers and his wife had a Goggo Coupe. That must have been around 1963/64. Even holiday trips with their three children were made in this “car”.
(Unthinkable nowadays, when families pack up the whole household when they leave the house. But those were definitely different times, four of us visited her in a BMW 600).
How you went on a holiday trip with your Goggomobil
You could even put a camping trailer to your Goggo
Very informative, but I wish you had included their export efforts. I own an Australian made Goggomobil Coupe. The bodies were manufactured locally by Buckle Motors in fibreglass and fitted to the steel floorpan and drivetrain from Germany.
Didn’t the Glas 1004 have the most peculiar drivetrain? A longitudinal engine in front of the front axle and rear wheel drive? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of another like it. There could have been room for a transaxle beteen engine and gearbox Renault 12-style, but they choose to have it go all the way back to the rear wheels anyway.
The 1004’s floorpan was derived from the Isar’s which was meant to be FWD but went RWD because they couldn’t solve some problems with the drivetrain.
Not so different from the Morris Minor, which had its in-line four cylinder engine in front of the axle line.
The Morris (and also the Jowett Javelin) was said to be inspired by the 1936 Steyr 50 which had a forward mounted flat four and rear wheel drive. The Minor was intended to have a flat four until a very late stage of development; fortunately the Morris 8 and later Austin A series in-line fours used instead were light and short enough that the engine location was not a problem.
Ah, I forgot about the Morris Minor. Somehow its proportions are better, it doesn’t look like the engine is that far in front, and the whole of the car doesn’t look like it was hastily re-configured from fwd to rwd. Thank Issigonis or rather his talented draftsmen?
And I’ve always loved the forgotten Steyr 50. In an alternative reality it could’ve been the Volkswagen beetle….
I’d take qualified issue with the description of the 1004 as homely. At the time it seemed pretty forward-looking with nice airy glasswork – you mention a similarity to the Fiat 124 of 5 years later. Of course what lets it down is the seesaw wheelbase and the droop, both front and rear, which only becomes a real problem when viewed in profile. I wonder if the latter is less a dubious aesthetic choice, than a need to keep the mass of metal overhanging both ends to an absolute minimum.
The Ischinger engine might have had a new lease of life in the proposed BMW 1000, a 700LS with nose and tail restyling, and the Glas engine in place of the air-cooled flat twin.
Incidentally, Glas wanted to buy engines from BMW when the Goggomobil was first proposed, and approached BMW through their Munich scooter dealer Schorsch Meier, who also had a thriving BMW Motorrad franchise. Meier requested a meeting with the BMW directors, who deigned to send an assistant to tell him “My dear Herr Meier, you cannot possibly imagine that we would hand over our high quality engine to a Lower Bavarian agricultural machinery factory!”
The refusal was a spur to Hans Glas to develop his own engines, and eventually poach one of their best-regarded engineers.
Had BMW been inclined to move downmarket, they could have had their own NSU Prinz 1000 though did wonder if it was feasible to convert the 700 to a front-engine RWD layout resembling a Glas powered DAF 77. Even then BMW could have made use of small block M10-precursors without the downsides of the Glas 1004 units.
On Glas interest in BMW engines for the Goggomobil, were they interested in the four-stroke single-cylinder used in the BMW Isetta 300 or a version of the Flat-Twin used in the 600 and 700? Was the BMW 300 single-cylinder capable of growing to 400cc or more, like the existing Adler MB250-inspired two-stroke 2-cylinder used by Goggomobil (heard unverified rumours of a 500cc version being developed)?
If they had been interested in BMW engines for the Goggomobil it would for sure have been the single cylinder with 250cc for obvious reasons.
BMW was inclined to move downwards as the initial working order for the development of the 02 was for a car with not more than 1,300cc. Only because their engineers ignored this management order did the 02 become the car it was with a big engine in a small car.
From the BMW Engine books, vaguely recall reading they started development on a 700-800cc water-cooled 4-cylinder that could be mounted in the rear or at the front to possibly replace the 700 Flat-Twin, before it grew to 900-1000cc than a modular 1300cc four and 2000cc six with a bore pitch closer to the later M20 Six (if a shade larger by a few mm).
It then became the familiar M10 engine with BMW investigating lower end 1100 and 1300 versions that were heavy and underpowered compared to the earlier smaller block precursors.
IIRC from the same book the New Class and 02 was originally preceded by a 501/502-based project known as 530 (? – cannot find other info online), where BMW explored many engine variations that were to utilize parts of the OHV V8 for related 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder engines (that in theory could have been applied to the V8 – such as a V8 derived Slant Four with OHC).
Until BMW’s financial problems and the other reasons led them to cancel 530 (?), seeking to take a bottom-up with a smaller design rather than an top-down approach with a larger one as the preferred basis for a new mid-size car.
Thanks a lot Bruno (and Dave)! I knew of bits and pieces of the Glas history (some muddled up in my mind with Borgward – I hope they get an article too), but now I know the whole sequence of events. As Dave points out, Glas seems to have been unlikely to become a full on manufacturer unless something changed dramatically in finance (to free more funds for development) and the factory. As it stands, BMW more or less took care of that.
Similarly to the discussion at the Maverick article, I would imagine Glas and Maserati operated in quite different spheres, so the similarities in design wouldn’t be too problematic. There are worse designs to recycle anyway. I know these independent designers were famous for recycling their ideas, but this, and the knowledge about Glas’ financial operation, does make me wonder how much they paid Frua. Not a lot, I suppose.
My understanding is that a merger with BMW was first proposed by the Bavarian government in the late 50s. But this was when Glas was thriving and before BMW’s Neue Klasse renaissance, so that Glas would likely have become the dominant party. Hans Glas turned them down. It’s hard not to be impressed by the ambitions of Glas, father and son, and their ability to do so much whilst avoiding the risk of borrowing money, but when does justifiable pride become hubris, and when does financial prudence become penny-pinching?
It was the idea of Klaus Dompert, their head of development, to sell the company to BMW in order to keep the working places. That’s why there was an initiative to make Dingolfing place a statue of dompert on their market place.
Hans and Andreas Glas might haven been ambitious but they did not lose their common sense and when they saw that it all didn’t they sold the company to BMW debt free. That’s not what I would call hubris. They knew that they would not conquer the market with the V8 (718 made) and therefore it was developed cheaply and sold at an astonishingly low price.
But who would blame them for building a car with such an interior – the instrument panel alone was worth the money
Can somebody creating such interiors (Glas GT 1300) be of bad character?
Dave. My question about hubris and penny-pinching is worth asking, since we do have to confront the fact that Glas’s efforts ended in their demise. But I’ve always admired their products, and wish that hadn’t been the case. So my own opinion is that it certainly wasn’t hubris, but that it was maybe a pity that Glas senior wouldn’t take the gamble with outside investment in order to retain independence and consolidate their new products.
bristowfuller: Hans Glas was not alone in taking this approach – debt being the downfall of so many carmakers over the years. Notably, Sir William Lyons was also of this mindset, funding all of independent Jaguar’s new product from company profits and amortising the costs over lengthy production runs. Lyons was adamant that this approach was one of the cornerstones of his company’s survival, but certainly, the accusation of penny-pinching could equally be laid at his door. John Egan recalled Lyons for instance telling him that he never over-paid for tooling, which probably showed.
Now that I think about it, another similarity is that like Glas, Lyons realised by the mid-60s that his business could not survive into the following decade without a larger partner/benefactor. Hence his discussions with Leyland and BMC, leading to the 1966 merger.
Nevertheless, your point is a valid one. However, at that time, banks were not minded to be all that accommodating to businesses experiencing cash flow difficulties, so one could perhaps understand Glas and Lyons’ reluctance to take that risk.
Did the Glas’ ambitions really lead to their demise or did they make their business an attractive asset to buy for BMW?
In the end their former factory was the core for BMW’s largest production site with 21,000 people working there and another 12,000 at their suppliers in a formerly truly poverty stricken part of Bavaria.
Would it have been sensible to take the risk of outside investment? Obviously not from their point of view and the result speaks for itself. Being able to step back and let things work out that way is nothing to be ashamed of in my eyes.
‘Every kind of honest work has the same ethical value and deserves the same respect.’ (article of the Bavarian constitution. Bavaria is the only German sub-state which denied acceptance of the German constitution in 1949 and created their own. So far for Bavarian anarchism)
To me the whole thing sounds like the Glass family wanted to keep thing in their own hands, when making Glas into a full fledged automaker would have involved giving up a lot of control to more powerful parties (this being quite a bit later than when Lyons started his business). They took it as far as they could, realised the limits of their situation and sold off the business whilst guaranteeing jobs would be saved. Like Dave, I don’t think that’s hubris. At most a certain unwillingness to give up control of the business partly to facilitate growthm which might have something to do with the local stubborness that Dave alludes to. You can call it small-mindedness (or even pettiness), but you can also call it knowing your own limits.
Accepting money from outside would have meant Prussians in the boardroom. Prussians are people from north of River Danube or from everywhere thinking they know better (and have to demonstrate it) than a Bavarian and particularly a Lower Bavarian.
Imagine a Glas management board meeting consisting of just Hans and Andreas ‘Anderl’ Glas and Klaus Gompert which most probably would have taken place in the next biergarten in fine weather. There’s simply no room for someone from the North.
(I still fondly remember status meetings of a multi million project at a supplier in the Nineties when the resonsible manager proposed to move the meeting to Munich’s Hirschgarten. He got us some food and I cared for the beer. Unthinkable nowadays)
To me, they’re all Germans? Which just goes to show how ridiculous regional tribalism really is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely hilarious hearing about inter-German disputes, but on the whole the concept is utterly ridiculous. How much could they have gained if they had put all that aside?
Curbside Classic has a good analysis of the downfall of Glas
Very interesting article and comments. Glas reminds me somewhat of Reliant, in that they produced small cars for a specialist market, but also made rip-snorting coupés.
Their history also demonstrates that you should try to leave employers on good terms. I hope that was the case with former BMW engineer, Leonhard Ischinger.
Today’s Glas buzz prompted by Bruno’s excellent article has prompted a re-read of the relevant chapter of the Horst Mönnich BMW history. In passing it mentions that Leonhard Ischinger was once “let go” by Fritz Fiedler his manager at BMW, so perhaps his move to Glas was not just down to the engineering opportunities he was able to pursue. There are some other gems in the chapter – perhaps for another time.
The nearest British industry comparison I thought of for Glas was Standard-Triumph in the post WW2 years. Always under-capitalised, but they had two very successful product lines in the 1950s in the Standard 8/10 and TR2/TR3.
As the sixties approached, they formed a successful relationship with a well-regarded Italian stylist, but the Herald and Spitfire were expensive to build and didn’t make much profit.
Standard-Triumph had impressive engineering, product planning, or marketing talent, but were never strong on quality or rigorous in their proving regimes, and had far too broad a range of products for their size. They were more fortunate than Glas in their 1960 rescue by Leyland Motors – it even gave them the funding to develop a modular range of all-new OHC in line four and V8 engines, which were a bit troublesome!
There’s even an agricultural parallel in that they were kept afloat for much of the ’50s by contract manufacture of Ferguson tractors.
Hello Robertas – that’s interesting. Triumph crossed my mind, too and I guess there’s a connection there via Michelotti, as well.
I do not think the Glas family were overly ambitious.
The Isar was their one attempt at moving upmarket. The 1004 range was merely an evolution of the Isar, released to keep the factory running. The 1700
was, as pointed out, heaped from the ruins of Borgward and as such, probably so cheap an opportunity that they could not pass it on (it must have been extremely cheap, for who else in Europe would have been interested in buying the right to such sedan?). Anything else was making do with the stuff they had at hand, the GT and V8 being particularly clever in not needing much factory to built in limited numbers, while having the potential to sell at a price.
The fact Glas were doing OK, financially, speaks for itself. They called it quits when the opportunity arose. Hans Glas surely was a capable businessman, who obviously not aspired to be another Gianni Agnelli. That is the opposite of hubris, no?
These factoids from the Horst Mönnich BMW history:
On a weekend in mid-1966 Hans and Anderl Glas met BMW director Paul Hahnemann privately at Glas and BMW dealer Schorsch Meier’s home in Munich. Glas had cash flow problems which looked insurmountable. They had already received state support but a request for more had been refused. On the Sunday afternoon Hahnemann called Herbert Quandt, promoting the idea of a takeover and requesting emergency funding to keep Glas afloat. Quandt underwrote a 5 million DM cheque with only Hahnemann and bMW Finance Director Friedrich Pollmann’s knowledge. The cheque was delivered to Anderl Glas the following day.
At the time there were no formal takeover arrangements, only an intimation from Schorsch Meier to BMW that the Glas family would be amenable to discussing the matter. Although Mönnich doesn’t mention it, BMW’s support was probably not wholly altruistic. If Glas defaulted, it could have brought down many of the Mittelstand suppliers also used by BMW.
The takeover agreement included a guarantee of continued employment for the Glas workers. While the Dingolfing factory was being converted to BMW production, its employees had the choice of working at Munich or Landshut, or receiving state benefit until the factory was ready for them to return. Very few took up the first two options. Most were smallholders, preferring to accept a temporarily reduced income while spending more time with their family and their cow.
Glas director and engineer Karl Dompert put an impassioned case for large-scale redevelopment of the Dingolfing site. BMW’s idea was to use Dingolfing for component production, and make Landshut their second major car assembly site, with a large number of ex-Glas workers required to commute westwards. Part of Dompert’s case was that while BMW saw the labour pool coming from the zone between Dingolfing, Landshut and Munich, Glas saw their catchment area as being east of Dingolfing, as far as the border with Czechoslovakia, around 100km distant. Dompert’s argument won, as BMW were well aware how hard-stretched the skilled labour market was in the hinterland of Munich.
Today Dingolfing is BMW’s largest German production site with more than 20,000 employees, also providing work for more than 10,000 further people at local suppliers.
During the time your story describes Bavaria as a whole and Lower Bavaria in particular changed from being Germany’s poorhouse into a region with an unemployment rate of less than three percent.
Much of this change had to do with the rise of BMW but also with creating a combination of ‘Laptop and Lederhosen’.
The Dingolfing factory once had a fleet of travel coaches collecting workers from the far away locations you describe. The travel routes of the buses were planned so that no one had to sit in the bus for more than two hours for a single trip. I once met a guy there who travelled daily between his home in Tirschenreuth and Dingolfing, a distance of more than 180 kilometres. Workers accepted this because the alternative would have been no employment at all.
Behind the scenes at Glas Automobilwerke