This article is about the Goggomobil microcar – famous in Australia for being featured in television advertisements for telecoms and car insurance – the same actor but different cars were used. The Goggomobil was originally built in Germany by Hans Glas GmbH owned by the Isaria company, which was the main company owned by the Glas family.
Like many manufacturers, Glas started out manufacturing other machines, in fact the company was founded in 1895 by Andreas Glas to repair farm equipment in the town of Pilsting in the gorgeous Bavarian countryside. Glas started to make crop sowing machines in 1905 and these became so popular he moved to another town called Dingolfing, where manufacturing continues today.
The company continued manufacturing agricultural machines right through to the end of the Second World War and then started to look at other machines to build. They branched out into other equipment and clearly saw a demand for cheap transportation, firstly with scooters and then a small microcar. Motoring Weekly has written of the microcar boom of the 1950s before, with cars like Reliant, Messerschmidt, Peel and Allard all competing for the cash of the European market that was repairing itself after the war.
In 1955, Glas released the first Goggomobil, the T250 and named after Glas’ grandson whose nickname was “Goggi”. It was an all steel car with a whopping 250cc, two stroke and two cylinder motor pumping out less than 15hp at 5,400 rpm. The motor was rear mounted and came with a 4-speed Getrag gearbox. Unlike many of its competitors, Glas designed and manufactured its own engines whereas many others used DKW or motorcycle motors. The body was a cute two door and was a true four seater, albeit for smaller people and ran on 10” rims. Glas made a saloon and coupe version and the 250cc motor was enlarged to 300cc later in its life and called the T300.
They also made the T400 and a Transporter version for commercial deliveries. Over 250,000 of the cars were built in Germany over a 14 year life, however more units were built under licence in other countries such as Argentina and Australia where Bill Buckle manufactured the Dart, a swoopy two door convertible. We’ll come back to the licensed versions later. With the success of the Goggomobil, Glas started to sell the Isar 600 and 700 under the Glas brand. These were basically enlarged Goggomobils and were named after the river that the factory was built near. As the names suggest they came with 600cc or 700cc motors. These models were in production for seven years from 1958.
Glas were slowly moving up the food chain as they were making microcars, mini cars and then from 1962, normal sized cars with 1-litre engines. The Glas 1004 was released first and was uprated first to a 1204 and then a 1304 over its six year life. In 1964, Glas added a new car to the range, the 1300GT. Designed by the Italian, Pietro Frua, this was a sporty coupe using the same motor as the 1304. This car was in production for about four years and was also updated to a 1700GT with the addition of a 1700 saloon as well. In 1966 Glas attacked the top end of the market with the 2600GT and later the 3000GT – cheekily nicknamed the “Glaserati”.
This was a tough market to crack and later in the year, the company was sold to BMW who replaced the motors in the larger cars with their own versions and gradually dropped the Glas name in favour of the BMW brand. By 1968, the Glas and Goggomobil brands had been dropped altogether.
So, what of the licenced versions? The Goggomobils and Isar models were manufactured in Argentina from 1960 under the Isard Argentina brand. The Glas 1700 was built in South Africa firstly by an importer and then by BMW South Africa as it morphed into a full BMW model. And now we come to the Goggomobil Dart. About 700 were produced by Bill Buckle on Sydney’s Northern Beaches during the late 1950s. Buckle had built fibreglass specials in the early 1950s using Ford components. Buckle went to Germany and obtained a licence to build the coupes and Transporter using fibreglass instead of steel. Glas shipped rolling chassis to Sydney for the body to be attached. The Dart was launched in 1958 and was a Buckle design on a Goggomobil chassis using the rear mounted 300cc motor. Buckle had designed a doorless convertible that used the rear window of a Renault Dauphine as the windscreen. It was in production for about four years and later models had small doors and even a hardtop.
And finally, the old Glas factory is now a major BMW facility producing the high end models in the range and also Rolls-Royce bodies.
The image of the Goggomobil Dart is owned by Shannons Insurance.