While not as unheard-of as the Wartburg, I think that most folks–especially the younger ones–have no recollection of the West German-made Borgward Isabella.
Carl Borgward entered the car-making business by taking control of the failing Hansa-Lloyd company during the financial crisis of 1929. They made mostly very cheap cars for the masses. During WWII, his factories turned to producing trucks for the Nazi regime, and then–like most of German industry–eventually all production stopped as a result of damage from Allied bombing. However, Borgward was able to re-start production in 1948 with a series of low-priced Hansa, Lloyd, and Goliath cars.
In the mid-'50s he began producing the more expensive Borgward Isabella, which–in my opinion–looks somewhat similar to the Volvo 122S, which came along a few years later. The Isabella was a conventional front engine/RWD car, but it did feature some interesting technology for the time. The aluminum engine weighed only 272 lbs, and the intake manifold was cast into the inside of the valve cover. It had 4-wheel independent suspension, although–unfortunately–the rear suspension consisted of swing axles. The car also featured a fairly nice interior that looked very much like that of the Mercedes 190.
The car wasn’t cheap (~$3,000), as it was designed to compete with the Mercedes 190. And, compete it did, with Borgward taking the #2 place in German car sales by 1955. Only VW was able to beat them in sales volume for a few years.
So–what did Borgward in?
It seems that customers were correct when they wondered how he could sell his well-equipped, nicely-engineered cars for so much less than Mercedes was charging for their 190 model. Borgward had apparently decided to copy Henry Ford’s cost-cutting approach in order to increase sales volume, but because he never reached sufficient volume to make a profit on his low-priced sedans, he eventually ran out of money, and the factory was shut down in 1961. All of the tooling was later sent to Mexico, but only a handful of Borgward-design cars were manufactured in Mexico before that venture also went belly-up.
I can recall seeing the occasional Borgward Isabella when I was a kid, most likely because we lived in the NYC metro area, and foreign cars were not that unusual there by the late '50s. Do any other forum members recall the Borgward Isabella?