One car, two stories: Glas 1700 - the better BMW?

Frank Herzog
One car, two stories
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B orgward undoubtedly stumbled through its own fault. Of all Bremen's ambition, however, only one body design made by the Italian Frua for the new Borgward Isabella, whose prototypes would have been in Frankfurt in the autumn of 1961 if things had gone normally, remained alive the visitors to the Frankfurt IAA for the new Borgward with 2.3-liter engine - the BMW 1500 was a similar attraction in the fall of 1961. And in the fall of 1963 everyone was talking about the two new glass models: the 1300 GT and the 1500.

The independents among the German automobile manufacturers could never complain about a lack of public interest. In the current economic situation they always had good sales opportunities.

Modern engine in the glass 1700

They stayed in a well-locked hall in Bremen, and after a number of modifications they became the Glas 1500 from 1963. After determined preparations, at the end of 1964 it was sold as Glas 1700 go into production. The Borgward example did not prevent Glas from becoming the “right” car.

The mood in Dingolfing is characterized by an extraordinary spirit of enterprise. And this enterprising spirit did not stop with the GT. The next steps are the Glas 1700 GT and the 1700 TS - both with the 1.7 liter engine brought to 100 hp. The intention and the pleasure of competing with BMW is unmistakable with glass. 1700 and 1700 TS are parallels to the 1800 and 1800 TI.

Frua created a weightless body

On the outside The glass 1700 can effortlessly do it with elegance to include the competitor from Munich; the body of Frua is undoubtedly more fluid and weightless than that of BMW. The engine was developed from the same basic construction that had proven to be a good hit in the types with 1000 and 1200 cm3.

With this engine, the 1204 TS dominates its displacement class in rallies and touring car races; the machine is known to be efficient and reliable. With the 1300 GT andWith the 1700 glass there seems to be some problems due to the higher material stress that must be viewed as initial difficulties. Such things were not exactly rare with the BMW 1500 at first.

The most famous detail of the glass motor is the plastic toothed belt that drives the overhead camshaft. The fear that it might tear has now been dispelled by this toothed belt; it is just as reliable as the usual drive chain, but runs more smoothly and should also be cheaper to manufacture.

Unconventional rocker arm mounting

The unconventional rocker arm mounting on studs has also proven itself. Overall, the engine of the Glas 1700 is designed so modern that, despite the rather long stroke of 88 mm, it not only offers the necessary structural requirements for the current 80 HP, but also for the 100 HP of the TS version.

For the eye, the Glas 1700 not only has a pretty shape, but is also well-equipped. The instrument panel with imitation wood and black upholstery is reminiscent of BMW, the floor carpet and carefully padded reclining seats complete the dignified impression. You don't feel anything here of the clumsy primitiveness of earlier glass models; the cooperation with Frua was worth it.

There were still a few complaints about the processing of the test car. The doors of the Glas 1700 were difficult to open and close, and the wind noise when driving fast was considerable. The front vent windows are missing a lock; they open by themselves and then start to whistle. The heating in the test car could not be switched off completely.

The Glas 1700 is not a 'pretty blender'

The neat appearance will surely attract many people to the Glas 1700. The more interesting side of his character is revealed when driving. Here it shows that it is by no means just a 'pretty blender', but a car that is attractive to drive.

There are a number of different factors that contribute to this overall impression. It starts with a good sitting position, which allows a sporty driver posture with outstretched arms. The lateral guidance of the body in the seats and the thigh support are also good. The view in all directions is also excellent in Glas 1700; The low belt line creates a clear, carefree driving experience in addition to the good clarity of the entire car.

This also corresponds to the character of the steering: It is more direct than in most sedans of today and yet very easy to operate. The handiness of the Glas 1700 is almost like a sports car, which not only increases driving pleasure in heavy traffic and winding roads, but also increases accuracy and safetyis used for driving.

Hooked transmission

The sporty, handy character of the Glas 1700 is rounded off by the engine and Transmission. The most striking feature of the engine is its spontaneous reaction to any change in the accelerator pedal position.

The gearbox of the Glas 1700 can be shifted quickly and smoothly with the conveniently located middle gear lever, the synchronization (Porsche system) works perfectly. Of course, these positive statements must be supplemented by a few negative ones. Shifting is quick and smooth, but it's easy to 'make a mistake'. The levels of first /second and third /fourth gear are so close together that we often involuntarily got into the wrong gear.

Motor only starts at 2,000 rpm with a decent torque

Another difficulty, especially when driving slowly, is the fact that the Glas 1700's motor lacks elasticity in the lowest speed range. There is still very good torque at around 2,000 rpm, but below 1,500 rpm it stops quite suddenly. This often forces you to shift down from second to first gear in tight bends and when stepping. The third can only be used from around 40 km /h, which is quite poor for a 1.7-liter car.

On the other hand, the engine is not particularly easy to turn - despite the overhead camshaft, it drops beyond 5,500 rpm Performance quickly. In the remaining area between 1,500 and 5,500 tours the machine of the Glas 1700 is of course very powerful.

Glas 1700 with moderate road holding

The gear ratios are also chosen so that there is a large power reserve in every driving situation with the right gear selection. This power reserve and the powerful 'acceleration' ensure that the Glas 1700 is one of the cars with superior performance in terms of performance.

The performance we measured is a little worse than we had expected based on the practical driving impression. If the engine could be cranked higher, the acceleration values ​​would certainly be even more impressive. But this was probably reserved for the TS version on purpose. Our measured values ​​coincide almost exactly with the factory specifications, but the top speed of 150 km /h was slightly lower than the official 154 km /h. The consumption of the Glas 1700 can be described as favorable in view of weight and performance - it was between 9 and 13 liters /100 km, depending on the driving style.

High noise level in the Glas 1700

Handiness and motor power are the most prominent characteristics of the Glas 1700. In terms of driving characteristics and driving comfort, however, it cannot offer any features that make it stand out from theAverage.

We already mentioned the wind noise of the body of the Glas 1700; Together with the engine noise, they create a high level of noise. Although the sound of the engine is not unpleasant and fits the sporty character of the car, we found the high noise level tiring on long journeys. In addition, there is a suspension that, by normal standards, would be described as hard, even in a sports car.

The deeper cause of the spartan suspension comfort is to achieve good and safe driving characteristics despite the rigid axle and leaf springs. The waiver of large spring travel reduces the tendency of the axle to 'self-steering movements', and the hard springs and dampers are intended to ensure that the wheels of the Glas 1700 do not jump on bad roads.

Neutral driving behavior

Compared to the BMW 1800, which has an individual suspension of the rear wheels, the Glas 1700 shows that the large unsprung masses of the rigid axle with built-in Differential affect the driving comfort quite noticeably. Glas has given the rear axle additional guidance by means of a Panhard rod, i.e. a transverse rod articulated between the vehicle floor and the axle.

The handling of the Glas 1700 corresponds to its sporty character: it behaves almost neutrally when cornering, requires so no excessive steering wheel deflection. As you approach the limit, there is a slight tendency to oversteer, which can be kept well under control by counter-steering.

This oversteer is more noticeable on wet roads - you then have to react faster to avoid the rear of the glass 1700 again. The car is therefore not as easy to drive on wet roads as it is on dry roads. The insensitivity of the car to cross winds and tearing of the steering deserves praise.

Excellent brakes

Proven to be excellent the brakes (front discs, rear drums). With the Glas 1700, they work without a servo and therefore require quite a bit of pedal pressure for gentle braking. Like the 1300 GT, the 1700 proves that glass has made the leap to a fully-fledged automobile.

But it is too expensive as a vehicle for everyone, and it cannot offer enough for high comfort requirements. What the Glas 1700 can offer is sporty driving pleasure, elegant shape and good equipment. There is currently no German sedan with such distinctive sports car features, because even the BMW 1800 is larger and less manageable. The chance of the Glas 1700 and even more of the 1700 TS lies in those buyers who want to drive an inexpensive sporty sedan.

On the next page you can read the Glas 1700 driving report fromAlf Cremers.

The car manufacturer Glas suffered from two weaknesses, a capital ceiling that was too thin and a fuzzy brand profile. The range ranged from the smallest car to the luxury coupe, from 13.6 to 160 hp. The most convincing models were the GT coupés from Frua and the 1700 sedan. Unfortunately you came too late.

Pietro Frua had a good day when he designed the 1700 glass. He didn't even have to start from scratch, there were already two prototypes for Borgward. However, they were initially not intended to be the successor to the Isabella, but rather as the new Hansa 1300, which was supposed to close the gap between the Arabella and a new Isabella in the representative Frua style.

Borgward bankruptcy brings Hans Glas to 1700

The Borgward bankruptcy thwarted the premiere and another family entrepreneur in the auto industry, Hans Glas, seized the opportunity to move up expand. The technical basis was provided by the extremely charming 1300 GT, developed almost in parallel. It wasn't very exciting, but it was rock solid: standard drive via split cardan shaft, modern OHC four-cylinder engine with cross-flow head and new type of toothed belt, double wishbone front axle, rear a leaf-sprung rigid axle with Panhard rod.

GT and sedan celebrated their premiere at the IAA 1963. The pre-production model of the four-door was still called Glas 1500, analogous to the BMW, and was supposed to produce 70 hp. It went into series production in August 1964 as a long-stroke glass 1700 with 80 hp at 4800 rpm. A year later, the 100 hp TS variant with two Solex flat-flow carburetors was added. It was only ordered 928 times in two years of production. The normal 1700, equipped with an automatic starter instead of a choke, achieved 85 hp at 4900 rpm thanks to a different nozzle configuration.

Glas 1700 - just a second-class copy of the BMW 1800?

Glass enthusiast Jürgen Kraxenberger from Moosthening near Dingolfing owns a fir-green, 85 hp 1700 sedan built in 1966, which he gave me entrusted. I am curious whether the glass is just a second-class copy of the new-class star BMW 1800. Or does it actually show so much independent character, as auto motor und sport tester Reinhard Seiffert once wrote very emphatically.

Mid-size sedans with standard drives and spirited four-cylinders made more and more appearances in the early sixties. They all followed in the footsteps of the faded Borgward Isabella - whether the Ford 17 M TS, Simca 1501, Fiat 1500, Peugeot 404, Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300 or the Arche type BMW, from the 1500 with 80 HP to the 2000 with 100 HP. The 190 Mercedes also has 80 hp, but is neither compact nor sporty.

The delicate lines of the 1700 glass immediately appeal

Expressive front section, narrowRoof posts, harmonious proportions and large glass surfaces make it appear as a typical child of the trapezoidal fashion. Above all, the clear rear with the attached rear lights reveals the typical, light Frua signature. The glass appears more compact than the BMW, it is as big as the Simca 1501 or the Audi 75.

Cultivated Langhuber

The long-stroke toothed belt four-cylinder runs cultivated and quiet at medium speeds. Its finesse lies not only in the toothed belt drive of the camshaft, which does not require a tension pulley, but also the new rocker arm bearing with ball and socket, which makes a rocker arm shaft unnecessary, simplifies the valve train and saves assembly costs. The glass four-cylinder barely sounds particularly stimulating, in the usual speed range a hoarse purr dominates.

Instead of the opulent broadband speedometer that Frua insisted on, I wanted the many round instruments of the GT models for the spirited sedan who of course have a tachometer.

Quiet and powerful

The likeable long-stroke engine is a powerful, powerful engine, which develops its maximum torque of 140 Nm already at 2700 rpm. Nevertheless, he doesn't like it when the accelerator pedal is depressed vigorously in second gear just above idling speed. The power delivery could be more linear, even smoother.

At the top, the engine quickly seems strained and loud. Perhaps the one flat-flow carburetor is too poor for an intoxicating temperament. Only the TS with 100 hp is really sovereign. The transmission can be shifted easily but carefully with the GT joystick in the middle, but the shifting precision is lacking. Unlike Reinhard Seiffert, I didn't find the clutch to be stiff and the brakes stopped bitingly - maybe because this glass 1700 servo.

Sporty, agile handling

The finish of the small series car, which incidentally was not manufactured at Frua like the GT bodies, but entirely in Dingolfing, is impressive. Even after 45 years nothing rattles, the doors close tightly and cleanly. Only the interior could be of higher quality.

I don't think the car has that hard suspension. Glas changed the suspension setup during series production, now the GLas 1700 drives as comfortably as a 17 M, but its handling is far more sporty. He circled swiftly driven curves with slightly understeering to neutral. Its steering feels pleasantly direct, and it is smooth on top of that.

Unfortunately, none of that helps, the long shadow of BMW soon caught up with the 1700. Finally he had to go into exile in South Africa.


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