The Goggomobil TS400 isn’t the kind of car you see every day. In fact, it’s not the kind of car that pretty much anyone ever sees. It’s the kind of car you might expect to see Jerry Seinfeld show up with if he invited you out for coffee, or perhaps the camera might pan by one in Jay Leno’s garage. They’re obscure, but they’re also odd – so you probably won’t see Wayne Carini seeking one out. Yet the model played a very important part in the development of German car manufacturers pertinent to our interests.
That’s because of where they were produced. Goggomobiles were bubble cars produced by Hans Glas GmbH in Dingolfing, Germany – in the heart of Bavaria. Yes, that’s the same Glas that built the beautiful 3000 V8 Grand Tourer and lovely 1700GT. The Goggomobil was far less glamorous, but no less important in the survival of the Dingolfing plant – in total, over a quarter million sedans and coupes were produced, and a few were even brought stateside. Like many bubble cars, the technology was 2-stroke motorcycle-based, which kept production costs very low and the car affordable to the masses. Goggomobiles even outlasted Glas itself, as BMW swallowed up its competitor in 1966 and used the Dingolfing plant for some of its newer models.
Goggomogiles are quite rare to find today, despite their relatively prodigious production (consider, for a moment, that there were only about 8,500 DeLorean DMC12s produced – and that this car ended production only 12 years before the gullwing time traveler emerged on the market!) so it’s neat to remember their quirkiness:
Two names appear in this post that aren’t nearly as widely recognized as they should be. The first is Andreas Glas, the proprietor of Hans Glas GmbH. In the 1960s, this company briefly moved away from its bonds as constructor of sewing machines and licensed Goggomobils to produce some seriously pretty coupes; the 1300GT and 1700GT were the first and better known, but the 2600 and 3000V8 were no less striking. That’s because of the second name involved in this post; Pietro Frua.
Frua isn’t nearly as well known as the other great Italian designers of the 1960s, but he had a unique style all his own. Well before Gandini and Giugiaro capitalized on the angular wedge era of automotive design, Frua’s low, long and flat lines stood sharply apart from the rounded arches that dominated Pininfarina, Ghia and Vignale. Glas used the designs, along with the pioneering use of timing belts, to offer a slightly different vision of German transportation. It was more emotive, more flowing and, frankly, more pretty than just about anything else in period from the major manufacturers. Indeed, many compared Frua’s work on the 2600 to the Maserati Sebring – exotic company, indeed, and fitting given that the designer went on to work on several of the Trident’s designs.
But Hans Glas GmbH was bought out outright by BMW, mostly for the procurement of the Dingolfing plant and engineering crew. Before BMW closed the chapter, though, they updated a few of the Glas designs with new Munich power, stuck some BMW badges on them and Viola! A new catalog of cars! This 1967 BMW Glas 3000 V8 is an example of the seldom seen period of BMW history: