Glas half full – finding rarities in Germany and parallels to the UK

| 23 Apr 2014

One of the best things about being in the privileged position to visit a lot of overseas classic car shows, is, depending upon the country, finding a bewildering array of cars that are commonplace in your host nation, but barely seen in the UK.

It is also perversely comforting to realise with some of them that, when you see a long-dead manufacturer's entire range from start to finish in one place, even in countries that still have a thriving motor industry, the death knell has rung for so many more. Just as it did in Britain.

The parallels with so many defunct British manufacturers – start small, get big, get swallowed up by a basking shark of a company, disappear – are everywhere.

This is one of the many reasons that I find Techno Classica in Essen so enthralling. Quite apart from its vast scale, the biggest disparity with Britain's best shows is that huge homegrown manufacturer presence, with Mercedes-Benz, VW and BMW taking entire halls to show off the historic and current wares from their own brands and those they have subsumed.

While such stands might venerate the fallen, such as Wanderer or Horch in the case of the Volkswagen Audi Group, other pockets within the 20-odd halls celebrate the lost marques on a much more modest scale.

And in Germany there is one in particular that I always look out: Glas.

Now, there may have been a major Glas contribution on the BMW stand, but if there was I missed it (it's impossible to see everything at Essen) and this is a theme I find both fascinating and archetypical of the rise and fall of a car builder.

Maybe I am drawn to Glas because, despite owning a Jensen Interceptor, I have always had a bit of a thing for pretty little, small-engined cars. And these are the foundations upon which Glas was built.

The former farm machinery manufacturer from Dingolfing made its name with the Goggomobils from the mid-1950s before moving on to Frua-styled baby 1300 and family sized 1700 GTs in the early 1960s.

Its success brought it to the attention of BMW which swallowed it up in 1966 and that was the beginning of the end for Glas, as a name at least, its products being quickly phased out while its new parent adopted its technology.

It was the last independent throes of Glas that most entice, however. Just before that BMW takeover, the company had achieved an impressive volte face by deciding that the perfect range accompaniment to the tiddlers that it had made its name with was what would become known as the Glaserati – due to its resemblance to another Frua exercise, the Maserati Quattroporte – a sleek, V8-engined two-door Coupé that was impressive enough to survive a couple of years into the BMW reign – until the 2500CS came along – albeit with a 3-litre BMW engine and BMW badges front and rear.

To me the 2600 has all the demeanour of a Quattroporte and it is a shame that only about 500 units were made in total. If I had the wherewithal, I would snap one up in a heartbeat, but for now it must remain big game to be hunted when in Germany.