Borgward Arabella Restoration

Denis Hibbs

My first introduction with Borgward cars was in February 1970 when I purchased an Arabella in Greymouth (West Coast South Island). It was a 1961 model Chassis number "30 145 203" Registration AC 2516.

At the time I knew nothing about the car or even the manufacturer but my fiance Margaret (now my ever patient wife) saw it in a car sales yard and we decided to buy it. I think the shape of the car sold itself to us more than anything.

The car had been modified by having a 1200cc Volkswagen engine fitted. The acceleration was fantastic and it could easily outsprint 6 cylinder cars up to 3000cc. However it was easy to over rev the engine and I had to limit the speed to 100kph to prevent damage, but on hills it left all the big boys behind.

Sometime in the mid 70's I had aquired two other Arabellas for parts which were stripped down and stored wherever there was room, under the house, in the attic, in the shed. Unfortunately there is no record of their chassis numbers and they will have to be recorded in history as "Unknown Donors".

The photo shows this car Registation AC2516. The exhaust arrangement was later altered so they looked like the original Arabella arrangement. This however was accidental as it was designed to allow the exhaust pipes to be removed more easily as the engine did indeed need to be removed almost on a regular basis. I timed myself once and it took 20 minutes from starting to remove the bumper to the engine completly out, on my own with no help. A mate once commented that I should use wingnuts on the engine and exhaust bolts.

A look at the grill shows it almost completely blocked off. This was necessary because with the Volkswagen engine mounted to the front, the distributor was right behind the grill and was particularly prone to getting very wet everytime it rained.

In 1971 we moved to Wellington in the North Island and the car came with us. It was there that I saw for the first time another Arabella. I stopped the driver and to my astonishment he was originally from Greymouth to. Phil Parr was his name and he was a science teacher at Greymouth High School when I was a student there.

As Arabella owners will know, maintenance is an ongoing task. This ia a photo I took about August 1973 of Kerian (of this website) aged about 18 months old helping me with some maintenance.

We kept our little Arabella until about 1978 when we had to get a larger vehicle as by then we were married with three growing boys.

Unfortunately there were no buyers wanting it and we scrapped it together with all the spares. Cry

And there our interest with the Arabella's stayed for 28 years.

Fast forward to 2006 and a Classic Car Show was being held in Napier where we now live (East Coast North Island). An article in the paper mentioned that a Borgward enthusiast from Wellington Chris Butler together with his parents and friends Jeff and Maggie were bringing four Borgwards to the show. Margaret and I went along and became acquainted with Chris. Through this meeting we learnt a lot about Carl Borgward and his cars. Chris was particularly interested in some things I kept, badges and parts catalogue in particular which I gave him.

Probably the most important thing to come from that meeting was a reawakened interest in the Arabella model in particular. This started me wondering if there were any still around.

February 2008 and Shaun (our second son) saw one for sale on TradeMe. It was in Kaikoura (East Coast SI) and as I was the only one bidding for it soon owned my 4th Borgward Arabella. A bonus was the front half of another one plus a heap of parts from yet another. These were aquired from Bob Bell a car enthusiast himself who had obtained the car a couple of years earlier simply to save it from the scrap heap. The photo shows both cars loaded at Bobs property ready to begin the 500km trip to Napier. Bob incidently featured in the September 2008 edition of New Zealand Classic Car magazine together with his cars and amazing "Blokes Shed".

Prior to traveling to Kaikoura, Margaret and I met David and Gwen Saunders in Christchurch. David and Gwen have owned Borgwards for many years and I was fortunate to purchase some Arabella spares from Dave in anticipation of the project ahead of me. Dave is a mine of information on Borgwards and I was also fortunate to be given a set of technical bulletins issued by Borgward for the Arabella. Dave, Gwen and their Isabella featured in New Zealand Classic Car in the March 2001 issue. 

(May 2009. I have just received from Gary, a former owner of the white car the original ownership papers. Surprise Surprise one of the owners was Dave Saunders who purchased it on 14 June 1975.)

Well when you start looking instead of just wondering, you start seeing things you did not notice before. Within days of safely arriving home with Arabella numbers four and five (or should that be four and half?) I found another up near the top of the North Island which was for sale by Hans Compter. After a short discussion Margaret and I decided that after so many years, two Arabella's were better than one so we also purchased it from Hans. Car number six! I think I had become obsessed with the little cars. Wink And the kitchen is still not finished.

A few weeks later Hans delivered the car and as you can see below the twins were together at home. Cute are they not?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder

So there is our story of how we got to know of a little car called Arabella, and her sister Arabella, and her other sister Arabella .........

So it is time to start restoring them to their original beauty.


was number seven just waiting to introduce herself?   Sealed

Lets start the restoration first. 

24th September 2008

It is now October and the first car has been stripped down. Next week Margaret and I are travelling to Hokitika for her school reunion. Also while in Hokitika we have an appointment to meet someone, A lady called "Arabella". Number seven I think! Wink

I have had a trailer made with which to transport her to Napier. I tested it with the white car and it proved very successful

Once we are back I have promised to make progress towards completing the kitchen before Christmas Innocent

14th October 2008

May 2009

It has been a while since updating the site and a lot has happened in the meantime, not the least that I got some work done on the kitchen for Margaret.

We had a sucessful trip to Hokitika where we met Keith Manson and took delivery of Arabella #7 from him. Keith bought the car many years ago and is trying to locate the ownership papers to determine the actual owners. He thinks he was either the second or third owner. either way the car only has 38,410km's on the odometer.

Keith took the car to the West Coast for his father to do some tidying up and paint it, however his father moved to a smaller home and did not have room to store it so it went to a farmlet where it stayed in a shed in storage.

We are very lucky as all the window rubbers and chrome trim was masked off with tape for painting which preserved them remarkedly well. Keiths father also had the foresight to spray the body panels with a rust preservative which left the car in a remarkably good condition. Basically there was some rust under two mudguard panels and a little in the boot floor. The boot surround however has a bad patch where a leaky roof constantly dripped on it but inside the floor still retains its original paint and the engine also turns over.

Keith realised that he would not be able to restore the car and handed it over to me on the understanding that I would do so. We now have the real possibility of being able to restore two Arabella's to original condition. Many thanks to Keith for his generosity.

Keith Manson. Keith came over to Hokitika from Christchurch to hand the car over to me.

Passing through Wellington on the way to Napier


April 2010. Time to update the site again. The cars have been neglected lately while I made the effort to concentrate on the kitchen and get it finished and out of the way of more important things, namely rebuilding two Arabella's.

Late in 2009 I received an email from Coulton Finch in Christchurch offering me his Arabella. Yep thats right, "Arabella number 8.

The car belonged to his father who bought it in the 70's and was used regularily until it suffered the fate of many Arabella's, the engine failed. After the usual check as to what went wrong, the car was left in peace. Coulton offered me the car to use what I could so in February I went down to Christchurch with a trailer to see what could be recovered. The poor girl was really in a bad state with terminal rust in all body areas, however surprisingly there were parts that were in quite good condition. The car had been parked under a tree that kept it out of the direct sunlight and as a result the window rubbers are reasonable and after some rejuvenation will be suitable for reuse. I removed a quantity of chrome parts and both doors. One door skin in particular will be usable having no damage over the main surface. I also brought back the rear window which just lifted out as all surounding metal had rusted away.

As the position of the car made extraction difficult, meaning cut the fence and take it out through the neighbors property we decided to leave the rest which Coulton will disect and I will recover the front portion later in the year. Unfortunately we could not identify the chassis number as all that area had rusted away. The main thing is however that another car has been used to provide a source of parts for the future. Many Thanks Coulton.

While the car initially looked reasonable a closer lookshowed all panels had sever rust.


Easter 2010. For those not in the know, I have been building a new kitchen for Margaret for a wee while now. However at last it is finished!!!!!!. One happy Margaret Laughing, and one happier Denis Cool now I can concentrate properly on rebuilding the cars. Just to prove it's done, here is a couple of shots of the kitchen. I did everything except the benchtop and tiles on the floor. All cupboard doors were handmade from recycled rimu.


The week after Easter was spent cleaning out the workshop sweeping up wood shavings etc and converting it from a woodworking workshop to a mechanical one.

I also had an opportunity to store all the body parts away in the storage shed. It is nice and dry in there and keeps warm so there will be no more deteriation to the body parts. 

This is the chassis of the car from Keith in Hokitika

I had racks madeso all parts could be hung out of the way



Record Of Chassis and Registration Numbers

The following is a list of the Chassis Numbers and Registration details of the cars featured in this website.

LP 900 38  "30/137625"   Reg # AL 3256  (White car From Hokitika)

           Manufactured December 1960


Arabella     "30/139430"                          (Yellow half car from Kaikoura)

          Manufactured January 1961


Arabella 38  "30/145083"  Reg # CQ 5700 (White car from Kaikoura)          

          Manufactured July 1961

          First Reg NZ 27 August 1962   Auckland


Arabella 38 "30/145203"  Reg # AC 2516 (My original car)                          

           Manufactured July 1961

           First Reg NZ 30 November 1961   Invercargill


Arabella 38 "30/145268"  Reg # BA 731    (Blue Car from Whangarei)         

           Manufactured July 1961

           First Reg NZ 6 December 1961   Auckland


Arabella 38 "30/145470"

           Manufactured July 1961

           No known details. Part of a rusted chasis among other parts



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