Agricultural machinery exhibition fair
During the Second World War the company was forced to act as an arms supplier.
The GLAS factory around 1960
Hans Glas GmbH company history
Back in 1860, Maurus Glas founded the first agricultural machinery factory in the district town of Freising, in Bavaria. He employed up to 300 workers and their machines sold very well. His son, Andreas after traveling around the world for a few years, founded a second agricultural machinery factory in the small market city of Pilsting, near Dingolfing.
In 1890, he employed 15 people, who built machines in the winter and field service work in the summer mostly to repair the damage on the sold machines. The machine production increased steadily. The water powered machine tools were replaced by steam powered tools. When in 1906 Andreas Glas partnered with the financier Lohr, the firm began a rapid ascent. The company Glas & Lohr moved in 1908 to the district capital town of Dingolfing. The reason was that the city fathers only allowed local companies to show their goods at agricultural machinery exhibition fair (Kirta). The agricultural machinery business continued in a turbulent pace. Soon was the brand name “Bavaria” replaced with the name “Isaria.”
Lohr departed in 1911 and in the twenties, the company was transformed into a corporation.
In 1910 at the age of 20, Hans Glas, one of the 18 children of Andreas Glas, immigrated to America. Ten years later he returned with many experiences and soon became manager of the Glas company, which was at this time part of the larger Stumm concern. This concern collapsed in 1931. In 1937, Hans however was able to buy back the Glas company founded by his father.
In the postwar economy the agricultural machinery business was booming again and Glas employed soon 1,000 workers. In October 1949 the company was converted into the Hans Glas GmbH.
His son Andreas (born 1923) joints his father’s business after the war. Already during his time as a university student, Andreas Glas had met Karl Dompert. This developed into a friendship that lasted through the war years. Both were stationed in the same air squadron. After the war Karl Dompert started to work for the Voith company in Heidenheim. When after the war Andreas Glas returned home after being a war prisoner, he persuaded Karl Dompert to join the Glas company. In July 1948 Karl Dompert started to work for Glas. He found a company that had not much progressed from the construction of seeders and hey tedders. Individual parts were manufactured from templates.
Dompert introduced drawings, parts lists and ordering lists. A customer service was established and a research and development department was set up. The staff was very happy to hear the instructions of the new design chief and willing to implement the changes. Thus conditions were created to allow manufacture of new products. Meanwhile, sales declined significantly in the agricultural machinery and a search for new products began.
When visiting the farm machinery exhibition in Verona, Andreas Glas noticed the large number of scooters in the streets. Andreas told Karl Dompert about the scooters in Italy. They decided to build one and soon the first prototype was ready. The start of production started in spring of 1951. In the meantime they also found a name for the scooter: “Goggo.” This was the term of endearment used for the new boy born into the Glas family.
With the scooter production the factory experienced a steep rise which soon outperformed the production of agricultural machinery. By 1954 almost 47,000 scooters were built. The Goggo was one of the most driven German motor scooter and also sold well abroad.
Glas had succeeded to rise from an agricultural machinery to a consumer vehicle manufacturer.
With the Goggomobil came great success
The good sales success of the Goggo scooter could not hide the fact that the two wheeler boom of the postwar years could not last forever. The income of the people increased and therefore also the demand they put on their transportation. The trend was inevitably towards the small car and more or less successful manufacturer of this vehicle grew around the world like mushrooms. Hans Glas also recognized this opportunity and ordered in 1953 to develop such a vehicle. It was decided not to offer their customers an odd-shaped driving machine à la Messerschmitt or Fulda Mobil, but a real car, however just a miniature version. Looking at what the competition did could not completely be ignored and so in 1954 the first prototypes, despite the promised normal pontoon form, a front door like the Iso or later the BMW Isetta was used. This idea however was quickly dropped.
In early 1955 the small car, now baptized “Goggomobil,” came finally of the production line and the success of this pretty vehicle was so great, that in spite of the 150 cars built daily, the demand for this car could not be covered. The sedan with a 250 or 300 cc two-stroke twin cylinder in-house designed engine was followed by variants of 400 cc, a coupe and a small van. Building licenses went to Spain and even to Australia. Within a short time the GLAS Goggomobil became the world’s most successful vehicle of its kind with a total production at the end of over 280,000 copies.
It was inevitable that, in view of this stunning track record GLAS soon had the desire for something higher. In the meantime the company had grown to up to 4,000 employees and the revenue from 1955 to 1959 had more than quadrupled. In 1958, the range was expanded with a larger vehicle powered by a 600 or 700 cc four stroke engine. This “Big Goggomobil,” later called the GLAS Isar, was also offered as an estate version, did not produce the sales as the small Goggomobil. The majority of car buyers looked now for cars of the middle class range and therefore also GLAS decided to be there as well. Andreas Glas and chief designer Karl Dompert set about to break into the class of larger vehicles.
From 1962 on GLAS rolled out new and larger cars in quick succession. An advanced and sporty four-cylinder inline engine with belt-driven overhead camshaft powered as a 1000, 1200 or 1300 cc variant small sedans, coupes, convertibles and estate cars in 16 versions. The hatch back wagon was a modern car body concept, which was later revived among others in the BMW Touring of the 02 series. Impressive performance and an attractive appearance distinguished the model family of type 1004, 1204 and 1304.
For the next models in the middle class range and for a sports car the search for a design house of international fame began. The final choice fell upon the Pietro Frua company in Turin, which could name among others Maserati to its clientele. At the IAA in Frankfurt, GLAS presented its first large car, the Type 1700 with a four-door Frua designed body and also an attractive sports coupe wearing a dress from the same tailor, Type 1300 GT. Both cars went into production in 1964 and the sports car was soon also offered with a stronger 1700 cc motor.
But that was not enough. Inspired by the good cooperation with the Italians the aim was now the luxury class and Glas designed a V8 engine with 2.6 liters for an exclusive sports coupe. The prototype of this GLAS 2600 V8 was first introduced at the 1965 IAA. The public quickly named this race-bred car “Glaserati.” For all the euphoria, GLAS ignored however that profitable manufacturing for such a wide range of quality cars was only possible through significant investments in production facilities and just that, the family owned company was not able to do.
Once the banks did not come through for the needed financing, Hans Glas turned in October 1965 to the state government in Munich. A analysis showed quickly that the Hans Glas GmbH in comparison to other, more modern car factories, operated uneconomical. Too much manual labor was still used, because the idiosyncratic senior, who still recorded all financial transactions of the company meticulously in a small booklet, which he always carried with him, had always difficulties when it came to purchases of new production equipment. A loan from the Free State of Bavaria initially helped, but the search for a strong partner was vital to the survival of the Hans Glas company – they simply had operated over their head.
Again, through urgent negotiation and with the help of the Bavarian state government, BMW finally agreed to rescue GLAS in 1966. On September 27, 1966, the contract was signed in the office of the then BMW president Gerhard Wilcke. Thousands of jobs were saved in the lower Bavarian region of Dingolfing and Pilsting. Initially it was feared by GLAS, that BMW would close the plant, but it turned out to be different.
Under the direction of BMW the car production program was tightened up. The sports cars 1300 GT and 1700 GT became now a BMW 1600 GT with a BMW designed drive train. The GLAS 2600 V8 got a three-liter engine and was now called the BMW-GLAS 3000 V8. Some of the small cars, including the still very popular Goggomobil, the folks from Munich continue building as long as orders came in and parts were available. Meticulously attention however was paid that the paltry Goggomobil never would be associated with the BMW name or logo. Furthermore, the GLAS 1700 sedan celebrated in the BMW plant in South Africa with BMW mechanicals a new existence.
In the course of 1967 BMW phased out gradually all GLAS models. With one exception: The Goggomobil had still so many friends that the last example rolled of the production line in June 25th, 1969. A little later the senior boss Hans Glas died at the age of 79. He was not spared to see that the last car that bore his trademark and his life’s work would be discontinued. He, the dyed-in-the-wool Bavarian, credited with countless anecdotes, who always spoke what was on his mind, admired and feared as an entrepreneur of the old school, because of his spontaneity, immediacy and energy, wrote an important chapter of German automobile history.
On the grounds of the former GLAS factory in Dingolfing, BMW built in the following years a modern car plant were the new BMW 5 series is produced, which to this day provides the economic backbone throughout the region.
from the Glas Automobil CLub
Two Thirds Column