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Germany’s Quart and a Half Brigade

Coupe roofs were used at Le Mans in 1953 for PorscheÕs first mid-engined sports-racers, the Type 550s that won their 1.5-liter class.

Porsche’s Spyders stole the limelight, but in the 1950s they had serious rivals in both BMW and EMW, who produced serious 1½-liter machinery. Their battles on both sides of the Iron Curtain were the stuff of legend.

A liter and a half—more or less a quart and a half—isn’t much to propel an automobile. That’s the swept volume available between pistons all the way down and all the way up in the engines of cars competing in the 1,500-cc class, one of the most celebrated categories down the years. Bigger engines are more exciting to many, but getting the best from a quart and a half, blown or unblown, has always been a stimulating challenge to drivers and engineers.

The doughty Borgward of Hans-Hugo Hartmann seemed to have won the 1953 Mexican Road Race before its exclusion from the results.

In divided Germany in the 1950s this class became a battleground for sports car makers. In the West, the rivals were Porsche, in the southern city of Stuttgart, and Borgward, in the northern port of Bremen. In the East, it was EMW, inheritor of the laurels of BMW, also builder of 1.5-liter sports racers. The venues were many from the Avus to the Nürburgring, embracing also the European Hillclimb Championship, which was for 1.5-liter cars in 1958 and ’59. Their rivalries even spilled over to the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico; but in history, the category will always be remembered as the one and only direct technical and ideological battleground between the two Germanies—East and West.

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