Mr. Rambler Questions Original Carb Setup of 1957 Dodge D-500 and Asks Greg About Borgward Isabella

Greg Zyla
Q: Hello Greg and I can’t wait to get the Auto Round-Up in the mail to read all your articles. I save every Auto Round-Up now that I’m retired and I have boxes of them!
I’m the guy that wrote to you about the ’57 Rambler Rebel years ago and how fast that car was. But even though I’m a big Rambler and AMC fan, I’m writing about an article you wrote on the 1957 Dodge D-500 a while back. You mentioned it came with a single 4-barrel or a 2x4 setup which I have a question on as I think that is not true.
My friend of 50-years William Mangherini said his father had a ’57 Dodge D-500 four door hardtop and it had a 325 Hemi with a 3x2 (three two barrel carbs) setup on it. It was red and white and I saw it myself. It was used in a total of 13 harsh New England winters and it was purchased at a Hudson Motor Car Company that was also a Dodge dealer in Dorchester, Mass. That car was a beauty and had fender skirts, two rear antennas and it only got to 42,000 miles before it rusted out at the rockers, trunk, and all of the front and rear floors. The front fenders were rusted back a foot!
So, my buddy took the D-500 to a body man in Boston and we would go look at the repair progress regularly. Then one week, we went to check on things and the body shop was out-of-business and the D-500 gone. We tried in vain to find it but never did. My buddy still has the outside door handles, the fender skirts and the four wheel covers with the “Knights Head” logo on them.
For a second question, do you remember a car called the Borgward Isabella? I had a 1959 “Borg” that I got in 1970 that was given to me. It was a two-door model finished in grey with a red and white interior. It also had a four speed on the column and a four-cylinder engine. It looked to me like a 1959 Rambler American and I think it was built in Germany, from 1956 to 1968. It was one tough car as I ran it real hard all the time.
Thanks again for your fun articles. Yours in “Ramblership,” Ross D. Sealund, Haverhill, Mass.
A: Hello Ross and I sure do remember your last letter as it was 12 written pages about all your Ramblers and I gave you the name “Mr. Rambler.”
Let’s start with the ’57 D-500 Dodge Royal Lancer. There were two versions of the 325 Hemi available that year, a D-500 standard 285 horse single 4-barrel version or, if you wanted more horsepower, a Super D-500-1 option, which added two for-barrels and a more radical camshaft. This 2x4 option upped horsepower to 310.
As for the 3x2 tri-power you question, I am certain it was not a factory option. The only other D-500 engine available that year was a special 354-inch high-performance Hemi that came with solid lifters, two-fours and developed 355 horses. It was called the D-501 engine option for the 57 Dodge and not to be confused with the aforementioned D-500-1 engine. It was the same 354 Hemi powerhouse that motivated those 1956 Chrysler 300 models to many NASCAR wins. It is said that only three of these D-501 cars survived from a total production of less than 100 built by Dodge in 1957.
So, that 3x2 setup you saw on your friend’s D-500 must have been from an aftermarket company. The hot rodding boom was really kicking off in the mid-1950s, especially company’s like Jahn’s, Isky, Edelbrock, Offenhauser and Potvin, to name a few.
Of these companies, Offenhauser offered a 3x2 intake that fit the 325 Hemi engine, of which your friend’s car had under the hood. So, somewhere along the line an Offenhauser 3x2 setup was added and I’ll bet “50 to one” your buddy’s car began life as a 285 horse single four 325.
As for the Borgward Isabella, I do recall them but never heard from anyone that owned one, so you are a first. You are correct that it was a German built car and it did look like a bit like the ’59 Rambler American.
The car was the brainchild of Carl F. W. Borgward and built from 1954 to 1962 in Bremen, Germany. The Isabella was a favorite early on and sold well to happy consumers. The Isabella did not have a full chassis and utilized unit construction, which would become the norm in automobile manufacturing. The Isabella featured a four wheel coil spring setup and a 91 cubic-inch four-cylinder engine that developed 60-horsepower. The “four-on-the-tree” column shifter connected to a 4-speed full synchromesh gear box, which was rare at the time. I remember Saab had a four-on-the-tree in the 1950s, too.
By the end of production in 1962, Borgward had experiencing numerous financial woes and actual bankruptcy in 1961. Still, a total of 202,862 Isabellas rolled off the production line proving it was a very popular vehicle. (You are proof it held up well under a heavy right foot).
Thanks Ross for your letter and keep on rebuilding those Ramblers.
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