Goliath GP700 Sport

Today, we'll revisit history.

Before this morning, you may have said to friends that the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is the world's first production car with fuel injection…but you would have been incorrect. (Don't worry, Wikipedia is wrong, too. The first two cars with fuel injection (conveniently put on-sale at almost the same time in 1952) are the Goliath GP700 and Gutbrod Superior 600.)

If you haven't yet read about the 1952 Goliath GP700 Sport coupé, you're in for a treat.

It may look like a Porsche 356 that's been steamed too long and has gone limp, but the Goliath GP700 is actually the more revolutionary of the two in several respects. Today, we talk about Porsche as having conquered great obstacles with the continued evolution of the rear-engine, rear-drive 911—but when the car debuted there were several distinct vehicles that employed the same layout.

City cars often had the engine in the back, for two (and presumably more) reasons: it kept the smell, noise, and gross-ness of internal combustion behind the cabin and freed up a lot of interior space. Keep in mind that automakers hadn't exactly cracked the code of packaging a front engine, front-wheel-drive layout that dominates our vehicles today—and an early pioneer, the first BMC Mini, was several years away.

The 1952 unveiling of the GP700 Sport from a company better-known for its three-wheeled delivery trucks (don't worry, I'll write about them soon!) hid another innovation besides its Bosch-sourced fuel injection system: a transverse engine and front-wheel-drive. As a bonus, they threw in a soon-to-be modern transmission with syncromesh on all four speeds. The cars were built by Karosserie Friedrich Rometsch using many aluminum components, it is reported to have weighed 780 kg (1719 lbs)—which seems a bit heavy to me.

As a halo model of sorts for the family-oriented GP700 two-door sedan, it showcased what was possible to expect from a sports car with just two cylinders and two strokes. With an engine enlarged to 845-cc over the standard car's 688-cc, its 32 horsepower could push the GP700 Sport's saucer-like shape to a top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph).

As Goliath was a growing (and respected) part of the Borgward empire (isn't that a show on HBO?) that produced mainly mainstream models, this small sports car was more of a curiosity and engineering showcase—think of it as a Subaru XT or Peugeot RCZ that your grandparents may have driven.

If you'd like your own GP700 Sport, sadly, fewer than 30 were made and just three are thought to survive.

Later family sedan GP700 models were offered in GP 900 E specification for 1955, which put performance on par with the little coupe. Featuring 886-cc, the sedan could now top 120 km/h (75 mph) thanks to an impressive 50 horsepower—itself thanks to standard Bosch fuel injection.

If you'd like to learn more about the early days of fuel injection, the highly-recommended Auto Universum has an excellent article on that very topic.