What’s in your Garage? We discover one man’s passion for the rare and unusual Glas V8 Coupé. Becoming ever rarer, Glas cars were the first models to emerge from the Dingolfing factory. Here we talk to an owner who has two of these fine machines. Words and photography: Mike Taylor.
The name Glas can be traced back to the 1860s and agricultural manufacturing beginnings in Germany. In 1895 mechanic, Andreas Glas, one of the sons of the originator, set up a small engineering repair business expanding to manufacture sewing machines produced in a factory near Dingolfing, Bavaria. Fast forward half a century and Glas found that its core business was suffering with demand in Germany for sewing machines in the post war period declining significantly. It decided to branch out and turned its hand to designing and making motor scooters, marking the beginning of its quest for building and marketing cheap transport for the masses. Then came the tiny Gogomobile two-door saloon, which remarkably would remain in production from 1955 to 1969.
The first full-sized Glas car was the 1004 model introduced in 1961 and it would lay the foundation for the company’s rise to produce larger, more luxurious, models over the next few years. Style and technical innovation were the company’s cornerstones. The sleek 1.3 GT was launched at the Frankfurt show in 1963. It was powered by an overhead camshaft engine with body styling by the talented Italian designer, Pietro Frua. The same year Glas introduced its larger, more elegant, 1700 saloon. It was this model which would provide the underpinnings for the larger 2.6 Coupé. Again, penned by the design studio of Frua the car was powered by a new V8 engine, effectively two 1290cc in-line four-cylinder engines in a one cylinder block. Mechanical innovations included a belt driven overhead camshaft and Boge self-levelling suspension, though performance was said to be down on expectations.
However, despite some pretty machinery in its portfolio, Glas’ finances were at a low ebb and in 1966 BMW stepped in to absorb the ailing Dingolfing-based business, benefitting from Glas’ technically savvy engineers, and the prized Dingolfing factory, albeit with old equipment badly in need of replacement. Some models were ceased, though the GT and V8 Coupé were left in production, badged as BMWs. Significantly, in 2015 Dingolfing is now BMW’s largest factory responsible, among other things, for the manufacture of bodies for Rolls Royce cars.
Says BMW enthusiast, and Glas GT and V8 Coupé owner Graham Juffs: “I already knew about the Glas model through my interest in BMWs, membership of the BMW Car Club GB, the Glas Club and attending Glas events. It was through my contacts that I bought my 1.6 GT (we featured this delightful little car in BMW Car a few years back). The car belonged to a personal friend of mine who owned a BMW dealership in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. When he came to sell his business he asked me if there was any car in his BMW collection I would like. Immediately, I said the Glas GT. Within two days the car had been delivered to me.”
Graham was delighted with the car, especially its performance and road holding. So much so, in fact, that it stimulated the idea of tracking down a V8 Coupé. He made enquiries through Ralph Konan, the then chairman of the Glas Owners’ Club and was told that a 2.6-litre V8 was being offered for sale in the UK. “The car had been involved in an accident, which had damaged the whole of the front nose section back to the bonnet line,” explains Graham. “It seems the owner’s intention was to have it repaired, but it never was and the car was then put into storage. I telephoned the owner in North London and in 2011 I went to see it.”
Graham describes the car graphically as lying under a multitude of household brick-a-brack and in a pretty sorry state with advanced corrosion in the body and a badly deteriorated interior. “I bought it for £600 on the understanding that I would restore it and not break it for spares,” continues Graham. “We shook hands on that agreement.”
Today, the Glas Club has around 800 members and Graham is the first to acknowledge that it has proved hugely helpful for his quest for help, information and the purchase of parts for his restoration project. “So many of the members specialise in the procurement and manufacture of items no longer available for Glas cars,” he tells us.
“They have been invaluable to me, including guiding me in the direction of Jorgen Bengsch. He has a pristine workshop where he rebuilt the engine with a new crankshaft, bearings, pistons and valve springs.” Overall, it took Graham four years to complete the rebuild of his rare Glas Coupé. “It was repaired at pretty much at the same rate at which my pension was paid,” he grins. “My son runs a business called Bee EmM Workshops in Chart Sutton and slowly we’ve done the major work ourselves, including repairing the bodywork. Overall, it’s cost me around £40,000 to complete the task. As a result of the accident the whole of the front end had to be completely rebuilt as well as reskinning the bonnet, doors, bootlid, new floors for the cabin, and inner and outer sills. Then came the respray, refurbishing the interior and rebuilding the engine.”
Sadly, Graham adds ruefully that over the years he has spent thousands of pounds finding out where not to go to have a specialist job done properly on classic cars. “One example is the first attempt to rebuild the engine,” he laments. A Rover V8 expert rebuilt the Glas engine only to have the car engulfed in smoke and surrounded by worryingly expensive mechanical noises when it was started. “Despite asking, I never received a list of what he’d done so I didn’t pay him,” says Graham sadly. That experience with the engine was in complete contrast to the expert in Germany recommended by the Club. “He did an exceedingly good job,” asserts Graham.
As the car came together, Graham made a few modifications to improve its convenience, handling, ride and comfort on today’s roads. “When we were refitting the powertrain I removed the old mechanical fuel pump, which is driven off the camshaft, because it has been known for the seals to fail and fuel to mix with the oil. I replaced it with a German electric pump complete with an isolator switch.”
For convenience he installed a Hella variable intermittent wiper control unit so the wiper speed can be adjusted to suit conditions. “Underneath, I added two extra leaves to the rear springs to overcome the tendency for Glas V8s to adopt a tail down attitude, especially when loaded with four adults. I also fitted Koni shock absorbers all-round, set up to give a firm yet forgiving rather than a harsh ride.”
Inside, Graham says the original vinyl seat material looked almost like curtain material. This was replaced with leather and he completed the job by adding headrests, which had to be specially fabricated to fit the seat backs.
Graham first drove his gleaming white Glas just two weeks before our photoshoot. “As I opened the door I was feeling a little apprehensive that everyone including myself had done their job correctly,” he grins laconically. “We’d had the car MoT’d and driven it around the ‘yard at the workshops and everything seemed to be okay. But my number one concern was that I’d promised John Surtees that I would take the car to his show at Hever Castle where he had his beautiful collection of BMWs on display. We finished working on the Glas the previous evening.”
So what was that first drive like? “I quickly began to appreciate the nice, airy and spacious feeling inside. However, for much of the journey my eyes were trained on the instruments to monitor that everything was okay. The oil temperature gauge wasn’t working, nor was the fuel gauge, though this began to register as we drove along. Afterwards, we took the oil temperature sender apart, couldn’t find anything wrong, reconnected it and now the gauge is working perfectly.”
From the outside, the Glas 2.8 V8 appears to be an unusual mix of 1960s boxy European styling adorned with American influenced decoration. No wonder the car was quickly nicknamed ‘Glaserati’, a spoof on the Maserati marque. “I managed to buy the registration ‘66 BMW’, which is the year and make of manufacture,” says Graham pointing to the plate. “It puts the final touch to the car.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the tilt toward American styling also extends to the interior; there is a distinct lack of veneer finish to panel surfaces, chrome extruding being used in abundance, overlaid on black vinyl. However, this does not detract from a feeling of elegance and luxury, the impression being heightened by the tastefully retrimmed seats finished in top quality light blue hide.
The Glas is not a small car and the roof line extends back to give rear seat passengers reasonable headroom. The boot, too, is generously large, capable of taking the luggage of four people on tour. After a spin around the lanes and byways of Kent with Graham at the wheel it was now my turn. In the driver’s seat all seems plush and comfortable, more gentleman’s club than sporting coupé. Ahead is the large, polished 16-inch wood rim wheel, the centre boss adorned with the Glas ‘G’ moniker and coat of arms. Behind the wheel is a comprehensive array of VDO instrumentation, which includes oil and coolant temperature gauges, all set in a concave binnacle easily visible through the triple spoked steering wheel.
Turn the key and the V8 engine fires up easily, settling down to a muted rumble from its parallel tube exhaust pipes. Dip the clutch and engage first gear, and the stick moves freely and positively. Release the centrally mounted handbrake and the hydraulic clutch action is smooth and jerk free, drive take up coming in without drama.
Press the throttle firmly and while there is no harsh kick-in-the-back sensation of speed the torque from the 2.6 V8 engine gives satisfyingly brisk acceleration as the revs increase. Change up to second and the movement is a long throw across the gate, speed continuing to climb, free from transmission snatch. Up to third and the gear stick has a noticeably long travel; forward, across the wide gate to the right and forward again, providing an ideal gear for negotiating the Kentish lanes. However, such is the torque on tap the car will pull away uncomplainingly in top gear, settling down to a natural and lazy 70mph cruising gate.
The power assisted steering, which is pleasantly weighted and direct, is free from kick-back from nasty rutted road surfaces, enabling the driver to place the car with assured accuracy. The disc brakes, inboard at the rear, also give a feeling of confidence in the car’s capabilities responding well to a firm press on the pedal, pulling the car up four square.
Since its restoration, the Glas has done less than 200 miles so a degree of care and respect is called for. Graham’s additional two leaves to the rear suspension and uprated Koni dampers all-round has done wonders to the car’s ride and cornering capabilities with no wallowing or weaving. Pressing on through corners results in little lean; the Goodyear 185/70 R14 tyres giving commendable grip.
Overall this Glas exudes the feeling of being able to travel long distances without fuss or fear of fatigue from discomfort. Sadly, my time with the car was all too limited and I climbed out in awe of the job Graham has done in restoring this rare coupé and envious of the enjoyment it’s sure to give him over the years to come.
“With a V8 you do get the feeling that it’s not going to let you down, the steering is very direct and the brakes are still bedding in and are getting better by the day,” he says. “However, there is the notion that there is a lot of car in front of you, from my eye line in the driver’s seat to the front of the bonnet is nine feet.”
Graham says he wants to cover about a thousand miles before the first oil change: “Then I’m looking forward to a decent run,” he says. “In 2016 the Glas Club is holding a meeting at Mulhouse and we’ll then go on for a bit of a tour from there. I also want to be able to attend Techno Classica at Essen where we’ll put the car on the Glas Club stand.”
Finally, I ask Graham to compare the 1.6 GT with the V8. “The smaller-engined car is ideal for turning a vicar into a boy racer, it’s so chuckable and the handling is very predictable, while the 2.6 V8 feels much larger with more torque,” he concludes gazing fondly at his two prized possessions. “They complement each other ideally.”
“The smaller-engined car is so chuckable and the handling is very predictable, while the 2.6 V8 feels larger with more torque”
“The Glas 2.8 V8 appears to be an unusual mix of 1960s boxy European styling adorned with American influenced decoration”
TECHNICAL DATA Glas V8 Coupé
BORE/STROKE: 75mm x 73mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 9:1
POWER: 140hp at 5600rpm
CARBURETTORS: Triple down-draught twin choke Solex
TIMING GEAR: Belt drive
IGNITION: Transistorised system
GEARBOX: Four-speed all-synchromesh
Front: Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear: De Dion axle with leaf springs and Panhard rod
BRAKES: Servo-assisted disc all-round, inboard at rear
STEERING: Servo assisted worm and roller