That’s The Way It Is: 1958 Goggomobil TS400 Race Car

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Thanks to Barn Finds reader and fan, Scott S., for tracking down this one! This is an unusual vehicle, to say the least: it’s a 1958 Goggomobil TS400 Race Car that was raced by none other than the father of the CBS evening news: Walter Cronkite! It’s listed on eBay in Pompano Beach, Florida and it’s barely out of the first turn at around $5,000 in bids, with a finish line Buy It Now price of $39,995 – waaaaaaay in the distance. Those bidders had better step on it!

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I’ve always wanted a Goggomobil of any style, if I may use that word to describe a Goggomobil. But, this particular Goggomobil would be the centerpiece of anyone’s wacky microcar collection. Mr. Cronkite actually drove this car at Lime Rock Park in 1958 in the “Little LeMans” race. Unfortunately, he and his co-driver, Frank Macauley, were the first team to exit the race with a “flat battery” and they came in 24th. But, still, that’s a cool little piece of history.

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Uncle Walter was a true car guy, in fact he liked vehicles and racing of all kinds. I associate him more with his sailing activities than with car racing, but here’s a fantastic YouTube video showing him in an Austin-Healey in 1962 talking about cars and sports cars, specifically. He raced during the 1950s including the 12 hours of Sebring in 1959 and the Little LeMans at Lime Rock several times, mostly in a Volvo PV444 in which he won first in his class and third overall. In 1962 he became the anchor of the CBS Evening News and became an American icon. That’s also when he had to give up racing, as per a directive from his bosses at CBS who knew that racing was too dangerous to gamble on having him get hurt and lose his position at the anchor desk. But, in the 1959 Sebring race he went up against such names as Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, and another gentleman you may have heard of: Stirling Moss. Mr. Cronkite took fifth in his class driving a Lancia Appia Zagato; so yeah, he knew his stuff.

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As you can see, this isn’t your standard Goggomobil, if there is such a thing as a standard Goggomobil.. I love these little two-cycle cars. Old Ironpants (another nickname of Mr. Cronkite) is undoubtedly a big reason why this car has such a following, and such a big price tag. The interior has been stripped of unnecessary hardware and panels and all seats but the driver’s seat, all glass has been removed except for the windshield, a fuel cell has been added in place of the standard gas tank, etc. For a car that weighed under 1,000 with all of those things still attached, this one must really be light!

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The TS400 is named for its 400, or 392 cc, two-cylinder, two-stroke, air-cooled engine with about 18.5 hp! This car had about 4 hp more than the TS300 had the previous year. That doesn’t seem like a big increase in power, but a 22% increase in power is pretty nice for any size engine. This car has been restored to “concours standards” back to how it was when The Most Trusted Man in America drove it. It really belongs in a museum, hopefully it’ll end up in one so folks can see it without having it go into hiding in someone’s private collection. I would love to drive this car, around a track, at full speed.. Would any of you like to take this car around a race track or do prefer 3-4-5-6-8-10-12-16 cylinders in your race cars?

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    Appears they might have further lightened the car by removing the shift lever, too!.

    I doubt this car looked much like this when Uncle Walter raced it. Certainly no roll cage or multi-point harnesses back in the day, and probably no fire extinguisher….

    And, finally, I sure hope the seller has lots o’documentation to prove the car’s history. Not that ex-Cronkite has quite the luster of ex-Fangio, but if they are trying to jack the price up, it’s gonna take pretty solid evidence.

    Would be a fun little piece to own, but I’m not sure about actually RACING it. I mean, who would the competition be?

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    • Scotty Scotty G Staff

      RayT, this car has a “dashboard-operated pre-selector gearbox”, which I think is the white knob on the dash to the right of the steering wheel. You can see (and, hear) the car moving on the YouTube video link below. The gentleman who is driving moves that little lever on the dash before he shuts it down.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIZSlx7-324

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      • RayT Member

        Never heard of that! Not that I know very much about Goggos….

        Interesting that there’s a hole in the center tunnel where one (me, at least) would expect to see a shift lever.

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    • Brakeservo

      Competition would be really fast bicyclists!

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  2. Spridget

    I’ve seen this car in person, and it was good enough to make it into a Concours with Gullwing 300sl’s, a Miura, a MB 600 Grosser, and an entire Ferrari class, among others. Make of that what you will.

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  3. rusty

    Talking about being light if he was so serious about it he probably could have shed a few more kilos weight if he imported an Aussie Goggo coupe body…factory fibreglass body…hee hee [although we still had the german steel doors on the coupes] but leaving the backwindow out certainly would reduce the weight.

    But he left off the engine floor panels which is said can be a bad thing for cooling on a 2 stroke [air not circulating correctly] although my dart didn’t run the right hand side panel and it never once overheated but then again I never raced it although i did once drive it on Australia’s Eastern Creek track and I can tell you that first turn was an unexpected doozy…which I was quit surprised as in my Dart i could approach a roundabout at full speed and not decrease my speed by much to get round it….

    Ray I think all American coupes probably had the electrically operated selector on the dash whereas our Australian coupes all had four on the floor, although i did own one motor with the electric solenoids that i intended to use in one of my coupes but it would have been sourced from a German imported coupe.

    Ray driving a four on the floor in gogs is certainly different to what you would expect…it is a sideways shift so you are flicking right to left or visa a versa..infact this method is so incredibly fast i doubt there is a faster shift. once you have driven a goggo floor shift you wonder how a simple car like this feels so sporty. The shifting is unbelievablebly quick compared to other cars then or now..simply a flick of a wrist not an arm.

    oh and the tunnel hole would have been on all goggos and probably had a filler plate screwed over it…notice a hole further back that should have been for a handbrake lever although that looks far larger than normal.

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    • rusty

      Damn Ray you have me looking too close at the floor now…hee hee. One thing it doesnt have the heater pipe coming out of the front centre tunnel, which i would have thought American gogs would have all had that being they would normally have all upgrades on them for your market? I even thought perhaps all coupes had heater pipe anyway as they were the upmarket goggo in germany anyway?

      It looks like a whole new floor might have been put in..and thats not a bad thing as gog floors rust out badly..infact its possible a new centre tunnel too, hence why there is no heater pipe.??? Good stuff. If it is… it looks well done and i only twigged to it as there seems to be welding to locate it to the sills and floor. And the front pressed in ribbing doesnt look wide enough to be original although it mimics the original pressing for strength…

      Having a new floor is a big PLUS as gogs are well known for bad floors..infact so bad the rust eats half way up the front and rear bulkheads and you are often lucky to have the centre tunnel to start with…

      Big plus if a restored chassis as most original chassis need work [although i have been told there is more chance of finding good chassis in America by a local gog guy. But i can tell you ours rust badly here. Hence I find it hard to believe any difference overseas.

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  4. Pete

    Well as you can see I have some experience with them Goggomobiles as there I am washing one. LOL. We had that car in the Netherlands till I was 7 years old. Then we moved to Canada. I remember the last time I rode in it on the way to amsterdam to go to the airport. That things seems a lot bigger to my young eyes that it does to the old ones I have now. I am glad someone chose to preserve the one in the article. Not that many left around I would expect in any form racing or just general transport.

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    • rusty

      Great picture Pete

      Bigger yes it actually was as yours is the much bigger Isar model.
      But I get your point hee hee.

      That would be much rarer any where now. especially in the Americas.

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    • rusty

      Pete check out the latest listing just posted on here it is an Isar just like yours.

      A wagon version if yours was a sedan.

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  5. Mike O'Handley

    Back around 1992 I was driving through northern Bavaria in Germany when the urge took hold. Unable to wait for the next rest stop, I pulled off at the nearest exit and drove up what looked to be a quiet country road. Came upon what looked like an old closed-up/abandoned service station, pulled over, trotted up into the tree line to do my thing.

    As I was sitting there thanking the almighty for that country road and the lack of people around; which had enabled me to relieve myself of a great weight on my, uh, er,…..bladder, I glanced to one side and noticed in a lot behind the service station row upon row of micro cars. Isettas, Go-Go Mobiles, Fiats, even an old badly rusted Messerschmitt. Weeds growing up as high as the cars all around. Some of them had been there so long the tires had sunken into the peat and pine needles covered half of the wheels.

    Of course, at the time I didn’t know there was any such thing as a Go-Go Mobil, I just thought they were kind of cute. I walked over to the lot. It looked like the typical lot you’d find behind any car dealership. Some cars in good shape – some not-so-great – some wrecked. I poked around in one that had been wrecked to try and figure out what it was. The back seat was missing and that’s when I found a little metal data plate secured to the tunnel under the seat that indicated it had been manufactured by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW).

    I was blown away; until then I hadn’t known that BMW had produced any micro cars. I walked out to the car and urged my wife to come take a look at that yard full of tiny cars. I told her I thought it would be a good idea to try and find out who owned the property and whether any of those cars could be bought. She took one look at those dirty pollen and sap-covered old cars and wasn’t having any of it; regardless of how “cute” I thought they were. I reluctantly got back in the car and we went on our merry way.

    I’ve often wondered, when my thoughts turn to the time I was stationed in Germany, what ever happened to that bunch of tiny cars.

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