Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: Wartburg 312/5 Camping Limousine – The East German Vista Cruiser

William Oliver has found something quite exceptional: a Wartburg Camping Limousine. A little worse for wear, but I suspect this is just awaiting its restoration. This is way too rare to be let go otherwise.

As you can see, its distinctive features are Vista Cruiser-like rear windows curving up into the roof, and a sunroof too, something the Vista never had. And of course it also had a smoky 900cc two-stroke triple up front, given its origins were pre-war DKWs.

Here it is from my 1961 Auto Parade Annual. It first appeared in 1959, and was replaced by the boxy 353. East Germans had Wanderlust just as much as West Germans; they just couldn’t go as far. But getting out anywhere into nature was the driving force, and the Camping was the way to get there, if you were one of the very few that had access to one. Otherwise it was a Trabant, and even that took years of waiting.

Here’s another shot of how it would have looked in its youthful glory. A portable tv even? Someone was well connected.

This one is showing its age, but it’s really not bad, considering. No obvious structural rust, except a bit around the rear side window. Pretty solid, generally.

There were two series of these; the 311 had a 901 cc triple, and the later 312 had a 992 cc version. Horsepower ratings seem to not fall readily to hand, but it was adequate. Highly abundant, actually, in the eyes of Trabant drivers.

Eisenach had a long history as an automaker, going back to the 1898 Wartburg. It later was reorganized as Dixi, which was taken over by BMW in 1928. The factory was mostly destroyed in the war, and rebuilt as the Sowjetische AG Maschinenbau Awtowelo, Werk BMW Eisenach (Soviet Awtowelo Co., Eisenach BMW Works). BMWs were built, until it had to change its name to EMW in 1951. But BMWs and EMWs were too expensive, so in 1956 the first Wartburg 311 rolled off the line, its mechanical basis being the very advanced DKW F9 from 1940. The factory finally closed in 1990.

Contrary to what one might assume, these had a separate frame and body. That was a bit old school, but it did make it easier to create numerous variations, including this Camping.

The sedan was of course the most common.

The Kombi was used most often as a light commercial vehicle.

As was of course the pickup.

If you thought it was hard getting a Wartburg sedan or Camping, the coupe was on a whole other level.

And then there was the Wartburg 311/1 Sportwagen. Better be real chummy with that Honecker fellow. Not bad looking; the East German 190SL.