Cohort Sighting: East German Barkas Van and Retired German UPS Trucks

Barkas and ups

This picture posted at the Cohort by Hannes caught my eye. Not only is there an old GDR Barkas van, a rather remarkable little truck much more advanced than the VW Transporter in many ways, except for its two-stroke engine. But there’s also some apparently retired german UPS vans here, which show a certain similarity to our here, but also some differences, as they are of course locally sourced. I don’t know the manufacturer; maybe someone else does.

But let’s take a closer look at the Barkas.

Barkas f

The Barkas was the primary (only?) light truck/van built in the GDR, and comparable in size and capacity to the very popular VW Transporter/Pickup being built on the other side of the Iron Curtain. But while the VW had its engine in the rear, which meant there was not a continuous floor, meaning no unloading from the rear doors. That was a pretty major disadvantage of its design.

The Barkas B1000 had its little three-cylinder two-stroke engine mounted out front, and driving the front wheels, like most modern compact and not-so-small vans. It was the same one as used in the Wartburg, and essentially an updated DKW design. Suspension was independent all-round, by trailing-type arms. It had a very low floor as a result. seating was for up to eight, although the Stasi models for snatching political prisoners off the streets only had room for five in little cells in the back. These were windowless vans, often disguised as food trucks.

Barkas truck

The Barkas truck (“pritschenwagen”) is very much a forerunner of the modern European small/light truck, with FWD and a roomy bed with drop down sides. It was the choice for all sorts of small contractors.

The Barkas went into production in 1961, and was built for thirty years, until 1991. The Belgian importer started installing a Ford diesel engine in the 1980s, as the two stroke was just not up to par in Western Europe. Shortly before the Barkas went out of production, a 1.3L VW gas four replaced the two stroke, similarly as in the Wartburg.