(first posted 11/1/2011) Seeing that it’s a DKW and not a Chevrolet, some of you might be tempted to skip this CC. If you must, but know that this is a very significant historical car, and one I’d pretty much given up on finding in Eugene. It’s both the forerunner of all modern Audis as well as the successor to the very first mass-produced front wheel drive cars. The fact that it has a two-stroke engine lends it even that much more interest. But the DKW story is big, so I’ll try to condense it: 3000 words=6000 words, in DKW speak.
Before DKW popularized front wheel drive, it also did much the same thing with two-stroke engines, having given up on a very brief attempt at a steam-driven automobile which was the origin of its name (Dampf Kraft Wagen). In 1919, DKW created this little 18cc two-stroke motor to be an alternative for the toy steam engines popular at the time. It produced .25 hp, and was called the Das Knaben Wunsch (The Boy’s Wish). I’m sure it was every mother’s wish to have a two-stroke engine running in the living room with its oily exhaust.
Enlarged to 118cc with 1hp output, the now called Das Kleine Wunder (The Little Wonder) was sent outside where it belonged to be used as an auxiliary engine to power bicycles. That led to genuine motorcycles, and within a few short years, DKW quickly grew to be the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Its brilliant RT125 of 1939 was the most advanced light bike in the world, and soon became the most copied one ever, including the Harley Hummer.
DKW was broadminded; in addition to steam and two strokes, they also developed and sold a light EV truck and delivery vehicle called the DEW (Der Elektrishe Wagen). No DAW (Der Atomische Wagen), as far as I know.
But DKW did jump into the automobile market, initially with two-stroke rear-wheel drive cars. But in 1931 it launched what would become the first mass-produced front-wheel drive car, the F1, with a transverse 584 cc two-stroke twin, producing 15 hp. Its unitized body (no frame) was built of plywood.
So the next time someone tells you that the Mini was the first car with a transverse engine driving the front wheels, tell them DKW was doing back in ’31.
The DKW line was quickly and steadily developed through the thirties, culminating in the F7 of 1937. DKWs of this time rode on a central frame and the lower-end versions had bodies that were in part made of artificial leather fabric stretched over wooden frames. Light weight, for small engines: the F7 had all of 20 hp.
Here we can see the little 600 or 700cc twin, as well as the fuel barrel, in which the 40-1 gas-oil mixture was stored. No fuel pump needed here.
The engine sat well behind the front wheel centerline, and the transmission sat in front of it, and then the differential.
Rather a lot like a motorcycle engine, except in reverse. Which is of course not surprising, as the DKW engine had its roots in motorcycle engines, and shared a lot of similarities.
In 1934, DKW was sort-of forced to create the Auto Union by its bankers, bringing in the more upscale brands Horch, Audi and Wanderer by its bankers, because those luxury cars were failing. A tactic to survive the Depression, undoubtedly. But DKW was the volume leader, by far, and occupied a comfortable niche in the German industry. And it was the only one of the four that survived the war, barely.
The big breakthrough into the modern streamlined era was planned for 1940, with the very advanced and slippery (Cd: 0.42) DKW F9. It re-arranged the drive-train, with the new 896cc triple set low in front of the drive wheels. If you want to know where the Saab 92 got all of its ideas, look no further.
The F9 was created by DKW in response to the VW/KdF Wagen, which was due out in 1939, and was going to have mammoth repercussions on all of the lower-priced makers, including DKW. The F9 was designed to push DKW a class or two higher above the VW, with its more powerful engine and somewhat nicer interior trim. And thanks to its very space-efficient fwd configuration, the F9 was roomier inside than the VW Beetle, and its descendants were known for fine dynamic qualities. This really is the Ur-Audi.
Needless to say, WW2 put the kibosh on the F9, and when that little inconvenience was finally over, DKW found itself in the Russian sector. Now renamed IFA, the F9 was put into production in 1949, and eventually spawned the Wartburg, East Germany’s primary upper-mid-class car.
Re-establishing DKW/Auto Union in Western Germany after the war a huge challenge. But eventually, motorcycles, light vans (Schnellaster), and by 1950, the F9-based F89 sedan finally saw the light of day. Now both sides of the Iron curtain were building practically identical cars.
The F89 evolved into the F91, and that into the F93/F94, the subject of our find that has found its unlikely last resting spot here in a field in Eugene. How did that happen? Thanks to the Great Import Boom of the mid-late fifties, when everything from Abarth to Zundapp was scooped up by eager Americans looking for something decidedly non-vanilla. The DKW was one of the more popular ones in the 1955 -1960 period, and even its doppelganger the Wartburg found some takers. Now that would be a find.
Well, finding this fine F94 was quite a thrill; it’s been decades since the last one I’ve seen. When I first moved to LA in 1977, there were still some DKWs around; mostly sitting in driveways though. I may have seen one or two with its tell-tale plume of blue smoke trailing it still running. Anyway, it seems that this particular car made it all the way from Nebraska to Oregon; probably someone coming out to the U of O. University towns tended to be a hot bed for two-stroke Saabs and DKWs; intellectuals love to be able to wrap themselves with an argument of superiority about things like the two stroke engine: “Only seven moving parts!” Never mind the blue smoky exhaust.
Well, the DKW three cylinder did have some merit. Its biggest was proudly displayed on its flanks and in advertisement; actually, it was its very name: 3=6. Thanks to twice as many power impulses as a four stroke, the little 896cc triple did feel as smooth as an inline six. Well, during acceleration or steady running, that is. It sounded more like a popcorn popper under de-acceleration, which is also why DKWs (and Saabs) had free-wheeling. Two strokes are none too happy under engine-braking conditions, and tended to foul their plugs (or worse) if forced to do so. Freewheeling disengaged the engine as soon as the throttle was lifted (over-running).
Handy for making clutchless shifts, but it demanded much of the brakes, one of the major downsides in the pre-disc brake era. DKWs did have bigger than average drums to help compensate. But for that reason alone, DKWs were not popular in the Alpine regions; drivers (rightfully) didn’t trust the brakes heading down long alpine passes. DKWs were seen as flat-lander cars. And this one has Nebraska plates.
Speaking of engines, let’s lift the hood of this one and check it out. The paint is long gone, but all the trim pieces are aging quite well.
Ooops; it’s gone AWOL. Given how tiny it is, it could have been lifted out by one person. The DKW motor had no water pump, relying on the thermo-siphon principle to circulate the coolant to its high-mounted radiator.
Let’s check out the other end, never know what one might find there. Love those chrome strips against the rust.
Sure enough, here it is, although I don’t see the seven moving parts. The little brief-case sized buzz-bomb was rated at 42 (DIN) hp @4200 rpm. That’s considerably more than the VW’s then 30 (DIN) hp, and gave this DKW a top speed of 80-85 mph.
The likely cause of this engine’s demise, as with so many other DKW engines, was that on long downhills with closed throttle, or in cold weather when the heavier oil separated in the tank, the engine received insufficient lubrication. That ruined lots of these motors, and was a major cause of their ultimate demise.
Here’s what it once looked like. Since oil fouling was a problem, having a hearty spark in the pre-solid state ignition era was important, hence the triple coils. The “distributor” on the front of the crankshaft had three sets of points too. Those must have been fun to change.
A view into an intact engine compartment. Wonder how long our CC DKW ran before it was disemboweled?
The two door sedan/coupe F93 sported a handsome roof with a wrap-around rear window that gave it quite a natty appearance in the mid-late fifties, compared to the VW anyway. Call me a Kraut, but this coupe really speaks to me. It was the equivalent to Olds and Buick coupes of the time.
Here’s a recent video of a fixed-up 3=6 in Portland getting a high-speed run on the freeway. Only one problem: he doesn’t have his tach reset for a two stroke engine, which has twice as many ignition event per rpm as does a four stroke. He shows it hitting 7,000 rpm on acceleration, and 6,000 rpm at 70 mph. The redline for the 3=6 engine was 4250 rpm, which corresponded to some 85 mph or so. two strokes sound like they’re revving, but their actually low-speed engines, as their porting doesn’t allow them to breathe like a four stroke. The “hottest” two stroke car sold, the Saab GT750 and 850 Monte Carlo redlined at 5000 rpm. But they sound exactly as if they’re turning twice that fast.
The four-door sedan and the two-door wagon “Universal” shared a longer wheelbase, hence the F94 designation. The wagon really took advantage of the fwd, with a low load floor and lots of cargo room. The DKW Avant.
One thing that all DKWs of this series all shared were the suicide front doors. Rather surprising too, since most manufacturers got away from that by this time. For what it’s worth, it really did make getting into cars rather pleasant, especially small ones.
These DKWs were held in high regard for their fine road manners. The front wheel drive meant a high degree of stability at speed and in windy conditions, excellent traction, and generally good handling. The old fwd bugaboo of heavy steering was largely mitigated by an excellent and accurate rack and pinon gear, which was not that common in Central Europe then.
An upscale version of the DKW appeared in 1958, the Auto Union 1000, with a larger 50 hp 980 cc engine, and a genuine pillar-less hardtop roof. The choice of calling it an Auto Union was a bit odd, since that name had never been used on production cars before. Why not resurrect the Audi, Horch or Wanderer names?
The reason I’ve had DKWs and Auto Unions on the brain lately is that I was recently sent a bunch of old family pictures, and the car ones all went to me. This is one of a cousin of my father’s who lived in northern Germany and arrived for a visit in Innsbruck in the summer of 1959 in an Auto Union 1000 coupe. The 1000 had a slightly larger 890 cc triple belting out 50 hp at 4550 rpm. Hot stuff!
She was a widow, and came with her teenage son, who here has his head in the trunk. Don’t ask how we did it (maybe the son rode in the trunk), but they took my whole family for a day outing into Sud Tirol, where we drove on a remaining original segment of a Roman road. They knew how to build roads that lasted! And being car-less, I remember every one of these rare trips perfectly, except for the details of just how squeezed in we were. Conveniently repressed.
In 1964, the DKW 3=6 and Auto Union 100 was replaced by the DKW F102, the last to carry a two-stroke engine. In every other way a very modern sedan, the F102 also now had oil-injection, so that the mixture no longer had to be measured out in the tank, and avoiding the oil-starvation problems of the earlier DKWs. But it was too little, too late. The two-stroke had no future, most of all because of looming emission regulations. And the two stroke never was quite as efficient with fuel as the ever-more efficient four-strokes being developed.
Mercedes (reluctantly probably) had to bail out Auto Union back in 1958, in the way things were typically done in Germany back then. The Mercedes engineers developed a modern new four stroke four. With the new engine and front grille, the DKW now metamorphosed into the Audi (F103), resurrecting the name that had graced many fine cars in the pre-war era.
Mercedes wanted out of Auto Union, and engineered a deal whereby VW would take on ownership, in 1964. This coincided with the development of the new engine, which would go on to power a number of cars outside of Audi, including the Porsche 924, and a motley assortment of AMC cars when VW handily sold off the engine to them during the energy crisis.
The Audi- F103 came in versions from 60 to 90 hp, whence the designations. Only the Super 90 was imported to the US, and I remember seeing them in the showroom in Towson in 1969, shortly after I had ridden in my godfather’s new S90 in Austria that summer. It’s been ages since I’ve seen one, so I’m keeping my eyes peeled. If I can find a DKW, an Audi S90 shouldn’t be that hard. For that matter, I’d be thrilled to find one of the first generation 100s too. Audi’s reputation for fragility goes back a long way too, even before they were called that. Blame it on the family genes.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, but there are few companies with such a consistent lineage of brand dna. The 3=6 really was the proto-Audi for every subsequent Audi developed car to come, up to this date. And they all had a longitudinally mounted engine hanged in front of the front wheel, and front wheel drive. Even though later cars had four wheel drive, they were all developed as front wheel drives. And they all share that DNA. The F102 and F103, the B1-B4 Audi 80/90/4000/5000, B5-B7 Audi A4. Not until the B8 A4/A5 did they move the front differential ahead of the clutch, allowing the front axle to be moved forward. The B1, B2 and B5 Volkswagen Passat shared the same Audi developed platform, The B3, B4, B6 and B7 Passat had VW developed platforms with Golf-derived transverse engined packages. And, of course the Audi 100 and all its itterations shared the ubiquitous Audi configuration, up intil the present day A6. And not to forget, so did the Audi A8, Volkswagen Phaeton and Bentley Continental. So, yes, the present day Bentley can trace its lineage to this little proto-Audi.
Do I see a DS Citroen behind the DKW in that last pic?Great writeup Paul very rare cars and yes I knew where SAAB got its ideas from they simply did a minor restyle for the 92 but you cant tell me Ferdi Porsche wasnt looking at these when he drew the beetle either he used a Tatra power train in the back. No good design ever goes uncopied.
Ironic now that VW actually promoted the fact they were using opposition engines for their Audi 90 they were desperate to get away from being a one trick outfit in the 60s the Beetle was starting to look very old everywhere except the US by then.
Great find is there anything you cant unearth Paul?
More like the DKW cribbing the Volkswagen with the F9, at least in its basic shape. The F9 appeared in 1940; the Beetle long before then.
The VW origin story is not nearly as simple as it’s often made out to be, and the only (legally liable) thing Porsche really borrowed from the Tatra were a few details. Porsche started work on prototypes for the VW going quite far back.
Everybody always looks at what others are doing; just don’t get caught with your fingers in the cookie jar.
You left out the NSU connections in the German auto incestious history. The first Beetles were built by NSU but they couldn’t handle the production so they went to VW. The first water cooled VWs were rebadged NSUs. NSU was also the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the last half of the 1950s. When their development of the Wankel put them under, they were sold to Audi.
Excellent article, but perhaps the “cribbing” may not be too far off the mark. Take a look at the DKW Schweibeklasse (built in 1934) and the original designs for what became the VW Beetle. See any similarity? Sure! Erwin Komenda, Chief designer for Auto Union, was in charge of designing the body for the Porsche prototype. Is it cribbing if the same guy is penning the designs? Maybe….
May I suggest all of you guys take a long look at a DeSoto Airflow two door brougham? Those were in dealerships around the world in 1934…
I did take a long look at the Airflow. My eyes are still hurting.
Marvelous! So much new stuff about one of my favorite marques.
Back in grad school I shared a house with a couple of other deutschophile intellectuals, enamored with the apparent elegance of seven moving parts, and somehow we ended up owning a ’62 DKW Junior. You can’t appreciate from a photo just how cute this 3/4-scale fifties car is. It had us under a spell that we would restore the little wonder. It didn’t run of course.
One morning I pulled off the head, having no valves it’s just a few bolts. Did I mention it had been sitting out in a Massachusetts field? The pistons and cylinder walls were one continuous surface of corrosion. So much for that idea. We listed it in Hemmings, some guy gave us $25 and towed it away.
I debated whether to mention the Junior, so thanks for filling in that part of the story. Yes, it sure does have a 3/4 scale ’56 Ford look to it. And the Auto Union 100SP really looks like a scaled down T-bird.
Ah yes, I was wondering when the 1000SP would come up in the discussion. It turns out that production of the baby T-Birds was very low and they are exceedingly pricey in good condition today.
The Simca Aronde Plein Ciel was another car that borrowed a lot from the two-seat T-Bird.
Fabulous piece. I am learning so much today. From time to time, I have kind of wondered about how Audi and Auto Union and DKW fit together, and now I know. What a day – from Marion Indiana and Cincinnati Ohio via 500 thousand clear channel watts to the forests of Germany. Like no other web site in the world.
That thing looks like a prime restoration candidate. The sheet metal looks straight and solid, and it looks like pretty much all the pieces are there. Musta used some good quality steel in those days. I wish I had the resources to take it on.
A friend of mine rescued a wagon from the scrapyard a number of years ago. Neat little cars. The engine was seized problem from the issue you described but definitely decent enough otherwise. The engine compartment was neat with the three coils dominating.
I just realized my old Rx-7 is in the background this shot too – lovely car.
A rotary would surely fit….. 🙂
Would a Suzuki 3 pot fit in that would solve the motivation problems and the parts are findable
Or maybe the Ford 1 liter Ecoboost 3?. That could be lots of fun.
Fun stuff about cars I know nothing about!
“Seeing that it’s a DKW and not a B-Body…”
Huh? Do ’67 Coronet taxis have a big following around here? 😉
Neat bit of history there! That Black F93 coupe up there is a pretty sexy machine. I actually caught myself staring at it for a few minutes trying to figure out what was so appealing. Maybe It’s the lack of chrome?
The 3=6 reminds me of Clifford’s 6=8 logos.
Clifford’s 6=8 immediately came to my mind too. Wonder if that is where they got the idea?
The condition of the trim compared to the rest is quite incredible, I’m guessing that chrome isn’t over cheap pot metal.
Looks like stainless rather than plated steel it looks great just needs a shot of clear to preserve it
Facinating article Paul! There was an F94 in my home town while I was growing up through the 80s, haven’t seen that car for years though, and it’s been a few months since the last one popped up here on trademe. I love the look of them – especially that black coupe – and I must say, Bryce’s suggestion of a 3-cylinder Suzuki transplant is intriguing! Or a Mazda rotary engine to increase the weirdness factor…!
A mechanic in the garage next to my office has a late model Deek, probably an F93 , but it only comes out for high days and holidays. I think there is a second one in town as well, since they tend to appear together. I never realised this body shape dated back to 1940, it would have been very advanced then.
Glad they went with “Audi” instead of “Horch,” which sounds like something you do after too much Oktoberfest-ing. 🙂
Audi and Horch were of course both founded by Herr August Horch. When he left the Horch company he needed a new name for his new product so he used the latin translation of Horch.( which is where our modern word “audio” comes from).
Like Ranson Olds starting another car company and calling it REO.
Actually it was Reo.
Not necessarily – I’m sure by the time they could afford TV ads, the entire North American continent would be pronouncing “Horch” to rhyme with “porch”.
That was a great encapsulation of the DKW Audi history. You covered a lot of ground in that one. I knew a fair amount of this information already, but the part that I’d forgotten was the MB bailout in the late 50’s (Silly me, I wasn’t born yet!). I’m trying to imagine a modern day ad like the one shown above that would brag about all of the assistance it got from other car companies…
The new 2012 Dodge Avenger! With a Mopar engine, a Mercedes transmission, a Fiat tuned suspension and Mitsubishi electronics! (wait, this has already happened)…
Finally, du bist ein kraut! Why you’d want to be known as a cabbage is beyond me.
Mazda rotary replacement engine makes sense- torqueless wonder that revs high, much like the 2-stroke.
I thought it would be good in a 2-stroke SAAB, but haven’t seen any.
another great article, paul. i’m not accomplishing anything at work today! i’m curious about the east/west division of dkw after the war. how can a company be on both sides of the iron curtain? is it possible that audi is just a doppelganger company and not the true descendant of dkw?
DKW was located in Zwickau, which was in the Russian sector. Like pretty much everything else there, the factory was re-organized as a state-owned enterprise (IFA), and started churning out what it was tooled up for.
The details of the re-establishment of DKW/Auto Union in the West is not readily available to me. Presumably, some of the owners took it on themselves, starting with a large parts facility Dusseldorf. It took several years to finally resume production, starting with the motorbikes, the vans, and finally the the cars.
The IFA F9 and DKW F89 were not truly identical, and I don’t know that any parts would have interchanged. DKW had to tool up the new F89 from scratch, and probably made changes from the original F9 plans, at least to some extent.
The old Zwickau IFA factory made VW Polos at one point, but I’m not sure if it’s still currently in use.
btw, i’ll never look at the saab 92 the same again. i can’t believe that i thought audi was just an upscale vw.
Great piece! Man, it is really a long time since I’ve seen one of those. Of course I did see one now and then in the Seattle area back in the 50’s or 60’s. Not knowing much about them, one missed all the areas in which they were ahead of their time, and only saw the front-opening front doors and the blue smoke tails.
I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a retired-looking Citroen across the field in the first pic. Those are practically common compared to DKW’s.
These are really cool looking, I especially like the hardtop. I mentioned it earlier, but these really remind me of the BMW 501/502 ‘Baroque Angel’ that was made from 1952-1964. I wasn’t aware they made a four door 3=6 until I saw this article.
I don’t know about the Zwickau plant, but the Eisenach plant that made the Wartburg went on to make Opels. Now here’s six degrees of separation for you:
As you mentioned, the DKW was built pre-war at Eisenach which fell into Russian hands and became the Wartburg. Now, the Wartburg was made for 40 years, until the fall of the Berlin wall, when they became unprofitable in comparison with used Ossi cars. The plant was then sold to Opel, who built the Vauxhall Vectra there. Now, as we all know the Vectra is the base of the Saab 900 post-GM. Saab, that is who got their start cribbing the DKW to engineer their 92, which brings us back to where we started.
SAAB did use the DKW powerplant as inspiration, but given their aeronautical background, the SAAB unitized body was far more advanced: stronger, lighter, tighter.
Oh and SAAB adopted oil injection starting in 1958, way ahead of DKW.
The 92/93/96 was the far better car… imo! ymmv!
In the UK, Villiers was the biggest maker of two-stroke motors, for motorcycles and micro-cars. Between the wars they used a pressurised automatic lubrication system on some of their engines. Sadly it was not 100% reliable, and was discontinued after WW2.
Actually Eisenach was building BMWs prewar, not DKWs. Continued building them into the mid-fifties, as EMWs. Then they built Wartburgs. Prewar DKWs were built in Zwickau.
Yep, the 501 is what I see in this, or vice versa.
Great info here on the east/west split. I remember reading that some of the Auto Union GP cars were stuck on the other side when the wall went up.
what a find! these are very rare to come across here in Germany, never even thought they were sold in the U.S.!
to add up on history, I think these were built under license in Brazil as well for some decades, long after their demise in Europe.
Myself and these cars go way back. I stumbled upon this article in a random search of images of DKW 3=6 cars and clicked on this 4 door. Nice concise article on their history.
My initiation to these cars came in 1960 when my father came home in a used 1957 3=6 Coupe Deluxe. I fell in love with it. A far cry from his previous 1951 Ford Customline! My mother hated it. Oh well. In 1963 Dad traded it for a 1960 Auto Union 1000 Std Coupe. Nice car!! It died in
’65 so we ended up with a ’61 Corvair Monza Coupe followed by a brand new 1967 Ford Cortina GT What a car!!! I learned how to drive standard trans in that car. We followed that with a ’72 Mazda Rx-2 (new) and a ’74 Rx-4, his last car. But I digress. while my father’s ’60 1000 was sitting we aquired a ’56 3=6 coupe deluxe that just sat. Mom eventually got rid of both, to my chagrin. Eventually in the early ’80’s I ran across a ’59 3=6 four door like this one for sale. Sold my ’60 ragtop Beetle and drove home a happy DKW owner. I got REALLY good at measuring oil/gas, and that bad boy got me around with nary a plume of blue smoke. I had no problems with it other than to keep on filing down the points to keep it running. My connection vanished and eventually had to park it. Then I sold it. Ah, for want of the internet and DKW Club back then!! I want another. My perfect Deek would be a ’56 3=6 coupe Deluxe like the one pictured above. I have since had a ’72 Citroen DS 21. But It’s gone too and now have a 2004 Cooper S. Would love to own an early ’70’s SAAB 96.
I gotta look around this sight more, now that I’ve found it.
Welcome to CC, and thanks for sharing your story. You grew up in among some interesting cars indeed. Lucky you. Good luck on finding your Deek. That’s the one I would most want too.
Thanks for the great article. It was very nostalgic for me. My father purchased a DKW coupe in the early sixties, after deciding against buying a Borgward. He even drove it to Eugene one time. This car was retired from service after a crankshaft bearing failed due to corrosion from coolant leakage as a result of a blown head gasket. The crankshaft was a pressed together design with ball, or roller bearings( i can’t remember which) rather than the insert bearings usually used on four cycle engines. This car featured a saxomat clutch which did away with a clutch pedal but still required manual shifting of transmission gears. The dealer who sold us this car showed my dad a stunt which he enjoyed repeating for his grearhead friends. The DKW had three ignition coils, one for each sparkkplug. My dad would disconnect the high tension lead from two of the coils with the engine running. It would continue to run with only one cylinder receiving spark. My dad sold the car to a neighbor, who removed the body and planned to make a trailer for his sailboat from the chassis. I still have the hood ornament!
I was delighted to stumble onto the Curbside Classic website a few days ago, and have since enjoyed “driving” through several of the entries. I remember the DKW sedans and Schnellaster van from my 1950s childhood in Canada, and also recall a DKW Junior being raced at Mosport Park, just outside Toronto, in the early-mid 60s. It had never occurred to me how much of the early Saab design owes to DKW, although I did know of the borrowed powertrain.
I knew of the Audi connection, but never considered how much the beautiful and current Audi A1 Sportback resembles the four-door DKW sedan. I don’t know whether this model is sold in the U.S., but it’s common across Europe.
(About 25 years ago I purchased for restoration an NSU Ro80, one of precisely 100 examples imported into Canada. I had the mechanicals redone — the Wankel motor was actually fine, apparently a rarity — but other matters came to the fore before I completed the bodywork, so I sold it. My car today is a 2008 Citroen C4 1.6 5-spd 5-door hatch, and my previous car was a 1994 Peugeot 306XT 1.8 5-spd 5-door hatch; wonderful cars, the both of them.)
I tried to include an embedded link to a pic of an Audi A1 Sportback, but WordPress didn’t like that idea. Here’s the link without embedding: http://www.audi.co.uk/new-cars/a1.html. And if WordPress still rejects it, I’m sure that curious souls will have no trouble finding images on the net.
The slightly restyled original DKW was produced by Vemag in Brazil until 1967, when Vemag was taken over by VW and all production of DKW models ceased; the beautiful and very expensive Fissore-bodied 2 door was offered from 1963 on as well.
1965 DKW-Vemag Fissore
There is a restored Audi 4 door that was at a car show down here in country Australia, jaffa orange . I really lusted after it , lovely car.
I remember about 1970 in Victoria , Australia it was a tight little community where we seemed to know everyone who had a weird little German car.
Ive seen two of these in Australia.
I had a Goliath GP900 at that time.
People know very little about these cars or any of the early German cars. More interested in Morris Minors and obviously the don’t read every page of the car magazines
I just sold a workshop manual for these cars on eBay. It went fast!
Huh, I’m surprised I didn’t comment on this the first time around. My dad had a DKW around the time I was born, but my earliest memory of our family car was when it was an Audi Super 90, followed by several first generation Audi 100’s! I recall my dad really liked the DKW, he was still talking about it into the ’80’s.
Wow, never thought these could be found out in the US! The Auto-Union story is fascinating, so many wonderfully eccentric machines… And the streamlining! That F9 just looked gorgeous.
If you want to know more about the torturous history of streamlined Auto-Union cars (there were many of various sizes, including the F9’s monstrous big brother, the Horch 930S) of the 30s and 40s, I highly recommend this page:
Just yesterday I saw an F9 in traffic. I suppose living in Dresden helps.
The fact than most 2-stroke engines don’t rev above 4500 rpm is a revelation to me, I always considered them ultra-high-revving, 7000 RPM or even more. Thanks a lot for the explanation.
Pre-war DKW F8 and DDR-built IFAs were quite widespread in the USSR until late 1970s, and when their 2-stoke engines finally got worn out, many of them were converted into electric cars – their powerful dynastarter unit (dynamo and starter combined) was pretty well suited to the role of the sole motivating power as well. The resulting top speed of 70-80 km/h was considered absolutely adequate for city driving.
In the old car magazines, I’ve seen several proposals sent by people who wanted this design being adopted and cars like these being produced domestically – they were favored by the owners for simplicity and ease of repair, especially the F8’s wood/plywood/leatherette body which just anyone could easily fix with simple hand tools (too bad Soviet plants couldn’t muster a truly decent 2-stroke motorcycle engine – 4-stroke cycle and water cooling was much better suited to cruder producing techniques and looser tolerances). The 3=6 is much prettier than the pre-war DKWs, though, while IMHO not as pretty as the DDR-built 1-gen Wartburg…
My grandpa bought a 1957 model as his first car. He rarely throws something away and gave me all the documents about the car. He is 85 years old now and when I called him just a couple of minutes ago, he told me to call again later because he doesn’t like to talk on the cell phone while riding his the bicycle… He has no other choice anymore except walking or using public transportation, since he sold his last car – a 2000 Opel Astra Caravan 2.0 Diesel – 5 years ago when he got 80 years old…
He had to pay 8400.- Swiss Franken – quite a lot of money back then!
These documents bring it so close. Your grandpa had to make a real life buying decision. What else could he have bought with this money?
I wonder if he ever felt any remorse about it?
He must be in fantastic shape for his age! My mom gave up cycling only a few years ago in her late 80’s.
In Europe you see seniors riding their bikes to run errands. In the US you see seniors riding their bikes on TV commercials while the narrator rushes through the lethal side effects of the pharmaceutical the ad is promoting.
I remember these cars from my childhood. We too were a car-less family. Mom and dad had bikes.
I loved the curved windows and there was one of the Sonderklasse parked in the neighborhood. Another detail that I remember were the many little window stickers, about 5cm tall, that you could buy at tourist destinations. This car’s rear side window was filled with them. Obviously the car served a multitude of Sunday family outings and the owner was proud enough to show it.
I was looking for a picture and found you still can buy such stickers today.
Wonderful find in the US! Who would have thought in Nebraska could be found a 2-stroke german car from the 50s.
Here in Argentina these were made from 1960 to 69. They were really popular in racing due to their high-rev engine and excellent handling.
The factory (IASF) also manufactured the Universal (station wagon), the Fissore coupe (1000 SP Coupe in Germany) and the full line of Schnellaster vehicles.
In 1969 IASF introduced the 1963 MY commercial vehicles and decided to pull out of the auto business and get on producing farming equipment.
The toolings were sold to the state-owned IME which replaced the 2-stroke with an Indenor XD 4.88 engine (better known for its use in Peugeot vehicles), named it Rastrojero F71 and continued production right up until 1979.
The license plate on the example pictured means that it was licensed in 1966 in Lincoln County, NE, the county seat of which is North Platte.
What a nice car to restore! Too bad more of them aren’t around. I’d restore a car like that, excerpt for the fact that I wouldn’t know where to find the parts for it, if any were even available.
I was at Gates Salvage in Hardwick, VT two weeks ago.
There is a 3=6 parked up against the fence in the antique end of the yard.
Nature has almost completely closed in on it. It has been in the exact same spot for at least 25 years. (I’ve seen it at least that long).
No doubt it is beyond hope.
But it is there.
Norm, that car at Gates Salvage in Hardwick…is it a wagon (‘Universal’) or a sedan? Is it by chance red or gray? I had a a gray wagon (and a red parts car) 30 years ago, sold them to a guy in Hardwick and always wondered what happened to them….
VERY nice ! .
I remember a little black & white DKW sitting in NW Los Angeles for decades , it had cobwebs between it and the curb & ground but wasn’t towed away .
I always wondered what happened to it , Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking had one on top of their GIANT pile ‘o cars visible from the I-5 freeway for decades too .
That one really does look worthy of saving .
Definitely looks worthy of saving, though it might take a masochistic mechanic with too much time on his hands! It appears to be all there though, even if somewhat disassembled. And the other cars in those photos–I see not one but two DS’s (top photo against the barn, and the nose of another in the last photo) plus whatever the blue car behind the DKW is. Some sort of obscure foreign car graveyard?
Very nice find. Wonder if it’s still in the same place three years later?
The blue car in the background is an Alfetta sedan.
It is so wonderful to see the interest in DKW’s. Many of you have been fortunate to have had one or currently own one. Likewise, many others have had one in their lives through relatives. I am among the very lucky to have a father who worked for DKW prior to coming to America in 1960. He started as a shop helper shortly after the war and at the time of his departure, became one of the final quality control inspectors for when the cars were assembled and waiting for transport. He worked in many areas including actual manufacture and even made a trip or two with the rally team to Monte Carlo. His personal vehicle for a short time was a 3=6 that had a rally prepped motor in it ( he was unaware of it until the first time he drove it on the Autobahn and subsequently had the mechanics “detune” it back to more subtle numbers the Monday morning he returned to work.) He has always spoken quite fondly of his time at DKW and the lessons he learned and the stories he has told me have carried over to me. To this day, with my father being 83, Das Kliene Wunder still warms the cockles of our hearts and brings smiles to our faces.
Perhaps a picture of my 1958 DKW would be of interest to the discussion group.
Very sweet! What a great color. Is it an original one? Thanks for sharing, and enjoy your DKW.
I have a 1956 DKW Sonderklasse 2 dr 2 seater Convertible. I need engine parts Where do I find then in the US?
Tim – If you describe the parts I will check to see what we might have for you. Blocks, pistons, carbs, etc.
Hi Peter, I own DKW 3-6 Sonderklasse 1956 4 door non runner. I intend to restore this beauty to its Original state. Got the engine running, body work done & started on the brakes but put on hold.
You seem like the saviour! Please post your address, email & if you carry any parts for sale an inventory. I shall be Eternally great full.
Best Wishes from Sunny Srlanka!
I just stumbled over your post on curbsideclassic.com. I too own one of these beautiful 1956 2-seater convertibles and try to collect information about “surviving” cars of this model range. Currently at Audi Tradition we know of 25 2-seaters and 7 4-seaters existing spread all over the world. Could you kindly help me with the VIN or the body-number of your car to complete internal statistics? I’ll be happy to send you the updated excel-list with data and owners of the other Big 3=6 Convertibles.
Attached you find a picture of my own “rosso-corsa-red” 2-seater body no. #60, imported from Sweden two years ago. Before this car I’ve already possessed the remains of body no. #132 which are now being restored near Frankfurt/Main. Photo was taken during this year’s DKW-Karmann-Convertible-Meeting in June.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Kind regards from Ingolstadt,
In the very early 1960s when I was a 6 year old I would have to get dressed up in the tailor made suit,white shirt,red satin tie,white pocket handkerchief,a miniature Mad Men,lol,and my father would drive us from the small country town to Launceston,60 miles,in the Buick.We would have haircuts at a German barber and then have lunch at a modern restaurant,a rarity in those days.On the way home dad would always stop at the International bulldozer building,an ultra modern building,floor to ceiling glass,heated concrete floors in the showroom and workshop and talk for ages with the manager about bulldozers,his favourite subject.We sat in the Buick bored.The manager owned a DKW 4door,probably 1958 year,I used to like walking around it and looking at that very unusual little car.A couple of years later the DKW was gone,replaced by a fintail Mercedes Benz with a small aerial on the bootlid and inside a small black and white television.Space age stuff back then.I liked the Benz but missed seeing the DKW.
I often check the auction results at Shannons Classic Car Auctions Australia and just this week noticed a strange looking 8 seater bus,Lot 21,which sold on 8 December 2014,in Melbourne, for $39,000 [Aust].The bus is a 1951 DKW Schnell-Laster and the photos are still on the site.I thought the Fiat Multiplas I owned were odd but but the DKW is truly strange,yet appealing.
Anyone seriously interested in a large collection of DKWs of all types, including a massive collection of parts, is free to contact me at email@example.com
The collection includes sedans, SPs, and a few Mungas. They may need to be moved this summer (2015).
My daughter and I are rebuilding a couple of Mungas and hope to have one running in the next couple of weeks.
Hi Peter, please mail an inventory of the parts you have for the 3-6. I would be interested in any engine & body parts for a 1956 Sonderklasse 4 door sedan.
Hi Peter, have you an inventory of the parts you have for the DKW F94.
Hi Peter, any parts for sale for F94 Sonderklasse
where are you located?
Eagerly Awaiting your response, Peter!
Living in Srilanka. You can mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
I am an Airline Crew, travelling on work to Europe & East up to Tokyo. If you could short list your inventory for the F94 with pricing & shipping I would be most obliged.
When I was in college in the early ’80s, I had a study group with some hippies in Happy Valley. In their “front yard” there was a DKW just like the one pictured. Not that rusty, but very appealing to my love of low drag co-efficiency. The only thing that stopped me from trying to bring it home was opening the hood and seeing 3 coils. I knew I would never be able to get it running…
I have seen one of these in motion in Gubin in Germany. It was a most elegant looking machine when in motion and constructed to a rather impressive level of quality.
Thanks Paul and to all of you with your comments and histories of these auto. I remember when they landed in the U.S. in the fifties.
In the mid 70s I bought an Audi Super 90 2dr in red that looked exactly like the blue one pictured here. My brother was the body shop manager at Scalia O’Brian a Porsche Audi dealer in Chicago. There was a mechanics lean on the car for mechanical work performed and the owner left it. I paid the $700.00 bill and owned it. The trans was a 4 spd that worked well with the 4 cyl engine. My guess is that it was the 60 hp version.
After a short time I found out that is was a very rare car here to the US.
I only ever saw one other junked at the curb in Chicago. After I did a custom hitch mount, I pulled a small Jayco pop-up camping trailer with it to WI. KY. also western IL. All was fine until a right front CV joint lost the bearings one day backing out of my parking space.. That was a weak link on them. The Chicago winter salt did serious damage to the under side so I junked it after owning for a few years.
How much ?
I like the way you can “internationalize”, what a wide POV. I think this one fills a gap for me, Germany modernizing before/after. I just knew the basic VW story/propaganda. To me Auto-Union was a bunch of unknowns that disappeared until Audi logos showed up.
I can’t look at this without thinking VW (the SAAB’s pretty clear, too). Then I saw the dashboard. With memories blurring they look like they could have been made on the same stamp. I was told that the two pods were so you could make both LHD and RHD. I seem to remember a dent in the right floor for a steering column?
A classic “If only”. If only it had an engine we wouldn’t have had to deal with VW until they built the “Rabbit” (Golf). I thought of a Wartburg as a joke, looks like the East got the advantage over the West on that one. If only it had an engine.
Thanks for another lesson.