Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Pre-WWII Rear wheel drive Dkw's. 4=8, Schwebeklasse and Sonderklasse cars. 1929-1937.

Although they pioneered Front wheel drive, they also made conventional
rear wheel drive cars too, called Schwebeklasse (floating class) and
Sonderklasse (special class). These cars were two stroke, four cylinder
mostly of 1000cc, but also some of 1100cc and 800cc.

1929 model

The rear wheel drive cars date from 1929, when they were first shown at the Berlin
Motor show. They were marketed by Dkw as 4=8, meaning their 4 cylinder cars
were equal in power and smoothness to the 8 cylinder cars of the era, made by others.
Their reasoning in stating this was the fact that the 2 stroke engine produces a power
stroke with each revolution, whereas the 4 stroke engine produces its power stroke
only on every second revolution.
These cars were larger and more expensive than the smaller F1 range that would
for a time be produced and sold simulataneously.
Whereas the smaller, front wheel drive cars were aimed as 'people's cars' and for the
cheaper end of the market, these rear wheel drive cars were aimed at the middle class
All the rear wheel drive cars would have 4 cylinder (V4) engines that used 2 extra
cylinders for forced induction, so they looked like V6's but the extra 2 cylinders
had no spark plugs.

One of the last rear wheel drive's made by Dkw.
Schwebeklasse from 1936 or 1937. Steel bodied car.

The first 4=8 or Schwebeklasse had a 1000cc engine and developed 25 Hp.
It had a 3 speed gearbox that was mounted on the floor, necessary to drive the rear
wheels. Like all Dkw's up to this point, it had a plywood body that was upholstered in
imitation leather, with a wooden ladder type chassis.
The front and rear suspension consisted of solid axles and both utilised leaf springs.
The only model availaible initially was a 2 door sedan.
Early customers complained that this car was thirstier in its fuel consumption, compared
to its predecessor(P8), so they made an 800cc version for a while, but this was shortlived
due to the car being very underpowered and the engine's tendency to overheat and perform
poorly in cold weather.
The fuel consumption wasn't any better either, so this 800cc model was only available from
1930-1931. This engine only produced 20Hp, making it 20% less powerful than the 1000cc

1931 also saw the range increased and was now available in sedan, limousine, and a
convertible, all with 2 doors.
1932 saw the same car launched but with a slightly longer wheelbase and longer body.
This car was called the  DKW 432 special class. This car was given a 4 speed gearbox.
Another spin-off development of this car appeared in October 1932, called the
1001 DKW special class with a slightly more powerful engine and a floating rear axle
suspension. The body was very streamlined and attractive but the car had problems.
The solid wooden chassis struts that went from the front axle to the back one, had a
tendency to break in the middle due to the extra length they needed to be on this car,
compared to the shorter predecessors.

1934 saw the launch of the Schwebeklasse and this was a big improvement.
This car now had 2 floating axles, hence the name 'Floating class'.
An uprated engine and a second carburettor saw power rise to 30 Hp from January
July of the same year saw a new engine installed of 1100cc (1054cc) which further
boosted power to 32 Hp.
This car was available until 1937 as either a 2 door Sedan or convertible.

1937 saw the biggest improvement to date and the latest offering was called
the 'Sonderklasse' and had a longer wheelbase and a new all- steel body taken
from the 'Wanderer W24' which of course was also in the Auto-Union stable.
Although mechanically virtually the same as the last model, the problems with
the wooden chassis, namely sagging ends and also breaking bodies were addressed
and eradicated.

There were approximately 24000 rear wheel drive Dkw's made, of which around 8000
of these were steel bodied cars.

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