Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Remarkable Barkas Van. The Mule of East Germany.

The Barkas            

This was a range of light commercial vehicles, namely vans and trucks of many derivatives.
They were made in East Germany, so part of the collective IFA, the body that governed all
East Germany auto production.
So, these commericals had much in common with the Trabant and especially the Wartburg,
which is evident in so many aspects of the design, trim and switchgear used.
You may recognise the door handles as being from the Wartburg and Trabant.

me in the Frankenberg Museum

In some ways, the Barkas was very advanced for its time.
From 1961, it had front wheel drive, bigger loading capacity than most vans, and a unique
and very good suspension that featured semi-trailing arms. It was very unusual for its

The Barkas was the only van manufactured in East Germany and came in a full range of
body styles.

fire service version

Barkas 1100 prototype with Moskvitch 1500 engine.

The factory for these was in Karl-marx-stadt, known nowadays as Chemnitz, with the
engines made in the Wartburg factory in Eisenach.
The new Barkas factory was built on the site of the old 'Framo'  car factory, which was
seized by the Soviets and everything useful, machines, tool presses etc were boxed up
and sent to Russia as payment for War reparations, which was standard practice and
rampant throughout East Germany.
The 1000 signifies 1000kg payload, or one ton, which is the standard carrying capacity
for most average sized vans.

that almighty chassis!

But, remarkably this vehicle  was powered by a two stroke engine of 991cc, namely the same
 engine that was used in the Wartburg car.
Unusually, the engine was in the cabin, positioned between the two front seats.
 The engine was tuned to a lower power output (42hp) than the Wartburg car
but with a higher torque output for better pulling power.
This higher torque was largely created by the use of a cleverly designed exhaust
system that could extract torque in large quantities from the engine.
Top speed was a claimed sixty miles per hour, depending how heavily laden!
The vans were roomy and had a handy low loading height, from both the side and
rear doors.
Perhaps the most unique thing about the Barkas is it's fabulous suspension set up.
It's one piece body shell was mounted onto one hell of a sturdy chassis, which had
a huge outrigger bolted onto each side. These steel beams took the bulk of the
vehicle's weight off the body, whilst also adding stability.  Simple, but also ingenious.
The strength and solidity of this chassis has to be seen to be believed.
The bodies of the Barkas were hand crafted by and utilised many small, gas spot welds
which must have been very labour intensive.
The B1000 had 12 volt electrics from the start. All previous commercials made by the
factory had 6 volts electrics.

Prisoner transporter, Hohenschonhausen Prison

disguised on the outside to look like a delivery van

The weak spot on the Barkas was its clutch. Again, shared by the Wartburg car, to which
it was perfectly suited, sadly for a commercial vehicle it was inadequate and would often
be replaced during the life of a vehicle.
A fully laden Barkas could weigh close to 2.5 tonnes, so expecting a car clutch to cope
with this kind of weight was a little optimistic.

Interestingly the factory made a prototype in 1972, the Barkas B1100 which used  a
four stroke 1.5 engine  of Moskvitch origin, based on the Moskvitch 412 car, but approval
to build it was never granted. The prototype produced 75hp, with a top speed of
120 km/h( 75mph). The design, whilst boxy was quite futuristic and modern for its time.

They had a six-wheeler version, made as a car transporter, which used a 1500cc
Lada engine, and did make it into production from 1978 onwards.

Main change came in 1989 and the Barkas got the 1.3 Volkswagen  engine, shared with
the Wartburg 1.3. Barkas with this engine are signified by 1000/1.

There remains very few Barkas in existence today, at least good ones  and
a restored one or one in excellent condition will fetch more than three thousand euros
these days. They are so unusual though, that I feel if you could get one, they'd make a
super investment as they'll soon be rarer than hens teeth, especially when you consider
what Volkswagen  T2 vans are making currently. The two vans are comparable and
personally I'd much rather have the Barkas.
Main problem with their longevity was that old nemesis 'Rust' which gets many old cars
in the end. There must be hundreds of rusting Barkas hulks in barns and scrapyards
all over the former Gdr.

Just over 175,000 Two Stroke Barkas were made and almost 2000 four stroke models.

Friday, April 29, 2011

IFA F9 Road Test from 1955.

IFA F9 Road Test Review.

Zwickau built F9 1950-1953

This road test dates from 1955 and appeared in a Finnish magazine titled " World of
Until the late 1950's, virtually the only cars available to the Finns were Eastern Block
vehicles and their choices were thus limited to Skoda, AWZ ( Automobilwerk Zwickau
(Trabant), Wartburg and Moskvitch.

Interior view of early Zwickau F9.

Reason for this was that Western cars were strictly rationed and only available to those
wealthy enough to get them, due to the hefty War reparations that had to be paid to
the Soviets.
Also, Western cars had to be paid for in Western currencies, which alienated this
possibility beyond the reach of the ordinary person.

Eisenach built F9 1953-1956


There cannot be anybody in Finland, who has not heard more or less unflattering
anecdotes about the IFA F9. Partly for this reason we wanted to find out what this
vehicle is really like. As we have no owner experiences as regards the durability of
the car, we shall refer to the appended statistics and tell you what it felt like to be
behind the wheel of a well sorted IFA.
When first stepping into an IFA F9, one notices the curved-backed aeroplaned-type
seats, which provide a steady, pleasant seating position.
The sharply falling bonnet gives good visibility ahead, but the visibility in other directions
is only average.
There seems to be sufficient room for four passengers.
The handling is enhanced by front wheel drive, which makes the IFA excellent in sharp
bends, as long as they are taken correctly under acceleration.
Another noteworthy characteristic is the freewheel, which saves both fuel and engine.
The correct way is to accelerate at intervals and then allow the car to roll under its own
The steering is super fast rack and pinion, which feels odd after driving larger cars.
The unevenness and potholes in roads are felt unpleasantly through the wheel, but otherwise
the handling is brilliant.
The gear lever is handily placed on the dashboard, but gear changes have to be carried out
with care, for otherwise the gearbox will make nasty noises, especially when changing down.
The combination of the 3 cylinder, 32 hp engine and four speed gearbox gives the F9
reasonable powers of acceleration.
On tarred roads we got the following times:
0-50 km/h 9.5 seconds, 0-80 km/h 20 secs, and 1 kilometre from standing start 50 secs.
The engine noise is rather intrusive, especially in older models.
Braking  was not the best in the IFA's we drove, due to hard brake linings.
Handling is so good however, that this small inconvenience hardly deserves a mention.
The gauges worked perfectly and we did not notice any particular inaccuracies in the
The IFA F9 is reasonably comfortable. There is plenty of room inside and the doors are
sufficently wide to allow easy entry.
The body is reasonably tight and draught proof in Winter. This is helped by the presence
of inside lining of the body.

Eisenach F9 1953-1956

Good Points:

Good handling, cheap to buy, comfortable seats, low fuel consumption, widely available,
good starter in winter, roomy inside, freewheel spares engine and saves petrol.


Dodgy electrics, low quality tires, paintwork and chrome, expensive to repair, badly
finished, low quality springs, rubber joint in steering, central lubrication pump,
Non-professional repair personnel.

Technical Data:

Engine: Three cylinders, two stroke, output 32 bhp/limited to 3800 rpm.
Compression 6.8.1.  Cylinder dimensions 70 x 78mm, capacity 0.9 litres.
25:1 Mixing ratio, petrol to two stroke oil.

Cooling: Water-cooled, radiator behind engine. 10 litre capacity.

Transmission: Dry single plate clutch, four speed gearbox with freewheel.
Gear ratios: 1st 3.27  2nd 2.133,  3rd  1.368, 4th 0.957 and reverse 4,44:1
Gear lever on the dashboard. Front wheel drive.

Suspension:   Half-elliptic crosswise springs front and rear.

Dimensions: Length 4.2 metres, width 1.6m, height 1.45m.
Wheelbase 2.35m. Width of front track 1.18m, rear 1.26m.
Unladen weight 870 kg. Load capacity 380 kg.
Top speed 110 km/h ( approx 69 mph)
Petrol Tank capacity 30 litres.

Fuel consumption: Urban 9.6 litres for 100km (62.5 miles) Approx 29.6 mpg.
Based on a metric gallon 4.55 litres.

Open road consumption: 8 litres for 100km (62.5 miles) Approx 35.5 mpg.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Other classics I own

It would be fair to say that I love classic cars of all eras.
In addition to Two strokers I also have a passion for vintage vans and trucks and also modern classics.

My daily driver is a Rover 216 Coupe, 1995. It's one of the Rover's that was fitted with the Honda 1.6 16valve fuel injected engine and it's a cracker. It's quick, yet still reasonably economical and is nicely finished and appointed inside being a Rover. The car drives like a modern car, yet is stylish and looks like a 5 year old car rather than one that's 16 years old.
The seats are particularly comfortable on long journeys and the double, detachable  glass roof is a very nice feature.

The car was resprayed at some point to a high standard and the original Rover alloys are in very good condition.
I bought the car last November, when it had 73k miles on it and full service history from new.
I've since done about 4k miles on it and it's been utterly reliable.

Mot is due soon and I have replaced both CV joints and the silencer and given the car a full service myself, so she's on the button. I might be tempted to sell the car  with a full mot, as I could do with a diesel van for practical reasons.

I also have a '93 Leyland Daf 200 ( 2.0 petrol van) that I bought as a project.
The van has a bit of corrosion on the bottom of the back doors and on the wheel arches, but needs very little to sort out for the test. It will also need an exhaust., but that's about it. The van drives perfectly and the engine runs like a sewing machine and is very quiet.  The van is quite decent to drive despite no power steering. But, once on the move it's fine.

It was originally a mini-bus, so has glass windows down each side.
Someone at some point took out most of the seating except for the row behind the front row, making it like a 6 seat crew type van. Of course the seats just bolt in and out, so this row could be removed also to create even more space and a standard van.

This van could easily be made into a camper van quite easily with a rock n roll type bed fitted as it already has the windows down the sides and being originally a mini-bus the floor area is done out in carpeted plywood.
An electrician had this van before me, which explains why it's so clean inside.
I'm unsure what I'll do with the van, but |I'll probably do what I need to for the mot and decide after that.
These vans are very spacious for their size and are similar to a Ford Transit room wise.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Car coming shortly

I've bought another two stroke car and will be flying to England to pick it up on May 11th.
All I''m saying at this point is that it's a lovely car in two- tone paintwork and is from the 60's era.
I plan on taking it to the top shows here in Ireland this summer.

More details to follow.