Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dkw's in Ireland

Interestingly, the only Dkw factory outside of Germany( in 1952) was in Ireland, on what's
now the site of Aldi supermarket in Ballincollig, County Cork.
In 1952, Hennessy's Ltd, Motor Engineers and Importers were given the franchise to
Import, assemble and sell new Dkw's that came to them in kit form.
This company had previously imported Studebaker cars and Oliver brand tractors
from the Usa.
Hennessy's built and sold the full range of Dkw products, cars, motorcycles and
vans and combine harvesters. Their output was usually one car per week and the cars
were sold through their showrooms in Cork City, along with full parts and service
Irish production ceased when Volkswagen took over Auto Union in 1964.
Apparently, the Dkw sign was still visible on the assembly premises in
Ballincollig up until 2001, close to 60 years since the last car was built there.

pictures from the Irish Dkw plant.

Good Dkw's these days command high prices. Pristine examples of 50's and 60's
models regularly top £10000. At the time of writing there's a fully restored F4 (1936)
listed with an asking price of £17000 and a fabulously restored F8 Cabriolet in Germany
that has a huge price tag of 42.500 Euros! (1939 model)
Even restoration projects command very high prices and four figure sums in many
Dkw's are great examples of two stroke cars and if your budget is high, they make
an excellent choice.

However, if your budget is rather more modest, buy a Wartburg or a Trabant.
The technology is the very same, there's loads more available and they can be
bought very cheaply (still).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Dkw Munga 1956-1968.

1961 Munga 6

The Munga was an extraordinary four wheel drive, jeep and utility type vehicle.
It was really a cross between a jeep and a car.
The word MUNGA is an acronym for the German "Mehrzweck UNiversal Geländewagen mit
 Allradantrieb" which translates to multi-purpose, universal, cross country car, with all wheel
It was a favoured vehicle used by the West German Border Guards during the Cold War,
who used it to monitor their side of the Berlin Wall, whilst their East German comtemporaries
on the other side were using Trabant Kubels.( ironically both were using 2 stroke engines of
Dkw origin)

How it came about is interesting.
After WWII the West German Government initiated a competition for German marques,
Borgward, Porsche, and Dkw with the objective of producing an alternative, home grown
alternative to the Land Rovers they'd used before the War.
The Land Rover was really the only viable 4x4, apart from the American Willys Jeep, both
of which must have been hugely expensive for foreign countries to buy.
Dkw got the contract and this was the start of what would become the Munga.(wasn't named
the Munga until 1962)
The Munga was made in 3 main variants, Munga 4, 6, & 8 respectively which referred to the
number of seats each model provided.
All Munga's were identical apart from the back seat configuration which determined whether
it had individual seats or  bench type variants as in the 6 and 8 versions.

1961 Munga 6 Interior

Production started in October 1956 and ended in December 1968, with almost 47,000 having
been produced.
It was first unveiled to the Public at the Frankfurt Motor Show in late 1957, and was
at first only available to Government Forces and Services, such as the Fire department.
It was very popular with the Bundeswehr German Army and many other forces within Nato
including the Dutch Army who bought it in large numbers.

It was available to the general public from late 1957 and was priced at 9,500 DM ( approximately
$2300 at the time, which would have made it pretty expensive). Nonetheless it was popular with
farmers and forestry workers and those whose work demanded a tough, no frills vehicle that
would go anywhere in all weathers and in any terrain.

It shared the 900cc, 3 cyl, 2 stroke engine that was used by the Dkw 3=6, although the
torque settings were arranged to suit the off-road capabilities of the Munga.
It was front wheel drive, engine in the front and had a top speed of 50mph.
It was water-cooled and had a 4 speed gear box.

They had a soft-top roof and no windows and were extremely basic vehicles.
They were also remarkably tough and resilient and stood up to all kinds of abuse and
hardships. The 2 stroke engine ensured easy starting in even the coldest of Winter climes.

The Munga sold particularly well in South Africa and parts of South America where roads
were extremely poor.

I have seen some of these on Ebay for £600-£800 requiring total restoration, whilst good ones
are fetching 4500+ euros in Germany.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Great day at Kilbroney Show

Kilbroney show 2011 with my Wartburg 311
Had a super day on Saturday at the  Kilbroney show.
4 of us went in my 311 and we covered about 180 miles in comfort and without stress or fuss.
There was a good turn out of both people and cars, but I was a bit disappointed there wasn't more cars that's of specific personal interest, like Citroen's or Dkw's, particularly.
The only other Eastern block car on display was a rather shabby Lada Riva 1200.

The Wartburg got a lot of attention and admiration. Every time the bonnet was open,men flocked around to view and discuss it.
At previous shows, the Wartburg 353 and the Trabant would get the occasional derisory comment or smart remark as to their design by some ignorant moron or two, but the 311 seems to appeal to all and the attention for it was 100% positive.

I will be attending the show in Trim next month which is always a good day out. I may attend one or two before that as well.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Heading off to Kilbroney Show tomorrow!

The car has been polished inside and out, tyre pressures checked, toolkit checked and all we need for the day loaded up for the car show we're attending tomorrow in my 311.
The show is in Kilbroney Park which is in Rostrevor, County Down and around 1000 cars are expected.
I expect my 311 to be the only one there.
Not sure how the weather will be tomorrow, but we're going anyway, unless it's lashing rain.
More to follow.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Dkw F1. The 1st mass produced Two stroke car with front wheel drive.

This is the car that put Dkw on the map as a car manufacturer and was the start of their Front
wheel drive cars that continued until 1966. It was the first mass produced, Front wheel drive
car with its engine mounted transversely.
'F' stands for Front and the F1 would be quickly followed by similar but improved versions up
to F8 and the onset of WWII in 1939.
Car makers 'Ruxton, Alvis and Cord' all made their version of a front wheel drive car in 1928
(Alvis) and 1929 (Ruxton and Cord) but they were all expensive failures.

1931 Dkw F1

This car was built for the harsh economic climate that existed in Germany and pretty much
worldwide in the 30's, and at the time was the cheapest car you could buy in Germany at
approximately 1750 Reichsmarks.
The car was built at the Dkw main factory in Zschopau in East Germany, except for the
bodywork which was made at their Berlin- Spandau plant.
Not surprisingly the F1 sold exceptionally well, as did all the 'F' cars that followed.
By 1939, over a quarter of a million front wheel drive Dkw's had been built, which was
impressive numbers for those times.  Over  100,000 were built in 1939 alone as cars
became more increasingly more affordable.

Dkw F1

The car was a two seater roadster and firstly powered by a 500cc( 490), two stroke engine
that gave 15 hp.
. The body of this car and all of the early 'F' range of cars was made out of plywood,
 which was covered with imitation leather.
The car used a very simple wooden ladder frame chassis.

 Later the engine size increased to 600cc (594) and still comprised of
2 cylinders. The first 600cc powered car put out 18 hp at 3800 rpm and it is this engine
that the Trabant would later be based upon for decades thereafter.
The F1 had a 3 speed gear box and like all Dkw's was water-cooled.

Why buying Wartburgs and Trabants makes sense today.

1. They were made up until around 1990, so there's still plenty available although they
are more scarce every year.

2. They're remarkably cheap as far as classic car values go. A really good Trabant that
needs no work can be had for around £1000, or 1250 euros with 12 mths test.
Wartburg 353's in the same condition are a little dearer, but £1500 or 1800 euros will get
you a really good one.
Tatty cars with mot can be had for 500/600 pounds and euros, so easy to buy.

There were approximately 3 million Trabants made and about 1 million Wartburg 353's.
Trabants are easier to sell on and currently have more of a following
but the Wartburg will fetch more money when you find
the right buyer.
They'll also appreciate more in time as they're that little bit rarer than the Trabant.
The 353 will become more sought after in time, as they become rarer.
Even older cars, 30+ years can be bought very cheaply( if more expensive) compared
to Dkw's and Saabs of the same era and they're really very similar underneath, so
these cars represent great value at the moment which will change one day.

3. Wartburgs and Trabants are the closest thing to modern day Dkw's, yet sell for a pittance
compared to Dkw's.
If you want one for regular use get a late 80's or 1990 example, they still use the original
 Dkw technology albeit they may also have electronic ignition fitted,
which makes them more reliable and better suited to regular driving than the old points systems.
Their rugged simplicity added to the electronic ignition and an electric fuel pump( 353) gives
them a reliability that matches modern cars.

4. Later cars used a fuel mixing ratio of up to 50:1, petrol to 2 stroke oil.
(although personally I would prefer 40:1) and need very little maintenance.
Older cars need their lubrication points greased more regularly and require
generally more maintenance.

5. Later cars had the most advanced ( if that's the right word when discussing archaic
2 stroke engines) engines and are more fuel efficient, at least in the case of the Trabant.
The Trabants from the mid 80's had a different carburettor fitted than previous ones that
gives slightly less acceleration but more mpg.
The Trabant Kombi I had returned over 50 mpg.
The 353's I had were harder, the saloon returned an average mpg of about 35 and the
Tourist estate only about 28-30.
The 311 remarkably returns more mpg than the 353 and will return 40 mpg on a journey.

6. I believe these cars if maintained will rapidly accumulate in value over time as their
uniqueness also increases.

7. You find many Trabants and to a lesser extent, Wartburgs popping up on Ebay regularly.
Some of these cars will have been driven from Eastern Europe to the Uk and not registered.
Tread carefully, but if you do , you can often get good cars and save the expense of going to
Places like Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary yourself.
The poorer countries of Eastern Europe as afore mentioned usually are the best places
to buy as the cars will have been used as regular transport and are not viewed as classics.
Poland and Bulgaria in particular I've noticed some cracking cars at really low prices.
Germany too has many fine examples for sale but prices there have got a lot higher in
recent years and will be double what can be had elsewhere in Europe.
of course, going to these countries and driving a car back or having one shipped
 incurs much expense, plus insurance etc, so has to be budgeted for and factored into
the overall expenditure.

The Wartburg/Trabant IFA club also often has cars for sale through club members, often
at good prices. I would recommend this option as a starting point if looking to buy as most
members are enthusiasts and tend to keep their cars better than non-enthusiasts.
Cars often appear through the club at very low prices.
The reverse is also true though, the club is not a good place to sell your car unless it's

8. They're surprisingly decent transport if you get a good one that are cheap to run and
maintain. If you want a car just to take to shows, then you will pay more for an older car
in good condition but will also get free road tax and classic car insurance if old enough.

9. Their simpicity is understated and in itself makes these cars extremely robust and hard
to kill. All parts are available from Uk or certainly Germany including new pistons and new
crankcases, so even if you buy a non-runner that needs work, it's a lot more doable than
many other classic cars.

Points to watch for.

1. Most of the body panels on the Trabant are made from duroplast so do not rust.
Underneath these panels though is steel underpinnings, basically a steel body shell
which of course can and does rust. Along the bulkhead/firewall in Trabants, particularly
under the battery tray are common rust traps.
The door sills often also rust badly.
The floor can also rust badly and moisture often seems to gather and sit in the front
footwells in some cars.
Remember, anywhere underneath those duroplast panels can rust. If you notice
rust anywhere where the duroplast and steel meet, you can be sure there's more under
the surface. That said, Trabants and Wartburgs are pretty good compared to most other
cars of the same vintage as regards their tendency to rust.

2. The Wartburg has a separate box frame chassis, is not a monocoque like the Trabant so
the chassis can be replaced if necessary. However, this rarely is necessary as rustproofing
was carried out in the factory when made and they're remarkably sturdy and solid by nature
anyway. The front wings on the 353 are prone to rusting, but skins can be got from Germany.
Of course, the Wartburg is a steel car, no duroplast excepting the rear tailgate on some
Tourist models so it can rust anywhere. The above mentioned are the most common I've noticed.
The steel used in the Wartburgs is a much heavier quality generally than that used in the
Trabant and resists rust better. Remember these are generalisations, cars differ!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Syrena 100, 1957

The Syrena made its introduction to the motoring world in 1955, when it first debuted at the 

Poznan Trade Fair in prototype form.
It's inception began in 1953, when the Polish Government instructed it's factory for
small cars( FSO) to begin work designing prototypes for an affordable people's car.
Fso's intention was to make the Syrena with a monocoque body and to use a four
stroke engine. To combat steel shortages and to cut costs it was envisaged that the
car would use a wooden body that was to be covered with a leather type material, similar
to the pre-War Dkw's.
By December 1953, they had assembled two working prototypes.
The engineer who was given the task of designing an engine for the car was Fryderyk Bluemke. 
The 1st prototype was the work of  Stanislaw Pankiewicz, who made his car with a wooden
body. The second Prototype was made by  Stanislaw Lukaszewicz, with an all steel body.
Both prototypes must have been credible as the factory combined elements of both and made
a car that used the design of Pankiewicz's car and the steel body of Lukaszewicz's, except
for the roof which was to be made of wood.
By March 1955, Fso had 5 working prototypes of the Syrena and used them in an 
experimental rally in September to test the car's strengths and weaknesses.
They covered a distance of 5600 km and the fallibility of the wooden roof proved a decisive
lesson that resulted in the death of one of the drivers, Karl Pionnier when he crashed his car.
The Engineers wisely decided after this, to construct the car entirely of steel.
When the Polish Government saw an enthusiastic reception for the car from the public at
the 1955 Poznan Trade Fair, they decided to put that prototype into production.
This was the Syrena 100.

1955 prototype

As Poland was Communist, the engineers at Fso had many restraints placed upon them,
mainly financial and otherwise, as to what they could and couldn't do.
Like Wartburg and Sachsenring, if what they wanted to do cost money to develop, it was
usually quickly rejected. It's no surprise therefore to learn that the two stroke engine that
appeared in the Syrena 100 and all subsequent models, would be based on the existing
Pre-War Dkw technology that was already freely available to them, through their 'Socialist
brothers' in East Germany.
The Syrena, although developed independently, was very similar to the Zwickau P70 and the
Trabant P50 , that was developed at approximately the same time.
To cut costs yet further, the Syrena would use some parts and much switchgear from their
larger, existing 'Warszawa' four stroke car.

Syrena 102, 1962

The name 'Syrena' means mermaid in Polish and is synonymous with Polish mythology
and folklore as there was a mermaid who guarded the Wisla river in Warsaw.
A mermaid also features in the city's coat of arms.

Syrena Bosto minibus 1960

It was available to buy from 1957 and was manufactured until 1983, giving it a lengthy
production run of over 25 years with only minor changes.
The models ran from the 100,101,102,103,104 and 105, with light commercial van and minibus options, known as the Bosto.
The twin cylinder two stroke was later updated with a similar engine and that was eventually replaced with a 3 cylinder, 2 stroke unit of 842cc, which was based on the Wartburg 1000 engine.
The Wartburg 1000 engine was also available as an option on certain, top of the range 102 and 103 models, which was the most powerful variant ever fitted to the Syrena.

Syrena 104 1968

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Dkw Schnellaster Van 1949-1962

This pioneering vehicle was probably the very first mini-bus and people carrier of its kind.
Available in a wide range of body styles, there were 9 seater buses, vans, pick-ups and  
crew type vans. There were also many customised versions too, camper vans, fast
food wagons and Public Service vehicles etc.

Created in 1949, after Dkw left Zwickau for West Germany, these commercials were of
paramount importance in rebuilding Dkw's reputation and also their finances which took a
hammering during the War and forced the company to leave their factories in Soviet hands
with no reparation. It was this innovative and hugely practical vehicle combined with
Motorcycle and car sales that ensured the company prospered once again and ensured
their future in the very lean post-war years in Germany.

The Renault Espace advertised their vehicle was the first people carrier,
 from 1984 which it certainly wasn't as there were always a legion of Van based buses
  made by many manufacturers from at least the 1950's onwards.

 Renault championed this Front wheel drive box, with its transversely mounted
engine,  cube like body, a flat floor and versatile and flexible seating.
Although, they can hardly be compared as similar, the Schnellaster had all these
characteristics from 1949 and managed to do everything with a tiny two stroke
engine. The early ones had a twin cylinder, engine of just 700cc( this was copied
by the IFA for their F8 and would appear in modified form for the Zwickau P70 in

The Schnellaster shared it's engine, gear box and chassis to the F89 and thus the

The Engineers at Dkw must have had a sense of humour.
The word Schnellaster, when broken down into two words Schnell and Laster
translates as 'Fast Truck', of which it certainly was not.
It could also be a reference meaning ' Fast delivery' .

The 700cc engine put out just 20 Hp, which was good for just 70 kmh( 43 mph), but
as small freight vehicles mainly, they were set up to produce torque and pulling power.
Speed wasn't important, so their naming of the truck must have been 'tongue in cheek'
or it was named so to appear desirable and sexy.
The output was increased in 1952 to 22 hp and increased further to 32 Hp in 1955 when
it received the 3 cylinder, 900cc engine from the Dkw 3=6 car.
They were made up until 1962.
The load carrying capacity for these remarkable little vans was 3/4 of a Ton, which
is excellent considering the size of their engines and that some  small vans of
today  have powerful diesel  engines and they carry less.

The van derivative had access to the cargo area via a large back door, it had no side
doors. What set the Schnellaster apart from its rivals was it's unparalelled cargo area
for a small van. The van had 5 feet, 8 inches of standing height from floor to ceiling
and an overall cargo space equal to many larger vans.

The engine and transmission of the Schnellaster sat well forward of the front wheels
so it didn't cut into the passenger compartment and space was thus maximised.
I'm pretty certain that this van was the first mass produced, front wheel drive product
of its kind. When you consider most vans were still rear wheel drive in the 1990's this
was extremely ahead of its time.
It also had a clever and effective suspension set up that used rear trailing arms that
had springs built into the cross bar assembly. This was extremely advanced for a vehicle
of this kind when most cars didn't even have it.
They were like all Dkw's, Water-cooled.
These vans had wooden floors.
In addition being made in Germany, they were also made in Ireland and Spain from
1952 and 1954 respectively.
As with the Trabant and some others including Lloyd car's, the Schnellaster's fuel
tank was under the bonnet, next to the bulkhead.

Dkw's biggest rival in this market would turn out to be VW, who launched their 'Bulli'
Transporter, based on the Beetle in 1950.
The first versions had an 1100 c engine and produced 24 hp, so comparable in this
respect to the output of the Schnellaster.
The VW outsold the Dkw, but they were both a huge success.
In fairness to Dkw, they wouldn't have had the production capabilities at this time that
Vw did, so couldn't really compete if the demand was there anyway.
Also, the Vw was available in many more body type options and had a large contract to
provide Emergency Services vehicles for respective Police, Army, Ambulance and Fire
By comparision, the Vw was rear engined and rear wheel driven, with a 4-stroke engine,
and aircooled. The complete opposite to Dkw.
As far as space goes, the Schnellaster won hands down as the rear engine of the Vw
eliminated any chance of  a completely usuable flat floor cargo area.
Furthermore, the Schnellaster cargo area had a standing height of 5 feet 8 inches, and
a low loading height which made it unbeatable as far as space was concerned for its size.

There's very, very few of these vans left nowadays anywhere and when they are
available they're usually sold within DKW circles, through  clubs etc.
There's currently only one that's on the road, in all of the Uk and Ireland.
It's a 1958, 9 seater minibus, owned by Bill Ryan from Cork in Ireland.
It's been restored to a fantastic condition and the owner told me it was formerly
owned by the Rasmussen family, who created Dkw.

I did see one for sale on American Ebay a couple of months ago, a 1958 Van that
had been previously used as part of a tv repair business in the States for 12 years and
had been lying up since 1970. It needed extensive restoration, although it was a good
base for such. However, the engine wasn't turning freely.
 It made $9,300 ( £5700 sterling approx), so you can only guess what a
cracking example would cost if one became available.

There must be a few of these vans lying in fields or barns around the place, probably
rusted through and mostly unrestorable. There may even be a few not far from me
in Ireland lying in perpetual slumber.
What a pity!

Forget about buying one of these and buy a Barkas instead while you still can.