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DKW Auto Union logotype
|Fate||merged to Auto Union in 1932, last DKW branded car was made in 1966|
|Key people||Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen, founder|
In 1916, Danish engineer Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen founded a factory in Zschopau, Saxony, Germany, to produce steam fittings. In the same year, he attempted to produce a steam-driven car, called the DKW. Although unsuccessful, he made a two-stroke toy engine in 1919, called Des Knaben Wunsch – "the boy's desire". He also put a slightly modified version of this engine into a motorcycle and called it Das Kleine Wunder – "the little marvel". This was the real beginning of the DKW brand: by the 1930s, DKW was the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer.
In 1932, DKW merged with Audi, Horch and Wanderer, to form the Auto Union. Auto Union came under Daimler-Benz ownership in 1957, and was then purchased by the Volkswagen Group in 1964. The last German built DKW car was the F102 which ceased production in 1966. Its successor, the four-stroke F103, was marketed under the Audi brand, another of the Auto Union marques.
Automobiles made between 1928 and 1942
DKW cars were made from 1928 until 1966, apart from an interruption caused by war. DKWs always used two-stroke engines, reflecting the company's position by the end of the 1920s as the world's largest producer of motorcycles. The first DKW passenger car, the small and rather crude Typ P emerged on 7 May 1928, and the model continued to be built at the company's Spandau (Berlin) plant first as a roadster and later as a stylish of basic sports car until 1931.
More significant was a series of inexpensive cars built 300 km (185 miles) to the south at Zwickau in the plant acquired by the company's owner in 1928 when he had become the majority owner in Audi Werke AG. These cars, bearing model names F1 through F8 (F for Front) were built between 1931 and 1942 (with successor models reappearing after the end of the war in 1945). They were the first volume production cars in Europe to incorporate front wheel drive, and were powered by transversely mounted two-cylinder two stroke engines. Displacement was 584cc or 692 cc: claimed maximum power was initially 15 PS, and from 1931 a choice between 18 or 20 hp (15 kW). These models also featured an innovation with a generator that doubled up as a starter, which was mounted directly on the crankshaft. This was known as a Dynastart. The small front wheel drive DKWs from Zwickau notched up approximately 218,000 units produced between 1931 and 1942. Most cars were sold on the home market and over 85% of DKWs produced in the 1930s were the little F series cars: DKW reached second place in German sales by 1934 and stayed there, accounting for 189,369 of the cars sold between 1931 and 1938, equivalent to more than 16% of the passenger cars sold during that eight-year period.
Between 1929 and 1940 DKW also produced a less well remembered but technically intriguing series of rear-wheel drive cars called (among other names) Schwebeklasse and Sonderklasse with two-stroke V4 engines. Engine displacement was 1,000 cc, later 1,100 cc. These engines had two extra cylinders for forced induction, so they really appeared like V6 engines but without spark plugs on the front cylinder pair.
In 1939, they made a prototype with the first three-cylinder engine. The engine had a displacement of 900 cc and produced 30 hp (22 kW). With a streamlined body, the car could run at 115 km/h (71 mph). This prototype was to be put into production only after World War II, first as an Industrieverband Fahrzeugbau (IFA) F9 (later to become Wartburg) in Zwickau, East Germany, and shortly afterwards in DKW-form from Düsseldorf as the 3=6 or F91.
Automobiles made after 1945
As the Auto Union company originally was situated in Saxony in what became the German Democratic Republic, it took some time for it to regroup after the war ended. The company was registered again in West Germany as Auto Union GmbH in 1949, first as a spare-part provider, but soon to take up production of the RT 125 motorcycle and a newly developed delivery van, called a Schnellaster F800. Their first line of production took place in Düsseldorf. This van used the same engine as the last F8 made before the war.
Their first passenger car was the F89 using the body from the prototype F9 made before the war and the two-cylinder two-stroke engine from the last F8. Production went on until it had been replaced by the successful three-cylinder engine which came with the F91. The F91 was in production from 1953–1955, and was replaced by the somewhat larger F93 in 1956. The F91 and F93 models all had 900 cc three-cylinder two-stroke engines, the first ones delivering 34 hp (25 kW), and the last ones 38 hp (28 kW). The ignition system of these engines comprised three independent sets of points and coils, one for each cylinder, with the points mounted in a cluster around a single lobed cam at the front end of the crank shaft. The cooling system was of the free convection type assisted by a fan driven from a pulley mounted at the front end of the crank shaft.
The F93 was produced until 1959, and was in turn replaced by the Auto-Union 1000. These models where produced with a 1,000 cc two-stroke engine, with a choice between 44 hp (33 kW) or 50 hp (37 kW) S versions until 1963. During this transition, production was also moved from Düsseldorf to Ingolstadt where the successor company Audi still has its production. From 1957, these cars could be fitted with an optional saxomat, an automatic clutch and, at the time it was the only small car offering this feature. The last versions of the Auto-Union 1000S also had disc brakes as option, an early development for this technology. A sporting 2+2 seater version was also available as the Auto-Union 1000 SP from 1957 to 1964, the first years only as a coupé and from 1962 also as a convertible.
In 1956, the very rare DKW Monza was put into small-scale production on a private initiative. This was a sporting, two-seater body made of glassfiber mounted on a standard F93 frame. The car was first called Solitude, but got its final name from the several long distance speed records it made on the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy in November 1956. Running in Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) class G, it set several new records, among them 48 hours with average speed 140.961 km/h (87.589 mph), 10,000 km with an average speed of 139.453 km/h (86.652 mph) and 72 hours with an average speed of 139.459 km/h (86.656 mph). The car was first produced by Dannenhauer & Strauss in Stuttgart, then by Massholder in Heidelberg and at last by Robert Schenk in Stuttgart. The total number of produced cars is said to be around 230 and production was rounded up by the end of 1958.
A more successful range of passenger cars was sold from 1959. This was the Junior/F12 series based on a modern concept from the late 1950s. This range consist of Junior (basic model) made from 1959 to 1961, Junior de Luxe (a little enhanced) from 1961 to 1963, F11 (a little larger) and F12 (larger and bigger engine) from 1963 to 1965 and F12 Roadster from 1964 to1965. The Junior/F12 series became quite popular, and many cars were produced. An assembly plant was licenced in Ireland between 1952 and c.1964 and roughly 4,000 DKW vehicles were assembled ranging from saloons, vans, motorbikes to commercial combine harvesters. This was the only DKW factory outside of Germany in Europe.
All the three-cylinder two-stroke post-war cars had some sporting potential and formed the basis for many rally victories in the 1950s and early 1960s. This made DKW the most winning car brand in the European rally league for several years during the fifties.
In 1960 DKW developed a V6 engine by combining two three cylinder two-stroke engines giving a single V6 engine with a capacity of 1,000 cc. Over time the capacity was increased and the final V6 in 1966 had a capacity of 1,300 cc. The 1,300 cc version developed 83 hp (62 kW) at 5,000 rpm using the standard configuration with two carburettors. A four carburettor version produced 100 hp (75 kW) and a six carburettor version produced 130 hp (97 kW). The engine weighed only 84 kg (185 lb). The V6 was planned to be used in the DKW Munga and the F102. About 100 V6 engines were built for testing purposes and 13 DKW F102 as well as some Mungas were fitted with the V6 engine in the 1960s.
The last DKW was the F102 coming into production in 1964 as a replacement for the somewhat old-looking AU1000. This model was the direct forerunner of the first post-war Audi, the F103. The main difference was that the Audi used a conventional four-stroke engine. The transition to four-stroke engines marked the end of the DKW marque for passenger cars.
From 1956 to 1961, Dutch importer Hart, Nibbrig & Greve assembled the cars in an abandoned asphalt factory in Sassenheim, where they employed about 120 workers, two transporter, that collected the SKD-kits from Duesseldorf and build about 13.500 cars. When the DKW-plant was moved, the import of SKD-kits stopped, as it became too expensive.
DKW in South America
From 1956 to 1967, DKW cars were made in Brazil by the local company Vemag (Veículos e Máquinas Agrícolas S.A., "Agricultural Vehicles and Machinery). Vemag had already been assembling Scania-Vabis trucks, but Scania Vabis became an independent company in July 1960. The original plans were to build the Candango off-roader, a utility vehicle called the Vemaguet, and the Belcar passenger car. The first model actually built was the 900 cc F91 Universal but the Belcar and Vemaguet names were applied later.
Then, in 1958, the F94 four-door sedan and station wagon were launched. In the early '60s, these same cars were renamed as Belcar and Vemaguet. The company also produced a luxury coupe (the DKW Fissore) and the off-road Munga (locally called Candango). In 1960 the Vemag cars received the larger one-litre, 50 PS (37 kW) engine from the Auto Union 1000.
Vemag had also a successful official racing team - thus was born the coupe GT Malzoni, with fiberglass body. This project ended up becoming the foundation of the long lasting Brazilian sports car brand Puma. Over the years, the Brazilian F94 line has been improved with several cosmetic changes and became more and more different from the German and Argentine models. Vemag, however, had no capital to invest in necessary new products and were under governmental pressure to merge. In 1964-1965 Volkswagen gradually took over Auto Union, a minority holder in Vemag, and in 1967 Volkswagen bought the remainder of the stock. They quickly began phasing out the DKW-Vemag production and building the Volkswagen 1600 sedan in the old Vemag plant. A total of 109,343 DKW-Vemag cars were built.
DKW vehicles were also made in Argentina from 1960 through 1969 by IASF S.A. (Industria Automotriz Santa Fe Sociedad Anónima) in the city of Sauce Viejo, Santa Fe. The most beautiful were the Cupé Fissore which had many famous owners (Julio Sosa, César Luis Menotti, and others). Other models are the Auto Union 1000 S Sedán (21,797 made until 1969), the Auto Union 1000 Universal S (6,396 made until 1969). and the Auto Union Combi/Pick-up. The last version of the Auto Union Combi/Pick-up (DKW F1000 L) launched in 1969, survives a few months and is bought out by IME which continued production until 1979.
Vans and utility vehicles
The DKW Munga was built by Auto Union in Ingolstadt. Production began in October 1956 and ended in December 1968. During this time, 46,750 cars were built.
From 1949 to 1962, DKW produced the DKW Schnellaster with a trailing-arm rear suspension system which incorporated springs in the cross bar assembly. Spanish subsidiary IMOSA also produced a modern successor, introduced in 1963 and called the DKW F 1000 L. This van started with the three-cylinder 1,000 cc engine, but later received a Mercedes-Benz Diesel engine and finally was renamed a Mercedes-Benz in 1975.
During the late 1920s and 1930s, DKW was the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. In 1931, Ing Zoller started building split-singles and this concept made DKW the dominant racing motorcycle in the Lightweight and Junior classes between the wars. This included off road events like the International Six Days Trial where the marque scored some considerable inter-war year successes alongside Bavarian Motor Works At the same time, the company also had some success with super-charged racing motorcycles which because of their light weight were particularly successful in the ISDT
The motorcycle branch of the company produced very famous models such as the RT 125 pre- and post-World War II, and after the war it made 175, 250 and 350 models. As war reparations, the design drawings of the RT125 were given to Harley-Davidson in the US and BSA in the UK. The Harley-Davidson version was known as the Hummer, while BSA used them for the Bantam. IFA and later MZ models continued in production until the 1990s, when economics finally brought production of the two stroke to an end. Other manufacturers also copied the DKW design, officially or otherwise. This can be seen in the similarity of many small two-stroke motorcycles from the 1950s, including a product of Yamaha, Voskhod, Maserati, and Polish WSK.
- DKW 3=6 (1953-1959)
- DKW 900 (1958-1959)
- DKW F1 (1931–1932)
- DKW F2 (1932–1935)
- DKW F4 (1934–1935)
- DKW F5 (1935–1937)
- DKW F7 (1937–1938)
- DKW F8 (1939–1942)
- DKW F9 (1949–1956)
- DKW F10 (1950)
- DKW F11 (1963-1965) 
- DKW F12 (1963-1965) 
- DKW F89 (1950–1954)
- DKW F91 (1953–1957)
- DKW F93/94 (1955–1959)
- DKW F102 (1963–1966)
- DKW Junior 1959–1963)
- DKW Monza (1956–1958)
- DKW Munga (1956–1968)
- DKW Schnellaster van (1949–1962)
- DKW Sonderklasse (1953-1959)
DKW motorcycles and scooters
DKW RT 125 W (1950)
DKW RT 200 (1952)
DKW RT 175 S (1955)
DKW Motorroller Hobby of 1954 in the Deutsches Zweirad- und NSU-Museum
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Bibliography and references
- Uhlmann, Claus (2005). RT 125 Das Kleine Wunder Aus Zschopau. Verlagsgesellschaft Bergstraße mbH.
- Oswald, Werner (2001). Deutsche Autos 1920-1945, Band (vol) 2 (in German). Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02170-6.
- Oswald, p 86
- Oswald, p 85
- Oswald, p 94 - 103
- Oswald, p 531
- Oswald, p 87
- "DKW Specifications". Dyna.co.za. 2008-11-13. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
- Autokampioen 25/26 2007 "Made in Holland" by Yop Segers
- Automobile Quarterly (Automobile Quarterly) 11 (4). 1973. "the Vemag company that had been manufacturing two-stroke DKW models under license in Brazil."
- Shapiro, Helen (Winter 1991). "Determinants of Firm Entry into the Brazilian Automobile Manufacturing Industry, 1956-1968". The Business History Review 65 (4, The Automobile Industry): 897.
- Vogel, Jason; Gomes, Flavio. "DKWs in Brazil". KTUD Online Automotive Archive.
- Shapiro, p. 935
- Sandler, Paulo César; de Simone, Rogério, DKW - A grande história da Pequena Maravilha [DKW: The great history of the little wonder] (in Portuguese), São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Alaúde, ISBN 978-85-7881-037-5
- "Auto Union". Coche Argentino. 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- "Auto Union". Coche Argentino. 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- Adopted by Ing Zoller in 1931 the concept [of the Split Single Engine] was to make DKW the dominant racing motorcycle in the Lightweight and Junior classes during the pre-war years.
- ISDT award winning DKW 246cc 1935.
- Michael Sedgwick & Mark Gillies, A-Z of Cars 1945-1970, page 54
- AUTO UNION Sales Brochures 1939
- DKW Owners' Club
- DKW Motorcycle Club
- Die Meisterdinger von Nürnberg – DKW webpages
- DKW & Auto Union History
- The Long History of Reverse-Cylinder Engine Designs - motocrossactionmag.com