Wartburg 353

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Wartburg 353
AWE Wartburg 353W, Verkehrszentrum des Deutschen Museums.JPG
1986 Wartburg 353W
Manufacturer Wartburg
Production 1966-1991
Assembly VEB Automobilwerk Eisenach, Eisenach, East Germany
Designer Hans Fleischer, in cooperation with Clauss Dietel and Lutz Rudolph
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
5-door estate
2-door pick up
Layout FF layout
Related Warszawa 210
Engine 993 cc two stroke straight-3 (42 kW)[1]
Transmission 4-speed manual[1]
Wheelbase 2,450 mm (96.5 in)[1]
Length 4,220 mm (166.1 in)[1]
Width 1,640 mm (64.6 in)[1]
Height 1,490 mm (58.7 in)[1]
Curb weight 920 kg (2,028 lb)[1]
Predecessor Wartburg 311
Successor Wartburg 1.3

The Wartburg 353, known in some export markets as the Wartburg Knight, is a medium-sized family car, produced by the East German car manufacturer Wartburg. It was the successor of the Wartburg 311, and was itself succeeded by the Wartburg 1.3.

The Wartburg 353 was produced from 1966 to 1988, becoming the model with the longest-ever production run. During its lifetime it saw several changes and improvements, the most recognizable of these coming in 1985 with a front facelift (as pictured here), slightly different layout around the engine block and a new carburetor.

The Wartburg 353 was the creation of the former German BMW production facilities (called EMW under Soviet occupation). It was based on a 1938 design, and powered by an engine with only seven major moving parts, crankshaft included. Popular saying among owners hence that one drives a car but only maintains a motorcycle.

Domestically, it was used for government transportation, sometimes as a police car. Delivery of consumer builds often could take ten to fifteen years.

Like other Eastern European cars, it was known for its low price and comparatively well-equipped design. Because of its forward center of gravity and front-wheel drive, the car had specific road handling, sometimes displaying significant understeer, especially in wet conditions.[citation needed] Wartburgs were exported to the UK, Cyprus, Malta, and South Africa (no doubt helped by the fact that right-hand drive models were already being produced for the UK.)

1984 - 1988 Wartburg 353 Tourist in Ireland

The Wartburg 353 was very agile for its time, powered by a 1-litre displacement, 3-cylinder unit that took almost two decades to refine. While developing about 55-57 bhp (depending on the carburetor type) its two-stroke engine design provided more than 100 N/m of torque (106 N/m in the last version). Typical figure for quite larger four-stroke engine at that time, it accelerated the less than a ton vehicle pretty decently even by modern standards. The transmission was equipped with a freewheel, obviating the need to use the clutch between gears. This turned out so popular with owners that it's become almost symbolic for a 353, along with the gear stick on the steering column. Designed as a fuel efficiency measure and as means of protecting the engine from oil starvation, the device disabled engine braking; the car effectively coasted whenever the throttle was released. Drivers had the option of turning the freewheel off through a switch under the steering column to benefit from engine braking. Useful since the front brakes were prone to overheating and fading. However, most drivers never disabled the freewheel, because it made shifting gears significantly easier and smoother, though not quicker.

It is notable that even today the 353s are customized for reaching speeds well about 200 km/h (125 mph), whereas the original design called for critical speed of 150–155 km/h and 12 seconds to accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph), which was dealt with in second gear due to the high-rev engine.

The 353 was an immediate success throughout the Eastern bloc, and with good reason; for approximately the same price, it significantly outperformed Soviet vehicles of its class in almost every aspect: safety, drag, acceleration, top speed, fuel efficiency, ergonomics, handling, ease of use, maintenance, trunk and inner space, reliability, off-road capability, and even dynamics, despite its less powerful engine. Evidence of the latter are multiple rally wins it scored over the course of decades, whereas the more powerful Ladas and Moskvitches usually failed to achieve success.

The Wartburg 353 was commonly nicknamed "Trustworthy Hans" or "Farty Hans" by owners due to its durability and copious exhaust emissions, especially when cold and/or overoiled. Noteworthy characteristics of the model are: simple design, dependability, occasional and cheap maintenance, strong chassis-based car frame, front-wheel drive, rear wheel ABS regulator, a 525-litre trunk, innovative electronic gauges fitted after 1983. Disadvantages in terms of passengers' comfort are well known too: lack of any sound dampers led to significant engine feedback in the coupe which itself was in turn very boomy and reverberating, leading to another nickname, "The barrel". This left very few Wartburgs equipped with stereo because it was not possible to enjoy that at volumes most people do, over the engine noise. Suspension provided for sensibly different handling and comfort when the car was empty over when it was carrying passengers and luggage. Owners' accounts are that both control and smoothness went better the more the car was loaded.

Over a million Wartburg 353s were produced overall, many of them still roadworthy and functional today.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Technical specifications of 1967 Wartburg 353 W". carfolio.com. Retrieved 2008-03-03.