Claude Dornier was always trying to minimize the dependency of his company Dornier Flugzeugwerke on building aircraft, by diversification into other areas. After World War 2, and the Allied ban on aircraft production in Germany until the late 1950s, Claude diversified the companies production and also encouraged his son Claudius to find new areas. As a result, Claudius designed and developed a four-seater car, where the two front and two rear passengers sat back to back, to optimally use the enclosed space. A prototype was built and tested, which received the name Dornier Delta. However, the company had never made a car before, and economic calculations showed that the volumes of sales required would not make it economical for the company to make the car using its existing facilities.
Zündapp were a motorcycle maker, but in 1954 decided to make a more weatherproof vehicle. They looked for partners who could design such a vehicle, and approached Kroboth, Brütsch, and Fuldamobil before settling on the ready-developed from Dornier.
Under a commercial agreement, Dornier licensed Zündapp to produce and market the car. Further developed using Zündapp's engineering input and envisaged as a "quality bubble car", the novel developed design featured a front-opening door for access to the front seat, as well as a rear-opening door for access to the rear-facing rear seat. This "coming or going" design was given the name of the Roman god, Janus, usually pictured having two faces: one looks forward while the other one looks back. The car was powered by a mid-mounted 2-stroke single cylinder 245 cubic centimetres (15.0 cu in) engine unique to the Janus, developing 14 hp (10 kW), enabling a top speed of 80 km/h (50 mph). The suspension was of the MacPherson strut type that proved to be very comfortable, and then the company added four individually mounted ventilated brake drums, operated via hydraulics
Production started in June 1957. However, whilst in racing and sports cars the mid-engine configuration leads to optimal car handling, the engine in the Janus was much lighter than the rear passengers, leading to a variable centre of gravity. Secondly the car lacked the most modern elements seen on competitors’ cars, and was not low-priced. These factors combined to result in a lack of sales success, with only 1,731 cars were made in the first six months. By mid-1958, having made only a total of 6,902 cars, Zündapp abandoned the project and sold the factory to Bosch.
In popular culture
Dornier Delta II
During the mid-1960s, Dornier developed the Delta II with Hymer AG. The vehicle could carry up to six passengers and offered two sleeping places for camping. The development never got beyond the prototype stage.
- Taschen, Benedikt. Kleinwagen, Small Cars, Petites Voitures, 1994.
- Roberts, Andrew (20 November 2011). "Classic Zundapp Janus". The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
The Janus was envisaged as a 'quality bubble car' and Jim Hacking, a microcar expert and proud Zundapp owner, bristles with annoyance at the 2008 Time magazine article claiming that the Zundapp was one of the 50 worst cars of all time.
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