Wednesday, November 12, 2014

1958-1959 Auto Union 1000 Coupé de Luxe

"Frontwheel drive, excellent weight distribution, very low centre of gravity, wide track, progressive suspension, contact steering and many other exclusive features add to the delight of driving this beautiful car. The sound volume of the new exhaust system is now so low that even the expert can hardly detect by ear the type of engine which powers this car. The brakes will sturdily resist the longest and steepest alpine passes, softly but firmly, without the slightest fading, they will hold the car under all conditions. The 'AUTO UNION 1000' Coupé de Luxe — a perfect automobile! THE STAR OF ITS CLASS!" 

Already when new, this interesting little automobile from Germany was quite an aged design, but due to many loyal followers, it remained in production much longer than it was originally planned. The Auto Union 1000 is a descendant of the DKW F9. DKW was one of four German car manufacturers that merged into Auto Union in 1932. Originally, the DKW F9 was planned to hit the road in 1940. Streamline styling was en vogue in the late 1930s and thus the DKW F9, styled by Günther Mickwausch,  was quite a contemporary proposal. Yet, compared to most cars of that time which merely looked aerodynamic, the DKW actually was aerodynamic, setting new standards with its low drag coefficient of cw=0.42.

Then came World War II, and with it the destruction of DKW's assembly plant in Zwickau. Germany became divided into four occupation zones after the allied victory in 1945, and Zwickau now belonged to the Russian sector. The remainder of the old DKW factory was disassembled and moved to Russia. In 1950, when the automotive production in East Germany recommenced, the blueprints of the DKW F9 were used as the base for the "all-new" IFA F9.

Meanwhile, over at the American sector, old DKW staff had re-established Auto Union and resumed automotive production in Düsseldorf with the same old DKW F9 blueprints. Imagine the surprise on both sides of the Iron Curtain when two identical looking automobiles (save for bespoke front grilles) were presented in short succession! At least the eastern proposal had the bragging rights of a three-cylinder engine over of the two cylinders that powered the western car. 

This western DKW, called F89, sported a two-cylinder, two-stroke engine with a displacement of 684 ccm and 23 horsepower. That engine would perhaps power lawn mowers in the US, but in postwar Germany the DKW was considered an upscale middle class car!

In 1955, the F89 evolved into the successful DKW 3=6. Looking virtually similar to the prewar design, the car now was a whopping 10 centimeters (four inches) wider and sported a bigger 981 ccm three-cylinder engine that was good for 44 horsepower. Because of its two-stroke principle, this engine had a running smoothness comparable to a six-cylinder power plant, hence the name 3=6.

Mercedes Benz became DKW's biggest shareholder in April 1958, taking complete control in the following year. Mercedes revived the old Auto Union brand name, and began exporting the cars to the US where they were sold through the Studebaker-Packard dealer network, just like all other Mercedes cars since 1956. Our pictured car is one of these early exports. In the second half of 1959, the Auto Union 1000 received a facelift, now sporting a fancy panoramic windshield, reflecting the contemporary automotive fashion. The car should keep this look until the end of its production run in 1963. At that time, the two-stroke principle for automotive engines was outdated even in Europe, and its popularity fading away.

2 Kommentare:

Caristas said...

What an interesting find! Tell me, Ralphee, did it sound like it still had its original two-stroke engine? It's quite a striking car -- I'd like to come across one.

Ralphee said...

Cuba indeed never stops to be surprising, Robert. Honestly I didn't pay much attention to the sound as it was pretty busy and noisy around when I took the photo. What I did notice, though, was a light smell of burned oil — typical of a two-stroke engine, too. So, unless the car was broken, I assume it had its original engine installed.