Monday, 31 July 2017

DKW - Germany's Post-war Wonder Car


The Second World War put an end to all Auto-Union vehicle production. Audi stopped manufacturing cars in 1938 while Wanderer was wound up and de-registered in 1940. The same year Horch began building heavy duty military trucks and DKW's car factories were turned over to manufacturing aircraft components. DKW's Zschopau motorcycle plant continued building motorcycles both civilian and for the army.

DKW never built vehicles for the Wehrmacht but as the war progressed many were commandeered for military use and were inevitably destroyed.

Auto-Union's factories in the East managed to avoid serious bombing damage, but after the war found themselves in the Soviet occupation zone. The Soviets systematically stripped all German industrial facilities of every piece of useable equipment and shipped it back to Russia. Through necessity, the Soviets had turned factory relocation into an art-form and within a matter of years the Soviets had factories up and running building their own versions of DKW motorcycles.

A display of war damage from the August Horch museum in Zwickau. This is a Horch general purpose truck.

Some of the Auto-Union management who were captured by the Soviets were summarily executed for the use of slave labour during the war, while others were shipped off to the Soviet Union to help rebuild the commandeered factors. Most however fled west ahead of the Soviet advance but even so their prospects were bleak. The Allies had agreed between themselves that Germany would be stripped of its industry and agriculturalised. German companies lost all rights to their patents, which were distributed among the Allies. DKW's famous RT125 motorcycle was commandeered by everyone, becoming the British BSA Bantam, the American Harley-Davidson Hummer, and the Soviet Moskva 125. Famously, everyone
rejected the KDF-wagen, the British snidely commenting that it failed to "meet the fundamental technical requirements of a motorcar." The car was left to the Germans almost by default and went on to become the world beating Volkswagen. http://www.ltv-vwc.org.uk/wheelspin/ws_june_2002/vw_and_rootes.htm

It didn't take long for these plans to unravel. Russia, France and England were all exhausted by the war and could barely meet the needs of their own people, let alone prop up a restless German workforce. Slowly but surely, the Allies permitted German industries to be resurrected to meet the country's basic needs, such as manufacturing pots and pans, household goods, and agricultural tools.


As relations between the Soviets and the Western Allies began to deteriorate, the Western Allies came to realise that an economically dependent Germany would be a millstone around their neck and its unemployed and demoralised workforce susceptible to Communist propaganda. Rebuilding a strong German nation was felt to be the best form of defense against the Red Menace. In 1947 West Germany's economic recovery and international rehabilitation got a boost from the Marshall Plan. Millions of dollars in aid was poured into the country, commandeered patents and designs were returned, and the country began to stagger back onto its feet. 

Post War Recovery
Auto-Union's factories in the east were nationalised by the East Germans in 1947 so a new Auto-Union company was registered in West Germany in 1948. Operations recommenced around a small DKW engine reconditioning factory outside Dusseldorf. Using the factory's stock of spare engines and parts, the company began building and repairing pre-war motorcycles and cars. Fortunately, as DKW cars were rarely commandeered for military use, during the war there were more than 60,000 pre-war DKW cars still registered on the road needing servicing and repair. From this small start the company raised a small amount of capital and purchased a damaged aircraft plant and began planning the company's return to car manufacture. 

DKW's first new post-war vehicle was very much a product of necessity. Germany needed to get back on its feet so DKW focused on building a light commercial vehicle. The company had lost all access its designs when its factories were nationalised in East Germany so they were forced to use what they had to hand. Using their reliable pre-war F7 chassis and engine as a template, they conceived any entirely new type of lightweight commercial. Up to this time, most light commercials were little more than standard spec cars with modified bodywork.
 
A pre-war DKW Meisterklasse commercial van in post-war Holland.

By moving the cab forward and above the engine, the new vehicle maximised the usable carrying space. The low floor, unhampered by a drive shaft, was also very handy. The "Schnellaster" or Rapid Delivery Van came in a variety of body styles, from simple flat tray with drop sides, panel van, half panel and mini-bus.

By today's standards the Schnellaster is strikingly modern looking with its sharply sloping, streamlined cab and pressed steel body, but it was radically different for its time and set a new standard. Within a year a dozen companies would release similar vehicles.

Released in 1949, the F89L Schnellaster was an instant winner and was soon exported all across western Europe. Demand was such that DKW licensed production of the Schnellaster to a company in Spain, where they made such an impression that all transit vans in Spain came to be known as DeeKaVees. The name 'Schnellaster' was something of a misnomer though as the original 688cc 3-speed engine gave the van a maximum speed of only about 70 kilometres per hour. In 1952 they received a 4-speed gearbox which lifted the speed to about 80-85 kph. The engine was finally upgraded to the 3 cylinder engine 900cc engine in 1956. Over 28,000 Schnellasters were built and they remained in production, virtually unchanged until 1965.

This contemporary photos shows how the layout of the engine maximised usable space. The whole engine bay includes the fuel tank, radiator and engine. The black rectangle opposite the fuel tank is the radiator. which is cooled by a fan on the left hand side of the vehicle. In fact, the 'grill' at the bottom had no function. The engine is almost completely invisible in the photo. You can just see the top peaking over the front grill.

A DKW 3=6 in BBC livery. The Schnellaster was exported all across western Europe and as far away as Australia, South Africa and South America. They were built under license in Spain, South America, Argentina and Brazil.
 
The F9 is Reborn

In 1950 DKW unveiled its version of the pre-war F9 in the new F89 saloon. Three F9 pre-production cars had escaped destruction during the war. One was found in Leipzig and was used by IFA (the nationalised East German DKW factory) as the template for their IFA F9. The second was seized by the British and passed to Australia for evaluation, where it disappeared, and the third was a bodyshell at the DKW Spandau body works. DKW did not have access to the new 3 cylinder 900cc engine that went with the car so were forced to compromise by mounting the new body over a modified pre-war  F8 chassis and two cylinder 688cc engine. The streamlined modern bodywork made the car look sleek, but it was ultimately underpowered. With only a three speed gearbox the car's speed was optimistically rated to about 100 kph. The new 'Meisterklasse' was available as a two-door or four-door saloon, convertible, coupe or estate wagon.

The engine bay of a DKW F89. The little two cylinder engine sits transversely at the front of the engine bay. The column running through the radiator housing is the gear shift column, which is mounted in the centre of the dashboard like DKW's pre-war models.


The F89 Meisterklasse sold extremely well, selling over 60,000 cars. It must be remembered that these were the lean years of the German Miracle. The economy was only just beginning to recover and people could not afford expensive cars. Established auto companies like BMW basically had to abandon their entire pre-war range in favour of budget and microcars like the BMW Isetta. Although its old 699cc engine was rated little more powerful than that of its microcar competitors, the Meisterklasse offered customers the comforts, styling and appearance of a bigger, modern car.

F91 - DKW's rally champion
In 1953, thirteen years after it was originally developed for the pre-war F9, DKW had finally reverse engineered the car's 3=6 engine. The new F91 model featured The new 3 cylinder engine had a 896cc capacity and could push the car up to 115kph.

The engine bay of the DKW F9. The engine is now mounted longitudinally. Everything in the engine design was simplicity - there was no water pump, no petrol pump and each cylinder had its own condenser coil, which gave the engine built in redundancy. It could run easily enough on two cylinders.


The F91 carried forward the handsome styling of its predecessor but it was its engine that guaranteed its success. The 3=6 had great acceleration and, combined with its sure footed front wheel drive, made it a successful rally car. The F91 was a market winner in its class and sold over 76,000 cars. http://heinkelscooter.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/dkw-f91-dkws-record-breaking-rally-car.html


Despite its small size, the 3=6 was an outstanding engine that was both powerful and economic. It helped push the DKW team to victory in the 1954 European Rally Championship. The marketing department of course made the most of it.

DKW F93 - the quintessential DKW


In 1956 the F91 was substantially redesigned, stretched, widened and re-styled and released as the F93. The car was given a fourth gear, improving its performance at speed, allowing the F93 to follow in its predecessor's footsteps on the rally circuit. Following the introduction of new European safety regulations in 1957, the original rear hinged suicide doors were replaced with modern front hinged doors. Over 176,000 F93s were sold by time the model was retired in 1960.

The F93 was 10cms wider and 6cm longer than its predecessor, which made it a much roomier vehicle.


The Power of the Two Stroke

After the 3=6's rally victories in 1954, two race drivers, Guenther Ahrens and Albrecht Mantzel, developed a customised racing model on a 3=6 chassis, with tuned engine and a lightweight fibreglass body. The car set five world records for speed and endurance in 1956. Limited production of the sports coupe followed, with DKW supplying the chassis and engines and Ahrens and Mantzel organising bodies and fittings. The best estimate is that 70-80 cars were built before Auto Union stopped supply in 1958. http://www.dkwmonza.de/ There were a range of other custom sports models built over the years, such as the Brazilian DKW Puma, but that is another story.

Prestige in its day. Collectors item today.

The Swinging Sixties

This contemporary street scene in southern Germany shows a broad cross section of the autos on the roads. We can see a BMW-Isetta micro-car, a Mercedes, plenty of Volkswagens, a couple of DKW Juniors, several Opel Rekords, a DKW Schnellaster, a Gutbrod van, a Hanomag van and a couple of Ford Taunus'.

As the end of the decade approached DKW began reviewing their designs. The F93, as popular as it was, was almost twenty years old and was beginning to look it.

Ingolstadt's cabinet of curiosities. Full size mock ups of a range of new DKW models that never saw the light of day.

In 1959 DKW introduced the newly designed F11 Junior model, with a new rear suspension, 791cc 3 cylinder engine and new 'American' styling that appealed to the youth market. Production of the new car commenced at a new factory in Ingolstadt, while the old Dusseldorf plant continued to manufacture the F93.


The nippy little Junior came a two door sedan, coupe, and convertible and was a popular seller in Germany and overseas. 118,000 cars were sold.

The resurrection of Auto Union

The introduction of the Junior and the move to Ingolstadt marked a turning point in DKWs history. Daimler-Benz bought a controlling stake in the company and began looking to diversify the brand. As the F93 was still popular, the company decided to continue production but re-badged under the brand name Auto Union. "Auto Union" and the four rings symbol had appeared on all Auto Union productions, whether manufactured by Audi, Horch, Wanderer or DKW, but no production vehicle had actually been branded Auto Union before. From this point on Ingolstadt products would continue under the DKW brand name while products from the Dusseldorf factory were branded Auto Union. The company began to position Auto Union as the prestige brand.

The Junior and Auto Union 1000S share a showroom. Note the price tags on the license plates.

Despite the introduction of the new name, the DKW F93 3=6 and the Auto Union 1000S were basically identical vehicles, although the Auto Union 1000S claimed to have more 'luxurious fittings.' In 1961 DKW upgraded the engine to 981ccs, known as the "Big DKW 3=6." Once again the engine was a winner on reliability, power and fuel efficiency. 84,000 cars were built.

The F93 and Auto Union 1000S side by side. The differences are basically confined to trim and badges.

Thunderbirds are go!!

The Junior and 1000S continued in production through the early 1960's, but public tastes were changing and car companies needed to constantly update their styles to retain customer interest. In 1964, Auto Union released the 1000SP. The chassis and engine came directly from the sturdy 1000s, but the body was a cross between the DKW Junior and a Ford Thunderbird. This sleek and exciting sportscar certainly gets enthusiasts' hearts racing nowadays, but 1960s Germany was not 1960s America and the model flopped. Only 1,640 cars were built. They are highly sought after today. http://www.ritzsite.nl/DKW1000SP/01_SP.htm

At the same time DKW released the F12, an upgraded version of the Junior. The F12 inherited the old 896cc engine of the F93 which gave it a little more kick, and it featured a new automatic oiler. Unfortunately it too failed to make much of an impression, possibly because it looked a little too much like a notorious East German two-stroke car, but also because the newly introduced oiler failed to work properly, resulted a wave of engine failures. Only 2,800 cars were sold.

Bizarre Swedish advertising - "Look, it has wheels!"

The Age of Square
At the midpoint of the decade Auto Union looked like it was in trouble. The times they were a changing and two-stroke motors were increasingly seen by the buying public as an outdated technology. With two recent flops on its hands, Daimler-Benz decided to get out of the game and in 1964 sold its stake in the company to DKWs' erstwhile competitor, Volkswagen.

The same year, DKW released the F102 as the successor of the 1000s. The F102 featured a new 1300cc engine in a completely redesigned, contemporary styled body. The F102 was a success and managed to claw back some some of DKWs market share. In two years slightly over 52,000 cars were sold.

There was nothing small car about the F102. It did a lot to improve DKWs image after several disappointing failures.

In 1966 Volkswagen management stopped two-stroke development at DKW. The new DKW F103, due to be released later that year was re-engined with a four cylinder four-stroke engine and rebadged as an Audi, starting anew that lineage of prestige cars that continues to this day. http://heinkelscooter.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/audi-f103.html

The new Audi F103.

Although Volkswagen didn't know it yet, it would be DKW-Auto Union's front wheel drive technology and heritage, rather than Ferdinand Porsche's rear wheel drive, air cooled technology that would take Volkswagen forward. By the early 1970s sales of the Volkswagen Beetle were terminally declining so Volkswagen management decided to rebadge Audi's new A50 as the Volkswagen Polo. It was the beginning of the end for Porsche's peoples car and a new direction for Volkswagen.

Although DKW auto production had come to an end in Germany, their amazing little engine would not quite die. In Brazil, DKW-Vemag continued building their version of the Auto Union 1000s right through into the late 60s, but that is another story.....

http://the-rioblog.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/as-incriveis-historias-da-vemag.html

Thursday, 27 July 2017

A second DKW F9 prototype discovered

It was long believed that of the ten DKW F9 prototypes built in 1939, only the single example at the Audi Tradition museum in Ingolstadt has survived to this day.

The DKW F9 prototype at Ingolstadt with its luxury stablemate, the Horch 920S, in the background

The story of the Audi Tradition car's survival is quite extraordinary and worth retelling. The car was built in 1939 and used for road testing and exhibitions during the early war years. As the war dragged on however, the German army increasingly turned to confiscating personal cars for military use. Auto-Union executives were forced to hand over their Horch, Wanderer and Audi cars but DKW cars were exempt from confiscation because the German army disdained their two-stroke engines. Auto-Union chief designer, William Werner, who was the lead designer on the F9 project, adopted this particular prototype as his personal vehicle.

On 6 May 1945, Auto-Union management held an emergency meeting and decided to flee westwards to escape possible Soviet retribution for the company's use of slave labour and Soviet POWs during the war. Werner set out in his F9 to Flensberg, near the Danish border, in the British Occupation Zone. There the British recognised the car as a new type and seized it for technical evaluation. After testing the British handed the car over to the Australian government as part of a war reparations exchange. At that time the Australian government was interested in establishing a domestic automobile industry and the studies done during the war years had recommended manufacturing a cheap and robust car "like the German DKW." However, in 1948 the government decided to back the American backed General-Motors Holden project and the DKW idea was dropped. The car was now deemed surplus to requirements and was sold off at an army surplus auction in 1949 (along with the very early VW Beetle that now in the York Motor Museum).

Werner's F9 therefore became the first post-war DKW on Australian shores. Although attempts to restart DKW sales in Australia in 1953 and 1958 failed a smattering of personal imports trickled into the country as the private imports of migrant families.

Because the car was a prototype with a unique engine (the 3=6 engined F93 wouldn't arrive in Australia until late 1958), it was virtually guaranteed that any serious breakdown would be fatal to the car and at some point in the mid-1950s the engine did indeed fail. There still were DKW mechanics in Australia at the time servicing and supporting pre-war DKWs and they solved the problem the same way DKW did, by transplanting the F9's body onto a pre-war DKW chassis with a two-cylinder engine. In this hybrid form the car continued to provide many more happy years of motoring. Fortunately the owner retained the original chassis and engine.

The car as it looked when Peter owned it. It has F89 running gear and bonnet.

In the 1980s the car, along with its original chassis and engine, was acquired by Melbourne DKW Club member Peter Thorogood, who intended to restore it to its original spec. Unfortunately the boom years of the 1980s did not last and he was forced to sell it before the restoration could be undertaken. The car eventually returned to Audi Tradition in Ingolstadt where it is now on display.


The 'new' car
In late September I was contacted by a friend in Germany with some exciting (and disappointing) news. This fellow has long been on the trail of the lost F9 prototypes and had even managed to locate a pre-production 1940 engine in the hands of a collector, which he hoped to use in a F9 replica he was planning to build. To build his replica he began searching for a very early IFA F9 to provide a donor body, as the East German version of the F9 is very similar to the pre-war DKW original.

East German brochure for the IFA F9. Early F9s are identifiable by their split front and rear windows.

From a client in Estonia he obtained a lead on a promising car, but upon inspection he found that it was not a 1949 IFA but one of the lost 1939 DKWs. The car had been commandeered by a senior officer in the Soviet engineering corps that was tasked with supervising the dismantling of Auto-Union's factories for shipping to the Soviet Union. This officer took the car back to Russia with him and used it for many years. Like Werner's car, the engine eventually failed and was replaced with a four-cylinder four-stroke engine and the car converted to rear wheel drive. After many years of service the car was parked up in a shed and then forgotten.

My friend attempted to buy the car immediately but his interest in this wreck (as the car is in very poor condition) led the owners to suspect they had something of greater significance. They contacted Audi Tradition independently, who after examining their records confirmed the car was indeed one of the lost prototypes. This confirmation led to a bidding war for the car and unfortunately my friend was outbid. The car has now gone to another collector in Germany who intends to restore it. The car itself is little more than a shell and will require extensive restoration, but it will be great to see it saved.


Cars were hard to come by so when they broke down every effort was made to fix them. The car received a new engine with rear wheel drive, necessitating some drastic modifications. This wasn't uncommon. I have seen many photos from Russia of Tatras and Volkswagens re-engined with conventional front mounted engines, and even IFA F9s with rear mounted VW engines!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

1939 DKW F9 Prototype


In 1935 the DKW design team started work on a new car project. The 'hohe-klasse', or 'high class', was conceived as a wholly new design and was a quantum leap away from DKW's budget car heritage. The driving force behind the project was the recognition that Hitler's KDF-Volkswagen would come to dominate the budget car market in Germany by 1940 and if DKW were to survive, they needed a new and modern car to compete.

In 1936 DKW began trialing a new 3 cylinder 900cc engine. There is some evidence to suggest that this new engine was derived from the British Scott Triple motorcycle engine of 1934. It is on the record that DKW purchased two Scott Triples from Scott’s French importer in 1935 or 1936 and the layout and the capacity of the Scott and DKW engines are strikingly similar.

At any rate, DKW tested the new engine in a series of three streamlined, endurance racers. The racers featured a new chassis, new suspension and each car was fitted with a different engine - the standard 688cc two cylinder two-stroke; the V-4 1000cc two-stroke; and the new 896cc triple. In line with DKW’s standard practice, the triple engine was mounted transversely in the engine bay, although this was a very tight fit and widened the frontal aspect of the car. The new engine compared very favourably against DKW’s other engines and the trio of cars performed well in the 1938 Rome-Berlin endurance race. http://heinkelscooter.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/auto-union-streamliners.html
Auto-Union adapted the streamliner concept in its stunning 1938 Horch 930S. After it was unveiled to great acclaim, Auto-Union began designing a version for DKW.

As stunning as the Horch 930S looked, it was a very expensive, coach-built car and very few were built. If the new DKW was to compete with the Volkswagen it would need to be cheap and mass producible. Auto-Union designers recognized that a unitary, self-supporting steel body would be cheaper to produce than the traditional separate body and chassis method, but few companies had experience in this field. The Ambi-Budd Karosseriewerks held the patent in Germany from their US parent and it was used almost exclusively by German Ford and Opel. Auto-Union approached Ambi-Budd but felt the license costs were excessive.

In 1938 Auto-Union consulted the independent engineer, Friedrich Maier, who offered an alternative solution. Maier had been an aircraft engineer for Junkers but in 1934 he had struck out on his own as an auto designer. In response to Adolf Hitler’s call to build ‘the cheap car’ for the German people, he built a single all steel prototype vehicle called the ‘Maier Lightweight.’ Maier’s unorthodox, highly streamlined vehicle was powered by a rear mounted 600cc DKW engine and featured a self-supporting pressed steel body for which he held the patent. http://heinkelscooter.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/1935-maier-leichtbau.html

Maier assured Auto-Union that his patented method could be used to manufacture the new DKW. Extensive discussions were held with Maier but Auto-Union eventually decided to continue with the traditional construction methods as Maier’s company was simply too small a player and Auto-Union couldn’t convince themselves that Ambi-Budd wouldn’t opportunistically sue for patent breach. Besides which, time was running out.

In 1938 the Volkswagen was unveiled to the German public, and tens of thousands of Germans immediately signed up to the purchase scheme. Almost half a million would have signed up by the start of the war. DKW sales immediately took a hit. The new car needed to be unveiled soon.

By 1938 the new triple engine was production ready even if the car it was to power wasn’t. As a stop gap, DKW considered installing the triple engine in the new DKW Sonderklasse in place of that car’s poorly performing V4 engine, but this idea never came to fruition. http://heinkelscooter.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/the-big-dkw-48.html

For road trials, the new engine was installed transversely in the engine bay of modified F8, but it quickly became apparent that this was not a suitable placement so a second car had its chassis modified to accommodate an inline engine. This change, originally intended solely to provide sufficient access for the driven stub axles, led to a complete redesign of the engine bay and vehicle layout.

A mystery DKW engine discovered by Winfried Kuhl. It appears to be a 3=6 prototype engine but has a production serial number. Did DKW begin small scale production of the 3=6 engine in the mid-1940s?

The compact engine-gearbox layout of the F8 was not possible in the F9. As the gearbox needed to be positioned behind the engine, the engine had to be pushed forward and lower. This supported a more streamlined profile, however, the reduced frontal profile and gently sloped bonnet was inadequate for a front mounted radiator, so the radiator had to mounted behind the engine. Cooling was achieved by thermo-syphonic effect so there was no water pump, but ensuring sufficient airflow to the radiator required the addition of a fan,which was driven by a pulley from the front of the camshaft. The pulley also drove the Dynastart, which combined the function of generator and starter motor.

Placing the radiator behind the engine meant there was no room in the engine bay for the petrol tank. All earlier DKW cars had their petrol tank mounted behind and above the engine, allowing gravity to feed gas to the engine. The fuel tank was moved to the boot, as in most modern cars, but this required the addition of a fuel pump - a novelty for DKW. In accordance with DKW's design principle of economy and simplicity, the fuel pump was a very basic affair that used the vacuum within the crankcase for its motive force. It was simple and it worked but it was a weak point in the engine.

In 2015 the Werner car was part of an exhibition about the early development of the IFA F9 'People's Car' in Chemnitz. This very successful exhibition included a prototype transverse mounted engine (seen here in the foreground) from one of the early test vehicles. How this example survived is anyone's guess. Other vehicles on display included a prototype chassis, several very early IFA F9s and F9 racer. http://fahrzeugmuseum-chemnitz.de/?event=der-f9-ein-gesamtdeutsches-auto&event_date=2014-12-18

The Plastic Car

By 1939 the Auto-Union Central Design Bureau had finalised the car’s modern, streamlined form and work began on the pre-production prototypes. No sooner had work started than Auto-Union’s steel allocation - a scarce strategic resource in Nazi Germany - was substantially reduced. This provoked a crisis at Auto-Union and a rationalisation of projects in development. A more expensive Wanderer version of the F9 in the pipeline was cancelled after two pre-production prototypes, but as Auto-Union’s future was tied to the new DKW an alternative to steel was required.

The stillborn Wanderer W31 project reveals that Auto-Union was planning to standardize the F9 concept across their range. Only two full size cars were built.

Fortunately, Auto-Union had a solution in hand. For many years Auto-Union had been working in partnership with the chemical company Rommler AG to develop a synthetic product called Duroplast. Duroplast was manufactured by pressing phenol resin impregnated wood pulp in a heated press. Once dried the Duroplast panels were strong and flexible. From 1938 DKW undertook extensive road and crash testing of Duroplast bodied F7s to prove the utility of the new product, in the process becoming the first company in Europe to undertake professional crash testing.

Auto-Union undertook crash testing for all its cars in the 1930s, from steel bodied Audi's to plywood and Dynoplast bodied DKWs.

For DKW the benefits of Duroplast were obvious. Firstly, the component raw materials of phenolic resin and wood pulp were both waste products and therefore low cost. Secondly, Dynoplast could be pressed into complex curves which could substantially reduce manpower effort spent building and weatherproofing DKW's wooden bodied cars, which were very labour intensive to fit out. In 1939 DKW began using Duroplast on the rear body of the F8.

DKW's Duroplast bodywork panels on display at the 1938 Berlin Motor Show. Duroplast is probably most famous for its use in the Trabant, but DKW's Duroplast was developed from wood pulp while the Trabant panels were manufactured with cotton waste.


By September 1939 though, ten steel-bodied prototypes had been built and were being put through road trials. Advertising material was prepared and the car was scheduled to go into series production in early 1940. However, these plans were put on hold with the start of the Second World War. Road trials and further enhancements went on until 1942 when all the military situation began to turn against Germany and all civilian projects were shut down.

Two prototypes on a test drive. This photo must have been taken during the early years of the War as both cars have their headlights masked and the left hand car has a black-out light over its headlight.

From 1942 things went progressively downhill for both Germany and Auto-Union. Both Wanderer and Horch plants were given over to war production from 1940; Horch producing trucks and Wanderer a wide range of military vehicles. DKW was the only member of the group exempted from military takeover, largely because the Wehrmacht deemed their two-stroke engine unsuitable for military use. Production of DKW civilian motorcycles and F8 cars continued until 1943.

By 1944 transport shortages in Germany had become acute and the military were forced to confiscate private vehicles for military use. Only a few vehicle types were exempt, such as the Mercedes-Benz 130H, which had a poor reputation, and DKW vehicles. Auto-Union’s executives lost their Horch, Audi and Wanderer limousines and were forced to make do with DKWs. The ten F9 prototypes, along with the Wanderer and DKW endurance cars, were distributed among the Auto-Union executives as replacement cars. Head of Design and Development, William Werner, who had headed up the F9 project, took possession of a hard top sedan.

Technical director William Werner studies a model of a Wanderer sedan around 1938.

The Spoils of War
In April 1945 at an extraordinary meeting of the Auto-Union board in Chemnitz the chief executives of the company agreed it was in their best interests to flee from the Soviet Occupation Zone to the west. Werner took his F9 and fled to Oldenburg, near Bremen in the British Occupation Zone. There he set up a DKW spares and servicing company to eek out a living.

All across Germany Allied specialists were combing the ruins for hidden German technology and in 1946 the British Ministry of Supply seized his car and sent it to the School of Tank Technology in Cobham, Surrey for evaluation. Auto-Union executives, including Werner, were interviewed about the genesis and development of the F9 car. The British report noted:
"The F9 car was developed solely to meet competition offered by the Volkswagen. The Volkswagen (subsidised) was cheaper than their F8 model, and had more room and was faster. They reckoned that in producing the F9 which had a much better appearance than the Volkswagen and was about 15 kph faster, they would hold the market somewhere between the Volkswagen and the higher priced cars." Quoted from Karl Ludvigsen's "Battle for the Beetle" page 373.
After a period of testing in England the car was handed over to the Australian Army. The war had convinced the Australian Government that the country needed to develop an indigenous automobile industry and in 1944 proposed that Australia begin manufacturing "a car similar to the German low priced two-stroke DKW", so the British handed the car over to the Australians for the purposes of evaluation. Nevertheless, after extensive testing, the F9, along with other confiscated German vehicles (including a 1946 Volkswagen), was put up for public auction in 1949 and sold.

After changing hands a number of times, the car was purchased by Mr Leo Redfern of Victoria in the 1960s. Having a pre-production engine without any possibility of spare parts, it was inevitable that the engine would one day fail. This forced Mr Redfern to make significant changes to the car, transplanting the body onto a pre-war DKW F8 chassis and engine. An F91 bonnet and radiator screen replaced the original bonnet.

The car changed hands a couple of times before it was tracked down by DKW collector, Peter Thorogood in the 1980s. Peter also obtained the original chassis and engine (which was dismantled in a box) and planned to do a full restoration, however, when the economy turned bad at the end of the 1980s he was forced to put the car up for sale. By this stage Audi AG had become aware of the car and were keen to obtain this important vehicle for their collection. Forty odd years after it had left Germany the prototype finally returned home. Audi Tradition undertook the long awaited restoration. An early IFA F9 bonnet and grill replaced the missing original. The engine however was not fully repairable. The car is now on display at Audi's Ingolstadt museum where it can be enjoyed by everyone. http://www.audi.com/com/brand/en/experience/audi_forums0/audi_forum_ingolstadt/museum_mobile.html



In late 2016 a second F9 prototype made a surprise appearance. This car had been confiscated by a Soviet engineering officer involved in the dismantling of the Auto-Union factories in the 1946-47. The car returned home with him and served as the family vehicle for many decades. As with the Werner car, the engine failed at some point and with cars being something of a luxury in the USSR, a new engine was grafted into the vehicle. Creative Soviet mechanics converted the car to rear wheel drive by installing the complete drive train, inclusive of a floor mounted gearbox and transmission tunnel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the battered and mutilated car was found derelict in a farmhouse in Estonia. It has now been purchased by a German enthusiast for restoration. http://heinkelscooter.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/a-second-dkw-f9-prototype-discovered.html


The F9 is reborn

Auto-Union’s factories in Chemnitz, Zwickau and Zschopau were stripped by the Soviets as war reparations between 1945 and 1947 leaving the company with nothing but the empty halls. Nevertheless, a few items escaped the net. When the war turned against them, the Nazis distributed heavy machinery into mines, forests and villages to protect them from bombing. Once the East German government was established it nationalized what was left of the auto industry under the name VEB, which meant something like public owned company. The Auto-Union factories were re-badged IFA. Stocks of spare parts for DKW cars and motorcycles were recovered from their hiding places and IFA began to flicker back into life repairing pre-war cars and building motorcycles from spare parts. In 1948 production of the pre-war F8 car began

Another F9 prototype had been recovered in Leipzig and was returned to the old Audi factory in Chemnitz. This car was dismantled, examined and reverse engineered to become the template for the IFA F9. In external appearance, IFA F9 was a faithful replica of the original F9, however cost cutting measures resulted in a few noticeable differences. For the sake of simplicity the IFA engineers initially placed the petrol tank in the engine bay, buttressed between the radiator and firewall. It meant a smaller tank but it did mean that the fuel pump was no longer necessary.

The new car was unveiled at the Leipzig Motor Show in 1949 to great excitement. However, production at Chemnitz was painfully slow due to the chronic shortage of parts and only 1600 cars had been built there before VEB transferred production of the F9 to the former BMW autowerkes at Eisenach.

Eisenach were then producing two cars, the large EMW 340 sedan and the sleek EMW 310 roadster. Neither car found a market in East Germany’s straitened circumstances so production had ground to a halt leaving the workforce underemployed. Eisenach's workers were horrified to be asked to build the cheap F9, which they regarded as beneath them. Nevertheless, they set to work and very rapidly made improvements, such as increasing the size of the rear window, replacing the ‘walking stick’ centrally mounted gear shift with a column shift and otherwise improved the fittings and build quality of the car. In 1956, they undertook a complete restyling of the car, which was renamed the Wartburg 311.


Revival in the West
Over in West Germany things were in much the same state of disorder. The surviving Auto-Union executives met in Dusseldorf and agreed to reconstitute the company. Former managing director, Dr Richard Bruhn and Deputy Director Dr Carl Hahn secured a line of credit from the State Bank of Bavaria based solely on their good standing and a new company, Auto-Union Spare Parts Depot Gmb was registered. Former company assets across West Germany were located and bought into the new company and contact was made with the numerous service stations and selling agents. As in the east, the new Auto-Union started on the road to recovery by offering repairs and servicing to DKW car and motorcycle owners, and here Auto-Union had a particular advantage. Due to the Wehrmacht’s wartime prejudice against DKW there were 65,000 privately owned DKW cars still on the road in 1945, and large numbers overseas.

The original DKW F89 prototype in Ingolstadt. Despite the oddly overblown bumper, the design closely resembles the original F9 design, especially in respect to the styling of the grill and the split windscreen, however, as the IFA F9 already on sale, DKW were forced to restyle their car.

Auto-Union had managed to recover a test body for the F9 from the DKW bodyworks in Spandau, outside Berlin. It was far from a complete car, the find included many of the machine presses used to construct the original cars, so it was shipped to Auto-Union’s factory in Dusseldorff where it became the template for a new DKW. Auto-Union had briefly considered building the pre-war F8, but the Berlin Spandau werkes was now located on the other side of the new border with East Germany, making transport to and from difficult. They felt it was better to simply start with a new car from scratch. Several hundred F8 chassis from DKW’s stock of spares were bodied with a new, steel bodywork from Baur as the F10, but this venture was quickly abandoned once the F9 body was recovered. Minor modifications were made the F8 chassis to mount the F9 body, and the resulting hybrid car was named F89P. Being powered by the F8's two-cylinder 688cc, 23 horsepower engine meant the new car was underpowered, but it looked the part and was on par with other budget cars of the early 1950s, such as the Volkswagen Beetle or Goliath GP600.

Auto-Union managing director Dr Richard Bruhn (left) is joined by motoring journalist W Ostwald, August Horch and Dr Carl Hahn (right) inspecting the new F89P.

DKW owners would have to wait until 1953 before the 3=6 engine finally made its appearance in the DKW F91. It's highly likely that Auto-Union acquired a 3=6 engine from IFA and reverse engineered it for their car.

The F9’s descendants, both in east and west, proved to be very long lived. The DKW F91 was superseded by an improved version, the F93, in 1957 and then the Auto-Union 1000S in 1960. The 1000S remained in production until 1965 when Volkswagen retired DKW's two-stroke lineage.

The IFA F9 disappeared underneath the restyled Wartburg 311 in 1956, but despite significant restyling again in the 1980s the Wartburg retained the fundamental mechanicals of the DKW F9 originally developed in 1939.