The DKW F89 sprouted a few offspring; in Europe, it was offered as the F89L delivery van that was affectionately nicknamed the ‘Schnellaster’ and was available in Kastenwagen (delivery van) or bus form. Argentina also offered a version of the F89, and modified its offerings to include a small pickup. These were sold under the Auto Union nameplate in the early 1960s, and what you see here is one that has survived in its home country until today. And, it can now be yours…for a price!
Most German car enthusiasts are no longer familiar with the name “DKW”. It’s a shame considering the long history of DKW, whose name originates from the German Dampf-Kraft-Wagen or “steam powered vehicle” – just to give you a sense of the time period they started out. DKW reached its zenith in the 1930s, a time when Germany was experiencing massive growth in its economy and Hitler wanted to turn the Fatherland into a nation of drivers. Ironically, despite his notable efforts supporting Grand Prix racers and the development of the Beetle, pre-War automobile ownership in Germany was amongst the lowest in all of Europe. They were, rather, a nation of riders – motorcycles, to be precise, buying more of the two-wheeled transport than anyone else in Europe. It was what gave companies like BMW a start, for example, but the most successful of all of the pre-War motorcycle companies was DKW. Upon joining the Auto Union in 1932, they began experimenting more with small cars. But the aftermath of World War II meant that the area that DKW, Audi and Horch – 3/4 of the Auto Union company – were stuck in Soviet controlled areas, most of the factories being disassembled and sent back further behind the Iron Curtain as war reparations.
The result was that in the late 1940s and early 1950s, new efforts to resurrect these names were attempted. It’s not very surprising that the attempts were made; after all, imagine if Chevrolet went out of business due to a War; you can bet once things were cleaned up, someone would try to make a Corvette. And sure enough, based upon some pre-War designs the F89 was born. As with most post-War cars in Germany, it was small, affordable and versatile. DKW utilized the platform to create what was, in essence, the first Audi Avant. The F94 chassis you see here was an updated version of the F89, replete with the 2-stroke 3-cylinder engine that the company claimed gave the power of an inline-6 – hence the paradoxical naming strategy of 3=6 for the Sonderklasse. With a space-saving transverse motor driving the front wheels, there was ample room for flexible seating in the rear. Outside was a reasonably aerodynamic, compact design and the small motor ensured reasonable fuel economy – though no promise of speed. Today, nearly 70 years after the design was first sketched out, finding these Universal Kombis is extraordinarily hard – and when they surface in the U.S., they’re typically not in particularly good shape:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1957 DKW 3=6 Universal Kombi on eBay
And now for something completely different.
Just left of zero of you will have ever heard the name Barkas, and yes – it’s German. Well, at least technically it’s German, because it was built in half of Germany. And if you had to venture a guess, which half would you suppose that would be?
That’s right! While the Trabant was the people’s car, the Barkas was the worker’s truck. Produced starting in the late 1950s in
Chemnitz Karl-Marx-Stadt, the Barkas stole some technology from DKW, who had moved their pre-War headquarters from Zschopau to that fatefully renamed city in 1932 when they joined the Auto Union. Under the “hood” was the same 0.9 inline-3 two stroke you’d find in a DKW F91 and (rather unsurprisingly) the Wartburg, which also stole all the DKW tech. The drivetrain was borrowed, too, meaning that unlike the Volkswagen T-models, these vans were front wheel drive. The layout left Industrieverband Fahrzeugbau Barkas with the flexibility to create all sorts of configurations right up until they (and, the GDR) closed their doors in 1991; from mini-buses to delivery vans, from semi-trucks to even a pickup:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Barkas B1000 Pickup on eBay
While legend has it that Audi popularized all-wheel drive with the Quattro, it would not have been the case were it not for the 1970s Volkswagen Iltis – a military vehicle that utilized a normal Audi 100’s underpinnings to create an all-wheel drive vehicle with lockable differentials which easily outpaced Audi’s normal production line cars in inclement conditions. It was this story which sprung the idea for the Quattro to be created, but the Iltis itself had inspiration drawn heavily from another car – the DKW Munga. As Auto Union struggled to re-establish itself post-War under first the leadership of Mercedes-Benz and later Volkswagen, the company’s diminutive DKW brand led the way with economical, smart designs. One of those designs was the paradoxically-named 3=6 model, which had a .9 liter 2-stroke inline-3. Produced in DÃ¼sseldorf, DKW helped to keep the Auto Union’s name alive in the early 1950s. Part of that rebuilding included new Auto Union facilities in Ingolstadt, and one of the first production vehicles to make it out of there was the Manga. German for Mehrzweck UNiversal GelÃ¤ndewagen mit Allradantrie (basically, go anywhere all-wheel drive vehicle), the Manga utilized F91 (3=6) underpinnings mated with new all-wheel drive capability. Up front, the four rings of the Auto Union reappeared proudly on the roughly 47,000 models produced between 1956 and 1968 – a full decade prior to Iltis production:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1963 DKW Munga on eBay
I’ve written up a lot of Mercedes Sprinters, and have been especially excited when I find cool survivors from the old O309/0319 era. This, however, is a new one, a Spanish-built N1300 that served as the smaller counterpart to the full-size 309 vans, and it’s covered just 20k miles in its 37 years. The quality is so spectacular – and flush with ’70s style for better or worse – that it looks like one of those over-the-top VW restomods we’ve seen. The big roof-mounted luggage rack and chrome visor make it look ready to do runs from the airport to the hills in Guatemala (these were primarily used in the South American market) while the interior looks basic but very nice. It even has a little wooden table between the train-style seats doing its best impression of a Westy’s fold out surface. It’s too nice (and barely big enough inside) to convert to a camper and the 85hp from the OM615 diesel four will make highway speeds achievable only on the flats, so this isn’t going to leap to the top of dream adventure vans. Whatever you decide to do with it, you’ll have one of the most interesting looking vans on the road.