Auto Union Reviews and Road Tests

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Auto Union

Founded by Jorgen Skafte Rasmussen in Saxony after studying Engineering in Mittweida. By 1904 he had set up an apparatus engineering company, and in 1916 began experimenting with steam-driven motor vehicles. Although these experiments did not lead to any specific product, they yielded the company name and trademark DKW, derived from the German words for "steam-driven vehicle" (Dampf Kraft Wagen).

In 1919, Rasmussen obtained the design of a two-stroke engine from Hugo Ruppe, a tiny version of which he sold as a toy engine under the name of "Des Knaben Wunsch", meaning "The Boy's Dream". This mini engine was subsequently upscaled and used as an auxiliary cycle engine, evolving into a fully-fledged motorcycle engine called "Das Kleine Wunder" (The Little Miracle) in 1922. DKW became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world during the 1920’s, and was also regarded as a leading international engine manufacturer.

By 1927 Rasmussen had acquired design and production facilities for six and eight-cylinder engines from a Detroit automobile company which had been wound up, with two new Audi models being powered by the DKW engines. Rasmussen however remained committed to the idea of manufacturing smaller, less costly vehicles. The very first DKW cars were rear-wheel drive, and were built in Berlin-Spandau. At the end of 1930, Rasmussen commissioned the Zwickau plant to develop a car to be powered by a two-cylinder, two-stroke motorcycle engine with a capacity of 600cc. The designers, Walter Haustein and Oskar Arlt, used a unitary wooden chassis with leatherette upholstery, swing axles at the front and rear, and made the vehicle front-wheel drive.

Unveiled at the 1931 Berlin Motor Show, the DKW “Front” caused a sensation with the masses. The DKW Front was built at the Audi factory, and went on to become the most-produced, most popular German small car of its day. The company merged with Audi, Horch and Wanderer to form the Auto Union group.
Auto Union 1000

Auto Union 1000

1958 - 1963
In 1958 Auto Union brought back into prominence the name of a group which made DKW, Audi, Horch and Wanderer cars before the war, but lost all its factories, which were in the Eastern Zone of Germany, when the war ended. Manufacture of DKW cars was re-started in the West, and the new model was based on the three-cylinder front-drive DKW, with larger engine, and improved suspension. More>>
Auto Union DKW F12

Auto Union DKW F12

1964 - 1968
In 1964 the obscure (at least for most Australians) company "Auto Union" of Germany introduced their new model DKW F12/60, which was available in both sedan and roadster forms and was fitted with a sweet 2-stroke 899cc engine. More>>
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