Auto Union 1000

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Auto-Union DKW

Auto-Union 1000

1958 - 1963
3 cyl. 2-Stroke
980 cc
44 bhp @ 4500 rpm
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
Number Built:
3 star
Auto Union 1000
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


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.

Worth remembering, too, was that at the time DKW cars had outstanding success in the field of International European rallies and on more than one occasion they managed to take out top spots in such events as the Alpine Rally and the Tulip Rally. Always unconventional in some regard, cars bearing the insignia of Auto Union nevertheless presented no design "clangers" in their time. In the case of the "1000", the unusual part was the front wheel drive, which, although not uncommon, did not win great favour with the majority of the world's manufacturers.

Increasing the bore from 71 to 76 mm. raised the swept volume of the three-cylinder two-stroke engine from 896 to 980 c.c., taking maximum power from 40 to 44 b.h.p. installed while maximum torque, so important for acceleration and hill climbing, was raised from 56.5 lb. ft. to 61.4 lb. ft. Thus extra performance was built into a car which through extraordinary roadworthiness and the lively temperament of its engine was able to beat many more powerful models in international rallies. Maximum speed, which was also a safe cruising speed, was 78.80 m.p.h., according to the manufacturers. The car was quieter too, thanks to a then new air filter and new exhaust system.

Saxomat Vacuum Operated Automatic Clutch

Transmission was through a four-speed gearbox with steering column lever, synchromesh being provided for the top three gears, and the Saxomat vacuum operated automatic clutch was optional. The chassis, with box section side members and centre cross bracing, and front suspension by transverse leaf spring with wishbones was basically that of the DKW, but rear suspension was improved with the addition of helper leaves for full-load conditions. The telescopic dampers were larger, and wheels with broader rims carrying 5.60-15 tyres helped in exploiting the extra performance. Brakes remained unchanged.

The standard body style was the two-door four/five-seater coupe, identical externally with the DKW except for an extra bar and new badge. But there was also a sleek low-built two-seater sports coupe which was one of the outstanding exhibits at the 1958 Frankfurt Auto Show. With its sharp-edged tail fins, big wraparound windscreen, it looked a bit like a baby Ford Thunderbird, and with engine power lifted to 50 b.h.p. installed by use of 8:1 compression, it was almost a passable imitation of one on the road. To deal with the higher output, a pump and thermostat were added to the cooling system, and the final drive ratio was 4.43, against 4.72:1, and the gearbox ratios remaining unchanged. This model was then joined by a two-seater roadster.

On The Road

On the road both body styles offered a silky smoothness and the capacity for revs which inspired the catchline 3=6, with more urge and less noise. The engine managed to get the roomy 4-5 seater coupe moving so well that you had to remind yourself that the engine was still under 1,000 c.c. and still an economical one to run. (The makers claimed no significant increase in fuel consumption. ) Road holding was awe-inspiring to anyone not familiar with the capabilities of a good front-wheel-drive unit. Like most good front-drive cars from this era, it had definite understeer; you held it into a sharp corner with a progressive pull on the wheel, until a seemingly impossible speed, when the tail began to break adhesion. It slid without vice, could be controlled by manipulation of the throttle, and recovered easily. The steering was light, thanks to greater reduction in the rack and pinion gear, but not so geared that excess wheel swirling was needed, and a new inbuilt hydraulic damper completed the task of suppressing road shock.

Auto-Union 1000 Engine
Auto-Union 1000 Engine.

Naturally, to get the kind of performance that won rallies, the gearbox had to be used fairly freely, and the lever worked in the opposite way to the usual pattern. First gear was downwards at the top of the column, second gear upwards, third gear down towards the base of the column, and for fourth gear you had to lift the lever up again. However, the gear change itself was quite a fair example of the steering column type. Instruments included speedometer with total distance recorder, electric fuel gauge and clock, and temperature gauge. One lever under the wheel worked direction indicators; another dipped the headlamps and flashed them for signalling. Forward vision was good, but because of the shape of the body, the driver could not see the rear of the rear wings, and had to lean forward to see the far front wing.

Switching to the exciting two-seater coupe, the first surprise was the relative ease of entry, despite the wrap-around screen, and the generous headroom once installed in the well-shaped seats. The extra power output did not rob the engine of any of its uncanny smoothness, it hummed away like a dynamo at over 4500 r.p.m., but the peak of the torque curve was moved up from 2100 r.p.m. to 3,500 r.p.m. (torque was 66.5 lb. ft. against the standard 61.4 lb. ft.) so there was even more inducement to use the gears for maximum performance. Second gear quickly brought a reading of nearly 40 m.p.h., and third took it up to nearly 70 m.p.h. on the speedometer, before it seemed to be time to change up. (The Auto Union factory claimed a maximum of 78-80 m.p.h. on the four-seater, and 88-90 m.p.h. for the two-seater.)

The brakes worked beautifully on wet roads, bringing the car to rest safely and swiftly. They remained the same size as those of the 896 c.c. DKW sedan, but with anti-fade linings. One thing which was certainly out of keeping with the character of the car and its general finish was the use of ugly felt as sounding material on the inside of the front bulkhead; another was the rather clumsy looking horizontally-pivoted hand brake lever underneath the instrument panel. But these were minor details; generally the Auto Union 1000 was a great car.

Auto Union 1000 Quick Specs

Technical Details: Engine: 3-cyl. two-stroke in line, water cooled. 76 x 74 mm.; 980 c.c.; 7.25:1 compression; 44 b.h.p. installed at 4500 r.p.m.; 61.4 lb. ft. at 2,100 r.p.m. Solex 40 JCB carburettor. Ignition by three coils, with triple contact breaker. (Two-seater, 8:1 compression, 50 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m., 66.5 lb. ft. at 3,500 r.p.m.). Electrical system 6-volt 66 AH.
Transmission: Single-plate clutch, four-speed gearbox, with top three synchronised, in unit with final drive. Controllable free wheel. Steering column lever. Overall ratios: 18, 10.47, 6.18 4.32:1. Reverse 21.6:1. (Two-seater 16.91, 9.84, 5.80, 4.05:1. Reverse 20.3:1.) Suspension: Independent front by transverse leaf spring and wishbones, rigid rear axle with torque arms and transverse leaf spring. Telescopic dampers, double acting at rear.
Steering: Rack and pinion, with hydraulic damping.
Brakes: Four-wheel hydraulic. Drums 9 in. diameter. Brake lining area: 105 sq. in.
Tyres: 5.60-15.
Dimensions: Coupe 4-seater. Wheel-base 92.5 in. Track front 50.8 in. Rear 53.1 in. Length 166.5 in. Width 66.7 in. Height 57.6 in. Ground clearance 7.7 in. Dry weight 1970 lb. Two-seater differed as follows: Length 166.9 in. Width 66.1 in. Height 52.5 in. Dry weight, 1980 lb.
Auto Union 1000 Coupe
Auto Union 1000 Coupe

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