Wartburg 353 Knight
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
While residents east of the wall were familiar with the offerings from Wartburg, it wasn't until 1963
that the first right-hand-drive models were manufactured - in this case for export to Cyprus.
The Wartburg range was then displayed for the first time at the London Motor Show, and soon afterwards an agreement was formwed with Industria Limited to import the cars into the UK. The reason for chosing Industria was obvious, as they had previous experience dealing with Eastern Bloc countries and were already importing Jawa and CZ motorcycles from Czechoslovakia.
Industria created a network of dealers across the UK, and started out with the importation of 4 door saloon cars - they being moderately successful with sales of around 600 between 1965 and 1967. This despite the fact that the cars on offer were primitive, both in design and engineering.
Thankfully Wartburg released a completely new model in 1966, the 353. In the UK the sedan was launched as the "Knight", while the 312 Estate station wagon was dubbed the "Tourist".
While the mechanicals were obviously a carry over from previous models, the new Wartburg had merit, at least aesthetically. The all-new sheet metal was crisp and clean, if not a little French in character. The engine capacity was slightly increased, however it remained as a 3 cylinder 2 stroke configuration.
Such a design would always have difficulty selling itself in a country brought up on 4 cylinder/4 stroke
designs, but there were a couple of benefits from using a 2 stroke engine. Obviously the fuel economy was great, and with no valves
, distributor or dipstick the servicing costs were also very cheap.
In fact the design allowed Wartburg to stretch out the service interval time to a whopping 30,000 miles - this at a time when the vast majority of automobile
manufacturers were recommending 3000 mile service intervals.
They packed the Knight with plenty of standard kit too, such as independent suspension
on all 4 wheels, two speed windscreen wipers, wind-tone horns, electric screenwasher and twin reversing lamps. Inside there were fully reclining front seats, seat belt anchor points, throughflow ventilation, a floor mounted gear change and heater/demister.
There was much more too, including a radiator
blind, cigarette lighter, interior light, full tool kit, automatic lights in the boot and engine bay, adjustable beam headlamps, steering
lock, childproof locks on the rear doors and mudflaps. Despite major revisions to the Knight, the pace of development did not keep up with other manufacturers and, by 1976, it was decided that it was no longer economically viable to export the cars to the UK. Nevertheless it had been reasonably successful, particularly given the mechanical specification frowned upon by many. In all, nearly 20,000 right hand drive Wartburg Knights and Tourists had been sold.
Those that parted with their cash soon learned the car did not handle all that well, nor did it offer a particularly comfortable ride. Many bemoaned the low rent decor and crude steering
set-up. The allure of the cheap entry price (£619) and list of standard features were soon forgotten. Yes, there was good reason not to buy a Wartburg Knight - they were bloody awful.