DKW is a defunct German car and motorcycle marque. The name derives from Dampf-Kraft-Wagen (English: steam-driven car).
In 1916, Danish engineer Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen founded a factory in Zschopau, Saxony, Germany, to produce steam fittings. In the same year, he attempted to produce a steam-driven car, called the DKW. Although unsuccessful, he made a two-stroke toy engine in 1919, called Des Knaben Wunsch – "the boy’s desire". He also put a slightly modified version of this engine into a motorcycle and called it Das Kleine Wunder – "the little marvel". This was the real beginning of the DKW brand: by the 1930s, DKW was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer.
In 1932, DKW merged with Audi, Horch and Wanderer, to form the Auto Union. Auto Union came under Daimler-Benz ownership in 1957, and was then purchased by the Volkswagen Group in 1964. The last German built DKW car was the F102 which ceased production in 1966.
DKW badged cars continued to be built under license in Brazil and Argentina until, respectively, 1967 and 1969.
As the Auto Union company originally was situated in Saxony in what became the German Democratic Republic, it took some time for it to regroup after the war ended. The company was registered again in West Germany as Auto Union GmbH in 1949, first as a spare-part provider, but soon to take up production of the RT 125 motorcycle and a newly developed delivery van, called a Schnellaster F800. Their first line of production took place in Düsseldorf. This van used the same engine as the last F8 made before the war.
Their first passenger car was the F89 using the body from the prototype F9 made before the war and the two-cylinder two-stroke engine from the last F8. Production went on until it had been replaced by the successful three-cylinder engine which came with the F91. The F91 was in production from 1953–1955, and was replaced by the somewhat larger F93 in 1956. The F91 and F93 models all had 900 cc three-cylinder two-stroke engines, the first ones delivering 34 hp (25 kW), and the last ones 38 hp (28 kW). The ignition system of these engines comprised three independent sets of points and coils, one for each cylinder, with the points mounted in a cluster around a single lobed cam at the front end of the crank shaft. The cooling system was of the free convection type assisted by a fan driven from a pulley mounted at the front end of the crank shaft.
The F93 was produced until 1959, and was in turn replaced by the Auto-Union 1000. These models where produced with a 1,000 cc two-stroke engine, with a choice between 44 hp (33 kW) or 50 hp (37 kW) S versions until 1963. During this transition, production was also moved from Düsseldorf to Ingolstadt where the successor company Audi still has its production. From 1957, these cars could be fitted with an optional saxomat, an automatic clutch and, at the time it was the only small car offering this feature. The last versions of the Auto-Union 1000S also had disc brakes as option, an early development for this technology. A sporting 2+2 seater version was also available as the Auto-Union 1000 SP from 1957 to 1964, the first years only as a coupé and from 1962 also as a convertible.
In 1956, the very rare DKW Monza was put into small-scale production on a private initiative. This was a sporting, two-seater body made of glassfiber mounted on a standard F93 frame. The car was first called Solitude, but got its final name from the several long distance speed records it made on the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy in November 1956. Running in Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) class G, it set several new records, among them 48 hours with average speed 140.961 km/h (87.589 mph), 10,000 km with an average speed of 139.453 km/h (86.652 mph) and 72 hours with an average speed of 139.459 km/h (86.656 mph). The car was first produced by Dannenhauer & Strauss in Stuttgart, then by Massholder in Heidelberg and at last by Robert Schenk in Stuttgart. The total number of produced cars is said to be around 230 and production was rounded up by the end of 1958.
DKW Junior (1962)
A more successful range of passenger cars was sold from 1959. This was the Junior/F12 series based on a modern concept from the late 1950s. This range consist of Junior (basic model) made from 1959 to 1961, Junior de Luxe (a little enhanced) from 1961 to 1963, F11 (a little larger) and F12 (larger and bigger engine) from 1963 to 1965 and F12 Roadster from 1964 to1965. The Junior/F12 series became quite popular, and many cars were produced. An assembly plant was licenced in Ireland between 1952 and c.1964 and roughly 4,000 DKW vehicles were assembled ranging from saloons, vans, motorbikes to commercial combine harvesters. This was the only DKW factory outside of Germany in Europe.
All the three-cylinder two-stroke post-war cars had some sporting potential and formed the basis for many rally victories in the 1950s and early 1960s. This made DKW the most winning car brand in the European rally league for several years during the fifties.
In 1960 DKW developed a V6 engine by combining two three cylinder two-stroke engines giving a single V6 engine with a capacity of 1,000 cc. Over time the capacity was increased and the final V6 in 1966 had a capacity of 1,300 cc. The 1,300 cc version developed 83 hp (62 kW) at 5,000 rpm using the standard configuration with two carburettors. A four carburettor version produced 100 hp (75 kW) and a six carburettor version produced 130 hp (97 kW). The engine weighed only 84 kg (185 lb). The V6 was planned to be used in the DKW Munga and the F102. About 100 V6 engines were built for testing purposes and 13 DKW F102 as well as some Mungas were fitted with the V6 engine in the 1960s.
The last DKW was the F102 coming into production in 1964 as a replacement for the somewhat old-looking AU1000. This model was the direct forerunner of the first post-war Audi, the F103. The main difference was that the Audi used a conventional four-stroke engine. The transition to four-stroke engines marked the end of the DKW marque for passenger cars.
From 1956 to 1961, Dutch importer Hart, Nibbrig & Greve assembled the cars in an abandoned asphalt factory in Sassenheim, where they employed about 120 workers, two transporter, that collected the SKD-kits from Duesseldorf and build about 13.500 cars. When the DKW-plant was moved, the import of SKD-kits stopped, as it became too expensive.Byron Brill’s 1959 DKW 3=6. (Menlo Park, CA) Forerunner of the modern day Audi, the DKW is powered by a 1000cc three cylinder two stroke engine and features 4 speed all synchro transmission, rack & pinion steering and front wheel drive. It can cruise on the highway comfortably at 75 mph and can reach a top speed of around 90 – 95 mph.
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