Two stroke engines defined the success of the German automaker DKW. DKW (Dampf-kraft-Wagen: Steam Driven car) is one of the four companies (Horch, Wanderer and Audi) that merged to form the Auto Union. Its founding engineer named Jorgen Skafte Rasmussen used a two stroke engine in a motorcycle and named it as Das Kleine Wunder (The Little Wonder) forming the initials of DKW. It was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer by 1920’s.
DKW Front F1, Roadster
The 1931 Berlin Motor Show witnessed the launch of the DKW Front F1 car. The Front F1 was the most inexpensive and light weight DKW. Also, the Front F1 was the first volume-produced front-wheel drive car. It had a two-stroke 494 cc motorcycle engine. It was later changed to 584 cc providing 15 PS. The Front F1 Roadster was the cheapest car available for the German public at that time. The 4000 F1s sold in 1931 and 1932 came in roadster, open top saloon and boat deck type rear end body styles.
In 1934, a small motorcycle known as DKW RT100 with 2.5 hp first appeared in the market at a moderate price. In 1936, DKW RT100 had the power output of the engine increased to 3 hp. The RT3PS proved to be reliable for day to day riding and DKW sold around 62,000 of RT100 motorcycles by 1940.
The Sonderklasse (meaning: Special Class in German) models were introduced between 1932 and 1934. In 1932, the Sonderklasse Typ 432 was characterized by front wheel arches and was powered by a 990 cc two stroke V4 engine. Later in the same year, the Typ 432 was renamed as 1001 Sonderklasse featuring the same engine and floating-axle for the rear. The floating axle was suspended from a high level transversely mounted leaf spring.
The timber frame construction of the body of the Sonderklasse led to structural failures. Therefore, DKW stopped the usage of this type of construction. Also, DKW paused the usage of the name Sonderklasse for its vehicles before it appeared again in 1937.
The year 1934 saw the launch of the Schwebeklasse (meaning: Floating Class in German) model. It had a floating axle for both the front and rear wheels which consequently led to better stability during cornering. The DKW patented the floating type axle since it helped the car achieve better road handling characteristics. The new 1054 cc two stroke V4 engine produced a power output of 32 PS. The engine connected to a four speed gearbox.
The DKW 350SS limited the production of this motorcycle. The only difference in the DKW 350SS for works and private racers was the body paint. The former were painted red and black and the latter were painted silver-grey. The works bike were little more powerful in comparison to the bikes produced for private riders.
Revival of the Auto Union
In 1949, the first DKW vehicles appeared on road after the Second World War. Among them, the most noteworthy were the Schnelllaster and the RT125W.
DKW Schnelllaster (Rapid Delivery Van)
DKW introduced the F89L rapid delivery van in the market for small business transportation. The Schnelllaster came with a front-wheel drive and a two stroke engine. The delivery van was extremely popular with small businesses as reconstruction work was going on throughout Germany post second world war. The count of this utility vehicle which sold for DM 5795 stood at 11,504.
RT125W was the first motorcycle to be launched after the Second World War for personal transportation. The 1950 model had a two stroke engine and three-speed gearbox with pedal gear change. It produced 4.75 hp and had a telescopic fork. In 1952 RT125W model had the power output increased to 5.6 hp. The year 1954 saw the RT125W with a rear suspension and an increased power output of to 6.4 hp.
DKW’s Motorcycle Successes
In 1950s, famous drivers such as August Hobl, Siegfried Wuensche, Ewald Kluge and Herman Paul Mueller won many races for DKW. As a result, DKW enjoyed incredible motorcycle successes. During the year 1950, DKW clinched 48 victories and won the German Championship.
The Singing Saw
In the year 1952, DKW introduced a new 350 cc three-cylinder racing motorcycle, famously known by the name Singing Saw among the racing class. The motorcycle received a special prize for being the fastest German motorcycle in any category.
Also, in the 1950s, DKW received Liebesbriefe (meaning: Love letters in German) from many of its customers describing the impeccable performance of two stroke engined DKW cars in steep grades. Two Stroke Engine history of the DKW was most noteworthy during those days.