Last revised: 26-1-2009

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DKW 1000Sp 1957 - 1965: Baby Thunderbird

The German Auto Union concern was a well-established car manufacturer before World War II with marques like Horch, Audi and DKW. The War changed all that. Most of the Auto Union factories, located in Eastern Germany, were destroyed in the War or disassembled and transported to the USSR after the War. Still Auto Union managed to survive thanks to loyal and motivated staff and employees and a successful relocation to Ingolstadt in Southern Germany. Only one of the old Auto Union marques was revived: DKW, the brand for the masses which offered both motorcycles and affordable lower middle class cars.
As Germany struggled to get the economy up and going again and to rebuild the country a remarkable phenomenon arose: the period of the "Wirtschaftswunder" (= wonder of the economy). This was a period of intense activity in which huge strides were taken to bring Western-Germany back to the top of industrialization. Clearly the economy and industry of the United States formed the example of which to strive for in this new, bipolar age of East versus West. US American design of the 1950s was transmitted by music and movies into Western Europe and was regarded as an icon for financial success, especially in Western-Germany which was still in search of a new identity to replace the terrible legacy of the recent past.

Unfortunately for Auto Union its new start proved to be very hard. The company had to be recapitalized and its factories built anew; this left little room for developing new models and technology. The post-war DKW cars were quite similar in construction and design to the pre-war models. The German market accepted this since there was a shortage on affordable motorization, but in order to survive DKW needed to get in touch with the future. To revive the brand image a fresh looking, attractive and youthful car was developed: the 1000Sp.
It meant an abrupt breach with the past and a firm look ahead, adopting the US American space age style complete with tailfins but downsized to European proportions. The result was typical to the era of the Wirtschaftswunder and as strikingly beautiful as it was feminine, a cute car with lots of charisma. Though pleasing as it was, its outdated mechanics combined with its high price made it hard to sell.

These days the 1000Sp makes an interesting and original classic car: it combines now obsolete 2-stroke technology with an appearance typical to the 1950s. It finds enthusiasts around the world, though its still affordable to buy and to maintain. I especially like its endearing shape, as I hope you will too after taking this tour around this special little German car.

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