In the years following WWII, all German manufacturing was just trying to recover. Cars had to be practical and affordable because there were no customers for anything else. The German auto industry dusted off pre-war designs and generally used whatever had survived to provide what was needed and to begin rebuilding a market. Dampf Kraft Wagen (DKW), which was part of the Auto Union empire, was typical of this thinking at that time. It began like many after the turn of the 20th century making engines and then motorcycles and in fact by 1929 it was reportedly the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. DKW went on to produce cars and it utilized 2 and 3 cylinder 2-stroke engines to power some of its prewar and postwar cars. This continued well into the 1950s with 900cc motors producing 38hp. DKW 1000 was produced from 1957 to 1963 in both 4 door sedan and 2 door coupe flavors. There was also a Coupe and a 3 door station wagon. They were 980cc in displacement and used an inline 3 cylinder 2 stroke engine producing about 44hp. In order to herald in the new decade, the car was rebadged as an Auto Union 1000S and given a styling update consisting mainly of a wrap-around windshield. The Auto Union badge was also an attempt to make the car more appealing to the upscale buyers that were now emerging. Even so, the styling seems to be a mix of eastern europe and french influences. About 170,000 cars were produced, making this a pretty popular car at the time. As with almost all German sedans and coupes around this time, some of the cars went racing. In both Germany and South Africa, DKW and Auto Union badged examples went road racing and even Rally racing !!

www.ritzsite.nlIn the late 1950s, America was arguably at the height of its influence. Combined with the need by Auto Union to provide a vehicle even further upscale, they introduced the Auto Union 1000SP. This was a blatant attempt to copy the popular Ford Thunderbird. It was heavily influenced by designer William Werner who was of US origin, although the stylist was Josef Dienst. The styling was visibly similar even down to the tail fins !! However, underneath the sheetmetal was the same chassis and much of the running gear from the 1000S. Two 500cc 3 cylinder engines were combined to produce a 6 cylinder lump which put out about 55hp. Because of its high price, the 1000SP did not sell well. About 5000 coupes and 1600 cabriolets were sold, so it was a minor segment of the AU1000 numbers.

The cars were officially imported to the US, but they were rare then, and even more so today. One turns up now and then on Ebay, but you have to search long and hard. They are yet another good example of the engines serving motorcycles and cars, and of the longevity of the 2-stroke engine in Europe. Auto Union and DKW became absorbed along with other components into what we now know as Audi, but the DKW 1000 and its variants were popular vehicles, and among the last before the dominant 3-box design conquered all.

4 Replies to “The DKW 1000”

  1. Cool, you hardly ever hear about Audi in these years. They have
    some interesting heritage. And here I thought they really got going in the 1980s with the quattro! !

  2. Dear bmwed,

    I was surprised to learn that these were imported to the US as I have yet to see one at any vintage event. Hopefully that will change, and more of these early DKW/NSU/Auto Union cars will show up at events. Cheers.

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