WARTBURG

The Wartburg was, in the former DDR, the only car -with the little Trabant- available for the private transport of the Eastern Germany (but there was also a little number of cars imported from other Eastern countries). It was a sort of "luxury choice" (sic!), because displacement, performances and dimensions were greater than the very cheap Trabant, although the perspective of this car was anyway popular (as the "Trabi", the engine was a two-stroke, but 1000 cc). The early Wartburg models were very good about design and construction; but the following models (see pic above) does'nt has the same aesthetic quality! 

 

The beginnings

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The Wartburg's history takes the origin from the Second Worldwide War. After the war, the BMW factory of Eisenach (originated by the Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach AG, founded even in the 1898) was occuped by the Soviet army, but its production was continued under the same name of the Bavarian brand (comprised the luxury six-cylinders "340" model). In the 1952, the protest of the BMW for the abusive use of its name, causes the creation of the EMW brand (the "E" means Eisenach), but the cars were still, effectively, BMW pre-war models. Finally, in the 1956, the old BMW/EMW production was abandoned (comprised the DKW F8/F9, previously produced also by Trabant), and the Wartburg brand appears on the Eisenach's cars. The Wartburg "311" (five pics above; in the fourth and fifth pics, the "Camping" station-wagon, and the "Sport", a spider produced in only 500 exemplars) was equipped with a 3-cylinders two-strokes, developement of the DKW "F9" unit. The engine and the wheel-drive were located front, the displacement was 900 cc, with 37 hp, three-speeds gearbox (in the later versions, 1000 cc and 45 hp, four speeds gearbox); max speed, 115 km/h. This car was very well-executed, and with a very good reliability; even the leather seats were available! This was still a "real" German car, before the fall of quality (in the name of the massive production) typical of the Soviet-planned factories. 

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Also other versions (normal production or prototypes) were realized: above, the "313 S" coupè (first and second pics), the "313-2 HS" (another cabrio version, realized also with hard-top, second, third and fourth pics), and the "Bellevue" (fifth pic), with a particular coachwork that was between a "targa" type (but the front part of the glass-roof is fixed, and can't be removed) and a cabriolet type. Therefore, all these versions features a very pleasant and "western" look, although this remains a popular car. 

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But the communist "diktat" of the massive production, forces the Wartburg factory to produce a car simpler and easier to assembly than the "311" (the Wartburg's capacity of production was only the 20% of the request of the market and of the Governement). Therefore, the "311" was replaced in the 1969 by the "353" model (in the four pics above, the sedan version and the "Tourer" station-wagon). This car was equipped with new torsion-bar suspensions, but the structure remained always with "chassis" separated from the coachwork! The engine was the same two-stroke of the "311", three cylinders, 1000 cc, boosted to 50 hp (130 km/h). The performances were better than the previous model, but the quality and the look are typically..."eastern". However, the Wartburg factory obtained from the Communist government better parts (paints, tyres, batteries etc...) to build the cars; the Trabant's factory, instead, had "second choice" components, and, subsequently, the Wartburg was a sort of little "limousine" for the Eastern Germans! 

 

Prototypes and special versions

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 In truth, before the definitive production, the "353" was projected also to have the design of the car in the first pic above (Wartburg "353 Sport Coupè", 1965), with a very good aerodynamic (Cx=0,28/0,32), but this coachwork never was realized in series. During the '70s, another prototype, conceptually similar, was realized: the "355" of the 1969 (second, third and fourth pics above), always coupè/hatchback with three doors, with a typical '70s-style, functional and modern; it was realized with plastic coachwork and equipped with a Renault engine. 

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During the '70s, new evolutions of the "353" were realized, but never produced in series. The "360" (first pic above, 1973-74), with the monocoque coachwork instead of the old "chassis", was realized in collaboration with Skoda; and, effectively, the engine was a Skoda 1.3, but placed on the front axle, not rear). Another evolution of this car was the "610-M" (second and third pics) of the 1976 (the developement was continued till the 1979), always with monocoque; the planned versions were a 1100 cc. Skoda-powered version (builted in Zwickau, in the Trabant's factory) and a 1.3 with the engine of the Dacia-Renault 12. But the Communist government refused to finance the project, and these cars remained as prototypes. Same destiny for the two engines shown in the fourth and fifth images above: the engine to the left in the fourth image was realized in the 1957, and it was a flat-four, liquid cooled, 1088 cc, with a power of 45 hp; the engine to the right, instead, instead, realized in the 1968, was a modern in-line four, single over-head camshaft, 1592 cc. and 80 hp of max power. In the fifth pic, instead, a four-strokes three-cylinders, realized in the 1982, with a displacement of 1191 cc. and 60 hp of max power. All these engines were realized in order to replace the old and smoky two-stroke engine, but the hope to have a newer and cleaner four-stroke engine remained an illusion, and the Eastern Germans breathed smell of oil/fuel mix till the 1989... 

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Another failed project was the Wartburg "P-760" (four pics above), nicknamed "Hängebauchschwein" (that stands for "paunchy pig"...!), always realized in collaboration with Skoda, in the 1971-72. This car had the Czech engine placed front, 1100 cc, and a very modern hatchback coachwork. But the most surprising feature of this model, is that the Skoda "Favorit" (subsequently renamed "Felicia") was essentially a restyled variant of this car! The German Wartburg's version never was produced, but the Czech version was launched...although only in the 1987!  

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The total production of the normal "353" model was over the million of exemplars (in the first pic above, an image of the production's line, and, in the second pic, a crash test), typical of the usual Soviet plans of production: huge numbers, but poor quality! Anyway, from the "353", even a rally version (third pic) was obtained, with the 3 cylinder engine increased to 1147 cc, and with 110 hp!

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Also off-road versions of the "353" were obtained: in the first pic above, the "Schwimmwagen" ("schwimmen" stand for "swim" in German, therefore this is probably an amphibious version, but i'm not sure, especially considering the open doors!). In the second and third pics, instead, the "353/400 Kubelwagen", a military version with the three-cylinders engine increased to 1200 cc (55 hp, 95 km/h). 

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Moreover, there was also a minivan on the basis of the little Wartburg three cylinders two stroke engine. The Barkas "B-1000" (first and second pics above, in different versions) was produced in Chemnitz since the late years '50s; the engine was the same of the Wartburg cars, but, in the last period of production (till the fall of the Berlin's wall), also the four-stroke engine from the VW "Golf" was used. Anyway, this vehicle seems too big for a 1000 cc. three-cylinders engine, but probably the two-stroke's power (better than a four-stroke of the same displacement) was enough to move the vehicle. A truck with the sound of a motorcycle...wow! In the third pic, instead, the prototype Barkas "B-1100", realized in the 1969 in order to replace the old "B-1000": the engine was the same of the Moskvitch "412". As usual, this vehicle never gone into production. 

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From the very cheap Wartburg cars, even a two-places sport car was obtained! Since the 1959, some exemplar of competition car with Wartburg or Trabant engine was realized by Heinz Melkus, tuner and driver. Since the 1959, some exemplar of competition car with Wartburg or Trabant engine was realized. These car were intended for the national "Junior" class. The exemplars equipped with Wartburg units, has a power of 70 hp, with three carburettors. In the first and second pics above, two of the early Melkus cars, and in the third and fourth pics, a model of the '60/'70s, always with Wartburg engine, called "Zigarre" (cigar) for the typical shape of the coachwork.

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The experience of the competitions was used for the "RS-1000" (four pics above), a little coupè with two places. The engine is the same of the "Junior"-class cars, the max speed of 170 km/h; not very high performances, but the acceleration is very good, thanks to the low weight of the car (690 kg). In the first pic above, you can see that the car "smokes"...it's not breaked, it smokes simply like all the two-stroke engines! 

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The Melkus "RS 1000" was produced in the period 1969-1973, and the total production was of only 100 exemplars approximately. You can see the "gull-wing" doors, and the rear part of the coachwork that can be totally lifted, to make easier the operations on the engine. In the fourth pic above, a scale-model of this car: the Melkus was almost the Ferrari GTO of the DDR! 

 

The fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the production

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 In the late '80s, the "wind of change" starts to blow...and, for the poor German sedans, the end was very closer. The lack of resources forced the Eisenach factory to produce a simple updated version of the old model: like the Trabant, VW engines were used for the Wartburg "353 1.3" (first pic above), with the four-stroke unit of the "Golf 1300" (54 hp, a bit more powerful than the old two stroke, but with very lower emissions!). In the second and third pics, the same car was "revisited" by Irmscher, tuner of much more modern cars as BMW or Mercedes...but, here, there are not the usual hyper-wide tires or spoilers: the car is too cheap to be ridicolously tuned with racing parts! In the fourth pic, instead, the pick-up version. Anyway, the Wartburg 1.3 is the last car with the Wartburg brand: in the 1991, the factory was bought by Opel (the VW, instead, realized a new factory in Mosel, near Zwickau, with ex-Trabant workers). Today, the Eisenach's factory produces thousands of Opel "Corsa". 

Now, the Wartburg history is end since many time. In the beautiful days of the 1989, the Trabant was the symbol of the freedom, and today it's celebrated by his owners with meetings and clubs. The Wartburg, instead, has been forgotten by the people (except for a "wing" of Trabant's owners that likes the "metallic" sound of the 3-cylinders two-stroke engines), and, from the status of "better sister" of the Trabant, it's passed to the status of industrial junk, without the same "appeal" of the cheaper sister. Also here in Italy, all the people preserves the Fiat 500, but we have forgotten the bigger Fiat 131...the "first will be last, and the last will be first". At least about the cars, this phrase, sometime, is true.

Some pic taken from http://www.peterfrost.clara.net/www.rheinlaenderwartburgfreunde.de , http://www.die-besten.de/wartburg/ , www.szatan.de/ , http://www.wartburg.fsnet.co.uk, http://www.htwm.de/wbildung/machbares_und_grenzen.htm

  

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