The 1957 DKW 3=6: Only 7 Moving Parts

April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment


Vintage 1957 automobile ad for the DKW 3=6 2-stroke car

The DKW 3=6 and its "amazingly simple engine" (click to enlarge)

DKW was a German automobile and motorcycle company originally founded by Danish engineer Jorgen Skafte Rasmussen to make steam fittings. The initials actually stand for Dampf-Kraft-Wagen, which in German means “steam-driven car.” By 1919, Rasmussen had turned his attention to two-stroke engines and come up with a motorcycle he called Das Kleine Wunder – or “the little marvel.” According to Wikipedia, this was “the real beginning of the DKW brand: by the 1930s, DKW was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer.”

According the the excellent blog Project Heinkel, at that point, despite the success it had had with motorcycle manufacturing, the Great Depression hit the company hard,  “leading DKW to join with three other Saxon auto manufacturers, Horch, Wanderer and Audi to form Auto Union, the union symbolised by the four interlocking rings that we recognise today as the Audi logo. To avoid competition, each company was given a particular market segment to focus on. Horch retained the top end of the car market, building expensive luxury cars. Wanderer built large saloon cars, while Audi built mid-range cars. DKW however took the lions share of the 1930s market – low cost cars and motorcycles.”

DKW motorcycle ad, circa 1930s

DKW RT 125: probably the most-copied motorcycle of all time (image: Project Heinkel)

The DKW 3=6 was a compact front-wheel-drive (which increased flat floor space) model produced from 1953 to 1959. As Wikipedia explains, the “3=6” name was employed “to highlight an equivalence between the car’s two-stroke three-cylinder engine and a four-stroke six-cylinder engine. The underlying logic was that with the two-stroke cycle there is engine power produced by an explosion within each cylinder for every rotation of the crankshaft: with the four-stroke cycle there is power produced by an explosion within each cylinder only for each alternate rotation of the crankshaft. Thus it was asserted that the two-stroke engine was working twice as hard per rotation of the engine.” Age-net.co.uk says the 3=6 was “was quite an elegant and graceful car, the large wrap-around rear window giving good vision,” and notes that it had some success as a “sporting vehicle:” in 1954, for example, the DKW 3=6 took the first three places in the European Touring Car Championships.

Whatever the quality of their automobiles, if this ad was at all representative of their efforts in that area I think they probably should have employed a different ad agency or graphic designer. It has to be one of the poorest I’ve seen in awhile.

Here is a rather nice shot of a surviving 3=6 by Lothar Spurzem that accompanies the Wikipedia article on the car.

Photo of a DKW vintage automobile by Lothar Spurzem

A DKW 3=6 from a year or two before the ad pictured above appeared (photo: Lothar Spurzem)

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