A PRODUCT OF AUTO -UNION
A”(THOUGH readers of MOTOR SPORT are primarily concerned with highperformance cars, and open-bodied sports-cars in particular, many of us are obliged, for reasons of economy, to run utility models, while others are fortunate enough to stable two cars and, having in the garage a car comparatively expensive to purchase and maintain, interest naturally centres around a really economical vehicle as a supplementary means of
transport. Even so, qualities of good control, smart appearance, and a measure of up-to-dateness or even unorthodoxy in specification are appreciated by such persons in respect of their utility cars. For these reasons we are pleased to be able to give our impressions of the £169 684 c.c. D.K.W. saloon, extending over a fairly varied 800 miles driving, more especially as a test report of another baby car, published last March, aroused considerably more interest than we anticipated and resulted in the direct sale of an appreciable number of the cars in question.
Auto-Union’s great win at lionington last October lends added interest to the D.K.W., which is a product of that important German combine, a fact that materially contributes to pride of ownership. The D.K.W. is technically of outstanding interest, with its ” backbone” frame, independent front suspension by transverse leaf spring, front drive, free wheel transmission and transversely-set twocycle two-cylinder engine. These features combine to provide a degree of controllability and accuracy of handling appealing to enthusiastic drivers, besides giving distinct character to the car. Over and above all that the D.K.W. is truly economical, commanding only a Di tax, and doing a genuine 40 m.p.g., while carrying four adult persons. The price, as tested, is £160. The question at once arises : • What sort of performance is possible with so small an engine with such economy ? The answer is that the D.K.W. will cruise all day very smoothly at 40 m.p.h., or maintain 50 m.p.h. if asked, with a maximum of about 55 m.p.h. down long straights, while its acceleration is quite brisk, and seems to be on an equality with that of the average “Ten.” As , the road-holding is of a high order, as one has come to expect of modern independentlysprung Continentals, a skilful driver can consequently maintain a quite excellent average speed. The two-stroke engine makes, perhaps, rather more noise than a conventional unit when pulling, and four-strokes, Trojan-like, when idling, which it does for a considerable period of town-driving, on account of the free wheel. The free-wheel can be easily locked by a lever on the steering column but as the braking effect of the small power-unit is negligible it is better left in use to contribute to the economy of
running. The front-drive, apart from stiffness of steering when the engine is pulling and a slight tendency to diminish steering accuracy on the over-run at speed, presents no unusual conditions. In brief, the construction of the D.K.W. presents only very minor disadvantages which in no way offset the appreciable advantages thus endowed. The road-holding is excellent. Only when purposely “thrown round” acute bends does the D.K.W. roll and emit THE TWO STROKE FRONT-DRIVE D.K.W. PROVES A VERY FASCINATING AND PRACTICAL ECONOMY CAR momentary slight tyre squeal, and this rolling is merely a spragging outwards of the rear wheels, the body remaining level. It can be put into a slide on wet surfaces, but controls well, with a slight suggestion that it is more stable when the front wheels are driving than on the overrun, though not decisively enough to reflect adversely against front-drive. Much of the D.K.W.’s security centres around its generally solid build. The chassis feels solid, as in fact it is, the body is devoid of rattles and flexing movement, and the front-works remain rigid over all surfaces, a rigidity emphasised by a tendency towards bonnet-panel move
ment. Moreover, the radiator shell is solidly constructed and unobtrusively efficient, as a fitting background to the four-ringed Auto-Union badge. The suspension is on the hard side, promoting an up-and-down movement at low speeds, which has the merit of obviating any sense of lifelessness which sometimes results from the employment of a really rigid frame. At higher speeds this hardness smooths out and in any case road shocks are very effectively insulated from the occupants. Over a very rough private road we held 40 m.p.h. in complete comfort and apparently without embarrassment to the car, where 25 m.p.h. is normal. No pitching is experienced. The steering is stiff when manceuvring, but fairly light when under way, though it stiffens up if the engine is pulling. However, it is pleasantly high-geared, asking about two turns of the small well-placed wheel, lock to lock, and negotiation of congested areas calls for little more than wrist work, while the action is pleasantly smooth and the lower wheel spokes most conveniently spaced. At the lower speeds it is accurate to a degree but on the open road there is a tendency to wander somewhat as the drive fluctuates between pulling and freewheeling, though it is still safe excellent steering. In a similar way the castor action varies from being very quick and positive at times or almost non-existent on the drive. Personally we liked the
collective character of the steering. There is no return action, and wheel vibration occurs only over bad surfaces, the column brackets being noticeably loose. Fast cornering seemed better on the drive than over-run but was not sufficiently abnormal for a driver strange to F.W.D. to decide whether it was the unconventional drive as such, or the more constant feel of the steering occasioned by keeping the throttle open, that gave this impression. Certainly D.K.W. frontdrive calls for no new driving technique. The brakes called for a heavy pedal pressure for rapid stops and, while they slowed the car well, they tailed off at low speed and could have been more power ful. They were progressive for casual stops and absolutely ” square ‘ • in action. Towards the end of the test they squealed occasionally under heavy application, but showed no appreciable diminution of power. The hand lever is placed very conveniently between the seats, holds the car effectively, and has a simple ratchet that works well. The brake warning light displayed a tendency to stay alight after the pedal was released. The little two-cylinder two-cycle engine is a willing worker and very smooth, except for bad vibration when pulling at a certain speed in second. It responded at once to the accelerator and had no flat spots. When idling it four strokes rather audibly but one has the satisfaction of knowing one is conserving fuel and saving wear and tear. The free-wheel engages smoothly and at around 40 m.p.h. the running is effortless, with more noise as the maximum is reached. On top gear
it is possible to run down to .about 10 m.p.h. and acute corners can be taken without a change down if one is content thereafter to crawl up to 25 m.p.h. On first acceleration is rapid to 20 m.p.h., when one goes into second, changing into top at 30 to 35 m.p.h., though the brisk acceleration on second can be con tinued to 40 m.p.h. if desired. Some pinking is evident on straight fuels. Starting from cold is rapid if assisted by a little choke and it is normal to drive hard at once. Naturally economy of running is of major interest and we carried out a fairly careful test. Over eight gallons, six of expensive and two of cheap fuel, we recorded 38.1 m.p.g. In climbing trials hills and fast road work
we did 36 m.p.g., in extensive town pottering 39 m.p.g., and finally, in mixed town running with much restarting, covered exactly 80 miles On 2 gallons of 1/5 Dominion fuel. 45 m.p.g. should certainly be possible on straightforward running. Lubrication is effected by putting in a pint of Shell oil with 3 gallons of fuel, no mixing being necessary. With the last 2 gallons we used only half a pint
of oil with no apparent detrimental effects, an average of 1,289 m.p.g.moreover, there is no oil to change. There is a reserve fuel supply, the tap being under the bonnet, and although the engine doesn’t give sufficient warning of starvation to prevent it stopping it restarts almost instantly on the reserve. The 6 volt Dynastart gives silent starting. The gear-lever protrudes as a downward pointing crank from the centre of the dash. To engage first it is pulled out and
pushed leftwards, second gear is push in. and over to the right, top straight over to the left. Reserve is opposite bottom. The lever worked a little stiffly, perhaps because the various connecting links appear to have been unlubricated. But quick wrist movements put the changes through very well, doubledeclutching being required for downward changes, though bottom could be engaged at low speed with a single movement of the clutch, on account of the free-wheel. The clutch has a long pedal movement and bites towards the end of the travel, but nevertheless engages smoothly with no trace of slip. Pedal pressure is moderate. There is some transmission noise in top, and the indirects are not appreciably
noisier. The transmission was taut.
We found the D.K.W. especially attractive as -a town car and, as has been emphasised, its road-holding and steering qualities render it a fast proposition over winding roads. On arterial highways it is notable how many larger cars are passed by maintaining a cruising speed of 50. m.p.h. and using one’s skill on open bends. Long hills can be taken in top, gear, the little engine pulling strongly, but naturally use of the gears is advisable if one is in a hurry. Turning to details, the seats, adjustable bucket-type with folding backs in front, are comfortable and well set and the major controls nicely positioned. The accelerator, which has a fairly stiff spring, is a shade closer to the brake pedal than is advisable and the brake pedal is rather far above it. The near-side wing is invisible, but on a small car this is of comparative unimportance and visibility is really very good. The body is in keeping with the sense Of rigidity conveyed by the frame design, with two big doors that shut easily, taut windows, and plain serviceable cloth upholstery. It was silent save for slight door-rattle The doors have pockets. There are two excellent cubby holes in the dash, and a useful interior light. There are no running boards and entry and egress is Unimpeded either side of the car. The lights are adequate for fast after-dark driving, with good dimming arrangements. Criticisms concern the fact that the lamp switch is tucked away behind the steering -wheel, which is inconvenient as it incorporates the dimmer control, the lack of a screen wiper for the passenger and rather limited arc of that for the driver, a tendency to steam up internally on a cold day with both windows shut, a nonopenable screen, a rather low-toned horn, and absence of a rear blind. Against that must be set an excellent wiper switch on the motor-box on the screen base, permitting accurate parking of the blade. The facia carries, left to right, -cubby hole, speedometer, choke below, -dash light, fuel gauge, gear-lever, direction indicator switch, light switch and ignition lock below, cubby hole, wiper box and switch above. The speedometer registers in -miles and m.p.h., with no trip, the fuel gauge registers after a plunger is operated _and shows the amount in reserve down to zero (it seemed consistent but optimistic as to total quantity), the direction indicators are non-cancelling but there is a most useful warning light in the switch .centre, and the ignition key looks essentially thief-proof. There is a dynamo.charging window but no ammeter and, naturally, no oil-gauge is needed. In spite of the front drive, the tubular frame necessitates a central tunnel, but the rear seat could probably be occupied by three persons if the central passenger had adaptable legs. The rear side windows give an excellent view but the rear window is small for reversing visibility and the view in the central mirror rather limited. The front windows wind efficiently ; the .off-side handle is apt to foul the driver’s elbow. The steering lock is commendably taxi-like. The view from the driving seat is rather reminiscent of that of a Lancia ” Augusta,” the unplated radiator shell having sharply sloping sides. The filler cap is of screw pattern ; the under bonnet fuel tank has a plug-in cap. The wings keep the car fairly clean and with its easy Contours and disc wheels the D.K.W. should be readily kept presentable
in appearance. There is a generous built-in luggage space behind the rear seat.
Any objection to front-drive should be removed by our foregoing impressions and the fact that in following a trial the D.K.W. successfully climbed, the very slippery. Coldharbour Hill. Certainly the front wheels, shod of course with standard Dunlop ” 90 ” 4″ X 19″ covers, sent out don& of steam as they spun merrily, but the car never faltered. Subsequently we got nearly up Temple Hill, after it had been churned up by competing cars. Right at the summit the spin lowered our speed and we came to rest, only to restart almost unaided. With some of Mr. Dunlop’s competition tyres on the front we should enjoy tackling trials in a D.K.W. In conclusion, we like this little car very much indeed. Its unconventional specification makes it a real possession of unflagging interest to those who appreciate the practical application of ultra-modern automobile engineering practice, as instanced by independent front suspension, front-drive, back-bone frame construc tion and free-wheel. Apart from that, the D.K.W. possesses those excellent steering, springing and road-holding qualities which are a feature of modern Continental products, and which particularly appeal to sports-car enthusiasts, allied to low first cost and really econ omical functioning. The model tested was the Special Saloon, priced at 0:69, available in blue, grey, maroon or black, relieved by a plated waist-line. Equipment includes Bakelite facia, Solex carburetter, and Dunlop tyres. The twocylinder two-stroke engine is of conventional crankcase-compression type with flat top pistons and inverted scavenging, developing 20 b.h.p. Cooling is thermosyphonic, the capacity being 4 gallons, the Solex quick-start carburetter has a big cleaner and silencer, and the 6 volt dynamo, ignition distributor and starter is a single unit driven direct from the crankshaft, with automatic advance and retard. This engine should require remarkably little servicing to maintain in good tune. It drives via a multi-disc oil-filled clutch to the three-speed and reverse gearbox, combined as a unit with engine and differential. Front drive is via jointed shafts. Front suspension is transverse leaf, and the same system is used at the back with the wheels tied
by a floating non-roll axle. The shockabsorbers are hydraulic. Worm steering is used, the brakes are cable operated With hand adjustment, and chassis lubrication is by grease-gun. The D.K.W. is a product of Auto-Union A.G.; which controls D.K.W., Audi, notch and Wanderer products, and full particulars are available from Messrs. Auto-Union (Sales) Ltd., 151-153 Great Portland Street, London, V.1 ( Langham 3939). In his recent lecture before the I.A.E. Mr. Platt estimated that up to Tuly of last year there were 232,000 of these twocylinder D.K.W. ears in use in Germany. More specialised editions are the” Master” and ” De Luxe” series, costing L189 and .6259 respectively.