Car Collector Corner: DKW Memories continued
Q: Greg, I heard from my aunt Dorothy Winkler in Pennsylvania you were writing about our family cars, namely the DKW's. It's a good topic and one close to my heart.
Aunt Dorothy had a 1958 wagon and my wife Phyllis and I had a 1960 DKW two-door sedan. You still had to mix oil with the gas back then for the two stroke engine. They were made by a company named Auto Union, which eventually became Audi. Saab used the DWK design engine for many years in the 1950s and 1960s, although they souped up the engine considerably.
The guys at the service station always laughed when Dad had them install snow tires on the front tires as most every other car on the road back then was rear drive. During the bad snow storm of 1962, the county road was blocked for almost two weeks, so we put chains on the front tires and simply drove across the fields to get in and out. Dad was quite imaginative.
In the early 70's, I was moonlighting in the civilian medical lab in Huntsville, Ala. I was stationed at Redstone Arsenal there as the Med Lab NCOIC. I left work around midnight to drive home and noted a car stalled in the middle of the intersection of Governor's Drive.
Seeing it was a DKW I pulled over to assist the guy. I helped him push it over to the shoulder and mentioned we had a similar one back in 1960. This guy was German, and one of Werner von Braun's rocket scientists of which there were still many in Huntsville.
He asked if I wanted to buy it and I said how much? He said, "How about $25?" I said sold.
He gave me his address and mentioned he had many spare parts if I wanted them, too. Wow!
My hobby for many years has been "caving," and Northern Alabama is one of the best places for exploring caves. It helps to have a vehicle that will navigate rough terrain, and since I couldn't afford a 4-wheel drive, I felt the front drive DKW I had just bought would do well.
As you can see from the attached picture I removed the front fenders and the doors and relocated the muffler to the front bumper (made of an angle iron). All of this gave the DKW a completely smooth undercarriage and a very robust front end.
I never got my DKW stuck in two years of driving the boonies and mountains. If I could get the front wheels across or through a section, I was good to go.
I did some research back in the 1970s then and found a shipping record of 13 vehicles arriving at the Port of Jacksonville in the late 1950s. Mine was one of them.
I hope you and all your family had a wonderful Christmas. Phil and Phyllis Winkler, Wilmington, Del.
A: We sure did Phil, and thank you so much for your wonderful letter on those DKW cars and wagons.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18840.)