Wednesday, 10 July 2013

DKW Schnellaster

Words & photos: Daniel Bevis

Launched in 1949, the DKW F89 L, also known as the Schnellaster, is very cutely named. If ambitiously. 'Schnellaster' translates as 'rapid transporter', which is a strong selling point for a commercial vehicle, but something of a misnomer for a van powered by a 700cc two-stroke twin-cylinder engine, its pre-war design offering a humble 20bhp. The skin on your rice pudding is entirely safe.
That said, thrust was upped to a heady 22bhp in 1952, while 1955 saw an upgrade to a 900cc three-cylinder, offering a frankly red-hot 32bhp...

It was a pretty revolutionary design for its day, the monospace format predating the likes of the Renault Espace and Dodge Caravan by a number of decades. It also had a sweetly dumb, vaguely insectoid face, as well as a hugely practical flat floor throughout the load space and flexible seating configurations.
It's quite a rare beast today - this is the nature of commercial vehicles, they tend to get used hard and thrown away - so finding one is something of a boon. And their quirky design characteristics (suicide doors, oh-so-basic cabin, vast glasshouse) mean they have a lot of crossover with the aircooled VW scene. So what happens to them? Their rust and patina remains in situ, they get slammed to the ground, and their fresh Cal-look wheels explore the outer limits of negative camber. And that's cool.

Spotted at the 2013 Retro Show - click here for more photos

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