Sunday, January 11, 2015

1935 Maier Leichtbau

In 2008 Jorg Jansen, a German auto enthusiast, heard a rumour of a strange car hidden away at the back of a panel beater’s workshop in Krefeld, Germany. Sure enough, when he pulled back the dust covered sheet, the car he saw defied description. It looked like a cross between a Tatra and one of the  Volkswagen prototypes, but the name on the manufacturer’s plate – Maier – was unfamiliar. The car had no papers and the manufacturer's plate provided only scant information:Vehicle Number LM 050 1/35. Motor Number 386418, 20 horsepower. bore 76. Hubs 76. Weight 684 kg. Total weight 1034 kg. The rear mounted, air-cooled engine was clearly Volkswagen and Jansen wondered if he'd perhaps stumbled upon an unknown coachbuilt pre-prototype.  On closer inspection he realized that the engine and running gear was not original to the car but transplanted from a late 60s Beetle.

The car as it was found in 2008. It had been repainted at the former owner's request but the restoration was never finished.

Jansen tracked down the owner and purchased the car but the seller had little information about the car except a scant few photographs. Jansen completed the restoration, got the car running again and took it to the Schloss Dyck Classic Day in Grevenbroich where he put out a call for more information. The car drew the attention of Dutch auto historian, Herman Van Oldeneel, who began an investigation. Van Oldeneel managed to track down 12 of Maier's patents which had been lodged in the US. Slowly, the story of the car began to be pieced together.

Frederich Maier, a mechanical engineer who had worked to the German aircraft manufacturer, Junkers, was one of many people who responded to Adolf Hitler’s call to build ‘the people’s car’ at the 1933 Berlin Auto Show. Maier already had a few automotive patents to his name for such modern features as adjustable height seats and the self-supporting all steel body shell. He set about building a modern steel car in his modest workshop in Berlin. The car had a number of cutting edge features including a central headlight that pivoted as you turned the wheel and a rear mounted engine. He used a trusty DKW two cylinder, two stroke engine of 692ccs. The car was named the Maier lightweight sedan and may have been exhibited at the 1934 or 35 Berlin Auto Show, but he did not get a contract to build the car and it never entered series production.

A copy of the car patent showing the design details, including the original engine layout.

Maier’s engineering business was destroyed during the War and his fortunes never really recovered. His vehicle patents were commandeered by the Allies as war booty, leaving him penniless. The car was long forgotten and was sitting abandoned in a cow shed outside Berlin. In 1975 the now derelict car was used by a movie company as wreck in the WW2 mini-series ‘Tadelloser and Wolff’, however,  needing to get the car moving for another scene in series, they ripped out its original engine and drive and replaced it with a Volkswagen 1500cc engine.

The car as seen in the Tadelloser and Wolff TV series. This is the only image we have showing the car as it was built. Shortly after this the engine and drive train was replaced with Volkswagen running gear.

In 1976 Maier died in poverty and obscurity. His estranged daughter sold the car and Maier’s Peugeot 202 to the movie props company in Aachen in 1976 and all of Maier’s paperwork, including patents and vehicle designs were thrown away.

The Maier in storage.

The car was put in storage until it was sold to Mr Heinz Bird in the 1980s. The car at that time was pale blue. Bird eventually sent the car to the panel beater in Krefeld for restoration. By this time the car’s origin had been long forgotten and everyone thought it was an early Volkswagen so it was painted in same (rather awful) bright red as the Volkswagen Museum’s V3 replica. However, Bird lost interest in the project and the car languished for years in the back of the Krefeld workshop until Jansen discovered it in 2007.

The Maier in the mechanics workshop. The suspension is original.

Photos of the Maier at Schloss Dyck.

Since then the Maier car has been seen out at many German classic car events where it draws considerable attention. It is currently on display at the Junkers Museum in Dessau as Maier had worked for Junkers during the 1920s and early 30s.

The Maier was placed on display at the Junkers Museum at Dessau as part of the commemorative display.

On the motorway for the Dessau commemoration in 2014

Jorg Jansen and Herman van Oldeneen are still keen to find more information about Maier or the car. If you have some information to share, Jansen can be contacted at and van Oldeneen at

Some links:,10809148,25774532.html
Photos from Schloss Dyck Oldtimer Treffen.

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