Saturday, January 24, 2015

1939 Hanomag Diesel Rekordwagen

Hanomag was founded in Hannover, Germany, in 1835. The company specialized in steam engines, but soon expanded into trains, rolling stock, steam road wagons and farm equipment. In 1925 Hanomag ventured into the automotive market with a small, budget car officially called the 2/10PS, but better known as the ‘kommisbrot’ (army loaf). Largely constructed of plywood, with old fashioned wooden spoked wheels and powered by a rear mounted, single cylinder 500cc engine, the kommisbrot was typical of the cyclecars of the period. Nevertheless, it was a popular seller, with slightly under 16,000 being sold.

The success of the kommisbrot led Hanomag to expand into serious car production. In 1928 they introduced a move conventional car, the 3/16PS. This was replaced in 1931 by a new small car called the 1.1 litre. However, it was the introduction in 1934 of the 1.5 litre Hanomag Rekord that really established the company as a force on the German auto scene.

Hanomag Diesel
The diesel engine was first developed in Scotland in the late 19th century as an attempt to improve on the thermal efficiency of industrial steam engines. Rudolf Diesel, after whom the engine is now named, was fortunate enough to demonstrate and patent a practical working engine in 1897. The difference between diesel and petrol engine was in their ignition and carburation systems. A diesel engine has no spark plug or ignition system per se but relies on highly compressing the air within the combustion chamber until the air itself reaches 550 degrees Celsius. At this point – top dead centre in the cycle – a small amount of gaseous fuel is injected into the cylinder which instantly ignites on contact with the super-heated air. As both the fuel and the air are introduced to each other in a highly volatile state, the diesel engine needs far less fuel than a petrol engine. However, the engine's main drawback was that the engine case and pistons need to be far heavier to deal with the higher compression pressures. Consequently they were seen as being more suitable to heavy industrial use, such as in ships engines, driving turbines and in trains.

Rudolf Diesel's engine was no small affair. They were soon being employed in heavy industrial use.

Despite these drawbacks, after the Great Depression, several auto manufacturers saw there was an opportunity to use fuel efficient diesel engines in a motorcar. Citroen was the first company to introduce a diesel engined production car when they introduced the Citroen 11UD "Rosalie" in 1934. In 1936, both Mercedes-Benz and Hanomag presented diesel engine cars at the Berlin Auto Show.

Hanomag had its start with diesel engines in 1934 with diesel engine tractors. The new car originally featured a four cylinder 1.5 litre diesel, but this was soon increased to 1.9 litres. The engine put out a meagre 35PS. Sold as an option for the successful Hanomag Rekord, sales were relatively modest. Out of the 19,000 Hanomag Rekords sold only 1,100 were Hanomag Diesels.

The Rekordwagen
Wanting to promote the efficiency of its diesel engine, Hanomag’s management turned to motor sport. Although several one-off diesel cars had been raced in time trials in the United States and Great Britain in the 1920’s, Hanomag had the field to themselves for production cars with engines under 2 litres.

The Rekordwagen was fashioned from a standard Hanomag Diesel Rekord chassis and 1.9 litre D engine. The standard D engine was designed for fuel economy, not performance. In fact, the challenges of adjusting the early fuel injector technology to get more power, was perceived as one of the underlying weaknesses of the diesel engine. The engineering team managed to tune the engine to give it a little more oomph, but at 40HP the engine couldn’t really be described as high performance. Hanomag compensated for the lower horsepower by fitting the car with a streamlined aluminum body that was mounted on a lightweight tube frame.

On 8 February 1939, the Hanomag Diesel Rekordwagen was ready to make its debut. The stretch of autobahn between Dessau and Leipzig provided the track.

Days before, Hanomag’s rival, a Mercedes-Benz W154 had set a land speed record for a petrol engine car from a standing start with a speed in excess of 400 kph.

The Mercedes-Benz W154 trial car lines up on the Dessau autobahn. This car was built specially for the standing start speed record.

The Rekordwagen set four world records. The first record was 89.5kph over a mile from a standing start. Once it had reached speed, it achieved a maximum speed of 156kph over both a 5 kilometre and a 5 mile course. In comparison with the Mercedes-Benz’ record, the Rekordwagen’s performance was rather modest, but Hanomag were under no illusions that they were in the same league as Germany’s premier automobile manufacturer. The Rekordwagen had done what its makers had set out to achieve – demonstrate to the world that diesel engines were capable of more than powering tractors and that Hanomag was at the cutting edge of diesel engine design.

The Dessau run proved to be the Rekordwagen’s one and only moment in the spotlight. It did not race again and was put in storage. Later, during the Second World War, the Allies bombed Hannover into rubble and Hanomag’s factory, which manufactured trucks and half-tracks for the German army, was destroyed. The Rekordwagen was destroyed along with all plans, designs and records.

For many years the only evidence of the Rekordwagen’s existence was a handful of publicity photographs taken on the Dessau autobahn. Then, in 2006, came the unexpected discovery of a complete set of plans and specifications for the Rekordwagen. A small group of Hanomag enthusiasts began discussing the idea of building a replica of the car. In 2007 the group was provided a donor chassis and standard engine, which they restored. Using the designs a tube body frame was constructed. By 2012 the car was fully functional, if somewhat skeletal in appearance. Details of the project can be found here:

The donor chassis.

The tube frame built to the original design

Taking shape

The chassis and frame come together

On the 75th anniversary of the car’s record breaking run, the incomplete but running Rekordwagen attended the commemorative race program at Dessau and even took to the A9. The car is currently on display at the Junkers Museum in Dessau beneath the wings of the museum’s signature Junkers Ju52 ‘Tante Ju.’

The final step in the project involved complete skinning the car with its distinctive aluminum body. This was estimated to cost 60,000 euros.

The project is finally completed. Hanomag historian and project director, Horst-Dieter Gorg (left) unveils the completed car

New book published in 2015
A German language book covering the development of the Hanomag Diesel Rekordwagen, the Dessau world record, and the reconstruction of the replica will be published shortly.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vintage Collective Markets Show and Shine 18 Jan 2015

Vintage Collective Markets Show and Shine 18 January 2015

The Vintage Collective Market is a celebration of all things vintage, from cars, bikes, clothing, records and memorabilia. As part of the event they held a classic car show and shine. A variety of cars of all shapes and sizes attended.

Eight cars from SIVA attended. Ironically perhaps, six of the cars were red, which made for a dramatic display.

1966 Renault Alpine. This is a lovely little two seater sportster.

Studebaker Hawk

VW Karmann Ghia and Renault's answer, the Caravelle.  The Caravelle was also styled by Ghia (and the Frua company, which styled the very similar Floride).

Rows and rows of cars. It was a hot and dry 36c.

Combi Collective

Cadillac Eldorado

There was a bit of a display by the Austin club


Hot Rod row

The markets made the day a little different.

Barber shop display

Vintage caravans

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.