Saturday, October 8, 2016

Surviving Auto-Union Cars in Australia

Pre-War DKWs in Australia

Auto-Union's records reveal that 1290 DKW cars were shipped to Australia between 1935 and 1939. They sold surprisingly well given their unorthodox features. They were especially well regarded in the country where their robustness and minimal maintenance requirements were appreciated. The first cars to arrive in 1935 featured German built bodies, but Australia's high tariffs made them uneconomical as budget cars. Auto-Union overcame this by negotiating with domestic body-builders to body DKW's bare chassis. Separate companies bodied DKWs in each state to a general template, but with significant local variations. These variations from the Auto-Union template became a source of dissatisfaction at company headquarters due to the poor quality of some of the workmanship.

1935 DKW F5 (Queensland)

This German imported 1935 DKW F5 is currently in Queensland. The owner is planning on downsizing and is considering selling this car, along with two F7 restoration projects. Contact me for information (as at 7 December 2019).

1936 DKW F5

Restored Cars Magazine featured two DKWs restored by Des Fullard in their July-August 2005 edition. This was his very fine and original condition F5, certainly one of the earliest surviving DKW's in Australia and possibly one of the first batch imported by R Williams in Victoria. The body is German styled with a smooth sweep along the doorline to the boot.

1936 DKW F7 roadster (South Australia)

Graham Shipton restored this 1937 DKW F7 roadster in around 2010. The car has since been sold but remains in South Australia.

1937 DKW custom racer

At the end of his roadster project (above) Graham had enough spare parts to build this custom racer using a shortened F7 chassis, standard 688cc two cylinder two-stroke engine and a custom aluminum body. Graham continues to race the car at the Winton Classic races in Queensland.

1937 DKW F7 (Victoria)

This chassis, engine and assorted panels was posted for sale on eBay in late 2015. It had been recovered by the seller's father in rural Victoria some 20 years earlier but he never got around to restoring it. Its current whereabouts are unknown.

1937 DKW F7 (Tasmania)

This roadster bodied F7 has recently come to light in Tasmania. It's in the process of being restored.

1937 DKW F7 (Western Australia)

This 1937 DKW F7 has spent its entire life with one Perth family. It was purchased in Busselton in 1939 and still has its original order paperwork. The original selling agent was Auto Union DKW Sales Ltd, 442 Murray Street, Perth. This company was formed in 1938 and wound up in 1942 by which time the remaining stock of DKWs would have been cleared.

Contemporary photo of the car shortly after its original purchase.

1937 DKW F7 Saloon (Western Australia)

This DKW F7 saloon was purchased in 1976 in South Africa and transported to Perth with the intention of being restored. It is now being restored with a reproduction German body.

1937 DKW F7 roadster (South Australia)

DKW enthusiasts, Paul and Jill W found this DKW roadster in country South Australia several years ago.

The restoration was completed in mid-2016 and the car debuted at that year's Bay to Birdwood. It has also been featured in Restored Cars Magazine.

1937 DKW roadster (Victoria)

This roadster was posted for sale in Just Cars in 2016. Current status and location unknown.

1937 DKW F7 cabriolet (Victoria)

This DKW F7 is owned by one of the members of the Historic German Vehicle Register (formerly the DKW Club of Australia) and is regularly used at club events in Melbourne.

1937 DKW F7 Sunroof model (Victoria)

A new vehicle on this list is a finely restored sunroof model in Victoria.

1937 DKW F7 (Northern Territory)

This DKW F7 roadster is being restored in Darwin. The owner intends to install a German built wood and faux-leather body supplied by a German DKW restorer.

1937 DKW F7 roadster (Queensland)

This roadster has come to light in Queensland. It was recently posted for sale on eBay as a package with the utility (below).

1937 DKW Ute (Queensland)

Sharing the shed with the roadster is this DKW utility and spare parts from another couple of DKWs

1937 DKW F7 (Queensland)

These two 1938 DKW F7's were featured in the May-June 2016 Restored Cars magazine #236.

This car is now up for sale (November 2022) -

1937 DKW roadster (Victoria)

The second car in the Restored Cars article (above) was unrestored but running and licensed. It was sold shortly after the Restored Cars article and is now in South Australia.

1937 DKW sedan and roadster (South Australia)
These two DKWs under a lean-to in South Australia appeared for sale on eBay in 2012. The seller intended to sell the sedan and restore the roadster themselves. I don't believe the cars sold at that time and their current whereabouts are unknown.

1937 DKW F7 sedan (South Australia)

This South Australian bodied F7 came up for sale in October 2017 and was quickly purchased. who is the new owner?

1937 DKW F7 utility (Victoria)

This DKW F7 was given a utility body by coach-builders J.A Lawton and Sons in South Australia. It was restored in South Australia some time ago but now resides in Victoria.

1938 DKW F7 sunroof model (Western Australia)

This wonderfully restored DKW F7 with canvas soft-top is possibly one of the last pre-war DKWs to arrive in Australia. The story is that a shipment of DKW rolling chassis arrived in Port Adelaide in 1939 shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. The stevedores refused to unload the German cars so they were carried on to Fremantle in Western Australia. The Fremantle stevedores were not so fussy and the cars were offloaded and handed over to a local coachwork firm, Boltons. They installed steel bodies on the cars which were quite different in detail from the bodies manufactured by the official Australian coach builders.

1938 DKW F7 roadster (South Australia)

A recently acquired restoration project in Adelaide. It also features a radiator grill with an RM badge (see below).

1938 DKW F7 Project (Victoria)

This F7 project car has appeared on Facebook marketplace in July 2022. It's located in Melbourne.

1939 DKW F7 (South Australia)

This 1939 DKW came up from sale in South Australia in 2018. Interestingly, the car is not badged as a DKW but as an RM 8. With the declaration of war in 1939, Regent Motors in Melbourne found itself with a stock of unsellable German cars. Creatively, they removed the DKW logo and Auto-Union badging and rebranded the car the Regent Motors 8 (8 being the taxable horsepower rating). This car sold quickly. Who picked this up?

1938 DKW F7 utility

This DKW F7 was given a utility body by dealers and coach-builders Kellow-Falkiner of Melbourne.
The story of the car was published in the German Auto-Union Veteranen Club magazine in the 1980s, which I have translated here:

The ute is now on display at the Museum of Vehicle Evolution in Shepparton, Victoria.

1938 DKW F7 sunroof model

This sunroof sedan was also bodied by Kellow-Falkiner in Melbourne.

This car is also on display at the Shepparton museum.

1937 DKW F7 Roadster (Victoria)

And rounding out the Shepparton museum collection is this fine roadster model.

1938 DKW F7 Coupe (Victoria)

Despite being mislabled as an F8 Meisterklasse, this is an F7 with an Adelaide built body. It is owned by a member of the Historic German Vehicle Register and was photographed at the German Auto Show in Melbourne in 2016.

1938 DKW F7 Special (New South Wales)

This special was constructed from parts with improvements for racing.

1940 DKW F8 (South Australia)

This post-war imported F8 is awaiting restoration with a DKW enthusiast in South Australia.

If the surviving pre-war DKWs tell us anything then it is that the roadster body was the most popular seller in Australia. These roadster bodies substantially differed from the German roadster version and were more similar to contemporary MG bodies.

Post-War DKWs in Australia

After the war there were high hopes that DKW would return to Australia, however, DKW were not in a position to begin exporting until after 1953. Regent Motors, DKW's primary agent in Australia, imported five 1951 DKW F89P sedans which they exhibited at the 1953 Melbourne Motor Show. Further sales however were not forthcoming due to import duties. A small number of Schnellaster commercial vans were however sold.

Five years later Standard Motors of Victoria, another of DKWs pre-war agents, imported 9 DKW F93s and an Auto Union 1000s, but by this stage Volkswagen had established themselves in Australia and were dominating the small car market. Standard's cars did not sell, pretty much bringing to an end Auto Union's attempt to re-enter the Australian market.

In 1992 the DKW Club of Australia believed that in addition to the above, the number of DKWs imported to Australia were as follows:
Up to 1958 - 92 DKWs privately imported;
1959 - 2 Auto Unions and 4 DKWs;
1960 - 2 DKWs;
1961 - 4 DKWs.

From a licensing register in Victoria in 1961, showed that state had the following DKW cars registered:

There was even a single IFA F9 registered in the state!

Early post-war DKWs were so rare in Australia that some of the survivors were believed to be unique in the country.  They weren't. Known survivors include:

1951 DKW F89P Meisterklasse (NSW)

This very early 1951 DKW F89P coupe is probably the oldest post-war DKW in Australia. It was part of a shipment of five DKWs sent to Australia to test the market and was possibly the DKW displayed at the 1951 Melbourne Motor Show. The car was featured in the Restored Cars article about Des Fullard's DKW collection mentioned at the top of the page.

1951 DKW F89P Meisterklasse (Queensland)

Who would have thought there would be two survivors from the 1951 batch?  And in the same grey-blue. Unfortunately this example was left to decay for many years before it was taken in for restoration. It's gone through several hands in recent years but is now waiting on restoration.

1951 DKW F89L Schnellaster

This 8-seater bus was restored by 'Mr DKW' Bill Dean. It spent many years with the Dean family after Bill passed but has recently changed hands several times.

1951 DKW F89L Schnellaster

This very early DKW Schnellaster was part of a consignment of DKW vans purchased by Carpet Care. They were used as part of a corporate fleet for only about five or six years before they were replaced with more powerful vehicles. This, the only survivor, was found on a farm in Gippsland and restored by Ross Noble. For many years the car was on display at the Maffra Transport Museum.

1953 DKW F89P Meisterklasse (Western Australia)

This 1953 DKW F89P export-model was imported from Portugal and is now being slowly restored.

1955 DKW F93 Sonderklasse (Victoria)

This DKW on club plates was spotted in Muckleford, Victoria. Who owns it? By its radiator grill screen it looks like F93 Sonderklasse, the successor of the F91. DKW would shortly thereafter drop the Sonderklasse moniker.

1957 DKW F93 (New South Wales)

This 1957 F93 is a recent import from South Africa.

1958 DKW F93 (New South Wales)

This car was part of the well known horde of European cars from country NSW. After changing hands several times recently the car is now being restored by Craig S in Sydney.

1958 Auto-Union 1000 (Queensland)

This car was one of the original ten imported by Standard Motors in 1959 to test the market. None of the cars sold and all were eventually abandoned. The car was restored in the 1980s.

1958 Auto-Union 1000 (South Australia)

Jill and Paul of Adelaide's other DKW is this 1958 F93. This car was restored ten years ago and has since done 20,000 kilometers without missing a beat.

1958 Auto-Union 1000 (South Australia)

This Auto-Union 1000S is on display at the Goolwa Motor Museum in South Australia.

1958 Auto-Union 1000S (Victoria)

This Auto-Union model is also on display at the Shepparton museum, which, having four cars, must hold the largest collection of DKWs in Australia.

1958 DKW F94 Universal (Victoria)

This Universal was part of the famous NSW horde. It was salvaged by a Victorian collector but has since changed hands and is under restorations.

1959 DKW F93 (New South Wales)

Willie S in Perth acquired this car from South Australia many years ago and restored it to showroom condition. For many years it was the only post-war DKW in Perth until I imported mine. The car was purchased by the Gosford Classic Car Museum in NSW when Willie downsized his collection in 2016. When Gosford Museum closed in 2018 the car was auctioned off. It is now with a new owner in Sydney.

1959 DKW F94 (Western Australia)

My car, a 'rare' four door sedan imported from South Africa. Four door cars were not particularly strong sellers in Germany and were mainly only used as taxis. They were far more popular in South Africa and South America, where they survive in reasonable numbers.

1959 Auto-Union 1000SP (Victoria)

This rare 1000SP has been widely traveled, having been imported to Australia from South Africa via New Zealand. It was rather inadequately restored in New Zealand with paint, panel and engine issues. It passed through several hands until early 2018 when it was taken on by a new owner who undertook its restoration back to its original sky blue colour scheme. It's a stunning result.

1960 Auto-Union 1000S (Victoria)

This Auto-Union 1000S with panoramic wrap around windscreen was an import from South Africa. It was in Queensland but has changed hands several times since the original owner passed away. It's now under restoration with an enthusiast in Victoria.

1960 DKW F89L 3=6

This 3=6 engined Schnellaster sat at the Melbourne Bus Museum for many years before it was eventually sold. It has apparently passed through several hands since and its current whereabouts and condition is unknown. Update November 2022 - apparently the van is in the UK.

1961 Auto-Union 1000/60 Universal

This rare factory right-hand drive Saxomat Universal was also part of the NSW horde. It was retrieved in 2015 and placed in storage awaiting restoration. It recently changed hands (2020) and looks like it will be restored properly soon.

1962 Auto-Union 1000SP Coupe (Western Australia)

This rare DKW 1000SP coupe is another single family vehicle. It was purchased by the current owner's grandfather new in Germany and driven in Europe until the family migrated to Australia. It was licensed until the mid-1990s before being parked away. It's now undergoing restoration to get it back on the road.
I've been told the car has finished restoration (late 2019) but I have not seen it out yet.

1963 DKW Junior

This DKW Junior was part of the NSW European car horde. I believe it has been taken but do not know its current condition or whereabouts.

1964 Auto-Union 1000SP (Queensland)

This car in Queensland was imported from Switzerland. It was sold in early 2018 and its whereabouts are unknown.

DKW Munga (Victoria)

According to 'The Courier', of Ballarat there are two surviving Munga jeeps in a collection in town. The article mentioned that there were more in Victoria but most were sold, many going overseas.

Wanderers in Australia
Very few Wanderer cars were shipped to Australia but at least two are known.

1924 Wanderer W6.

Twelve Wanderer W6s were imported into Melbourne Australia in 1924 by the Wagner brothers. One car was used for sprints and racing as demo car, but sales were slow and some of the cars were never sold. The unsold cars were left in their crates in a factory till the early 1950's when the Wagner family decided to sell them. One of the cars was purchased by the Audi Museum in Germany for their collection.

This car was one of the unsold Wagner Wanderers is now owned by Chris T. It was in a country museum for many years owned by Diana Davison the wife of GP driver Lex Davison. It had 149 miles on the speedometer. It's had a new end plate on the water pump, oil change and tune up and runs like a dream. The car is the oldest unrestored Australian Grand Prix car as it was entered in the 1928 GP at Phillip Island. It is still used in vintage racing events.

1938 Wanderer W25 roadster

Peter T is the proud owner of a very rare Wanderer W25 roadster. One of a handful worldwide and probably the only one in Australia.

Peter advises, "The car came to Australia in the 1950’s with a migrating Dutch family. It then went to a Geelong family (I believe he ran a car repair workshop). Along the way the original engine failed and was replaced with a Vauxhall engine. It then languished in a field under a pine tree for many years before it was eventually saved by DKW club member Bill Sheehan, about 35 years ago. Bill never did anything with it however, and it further deteriorated so a couple of years ago I persuaded him to part with it. The story was the original engine had been buried along with much other mechanical stuff in the garden of the Geelong property, but the family would not let Bill go and dig it up. When I bought the car I went around to family to see if I could convince them to let me dig in their garden. When I got there the house had been demolished and the land leveled by the Ministry of housing. I paid a large bond and hired an excavator and dug a meter of soil from the whole site and found one saucepan and one boot! I was forced to search in Germany for an engine. Unfortunately, while I managed to find a correct 6 cylinder 2 litre Wanderer engine, it is not the supercharged variety, but beggars cannot be choosers."

The project has come a long way. It has involved a lot of fabrication of bodywork and new parts.

Two restoration shops have been involved in the project at various times.

Horch cars in Australia
The only Horch cars to reach Australia are private imports by collectors. York Museum owner, Peter Briggs, owned a pre-Auto-Union 1932 Horch on display at his Fremantle Motor Museum in the 1990s but this was sold and taken overseas after the museum closed down. A 1935 Horch 853 cabriolet has recently arrived in Perth, where it is undergoing restoration. The car was purchased in the US.

Request for more info
Cars and projects are always popping up from time to time so we know there are many more DKWs and Auto-Unions out there. If you have any info or leads I would happy to hear from you. If you are one of the new owners of any of the cars mentioned that have changed hands, I'd be pleased to hear how you are you are going and offer what help and advice I can.


  1. Paul Hi, David Dunn-Johnston here.I am the owner of the F89 that I am at present restoring in my double garage in our new house up the Sunshine coast in Flaxton.My new address is: 286 Flaxton Drive ,Flaxton 4560, Qld. and my home phone is 07 54786495. My email is: So far I have got the chassis done but will have to redo the engine again because of the long waiting time that it stood idle in Brisbane where I did not have the facilities to do a proper job. Anyway, the last two years have been taken up getting our new property up to scratch but now that is finally done I can get on with the restoration work in ernest. By the way there is a Swiss chap living retired up here who drives a beautifull cream 1000SP convertable which he brought over with him when he immigrated here.My mother-in-law lives in a small town called Woombye and it has an iconic pub.While driving past I spied the 1000SP parked outside and inquired who it belonged to. He gave me a tour of the car and stood me a pint and we chatted on the verandah for a while. Unfortunately I did not get his Ph # but i have been on the lookout for him as he said he lived near me.So you can add that to your list now too.!!

  2. Hey guys,

    The DKW Racer was back at Winton on the weekend! It was fantastic to see on track!