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Founded by Heinrich Ehrhardt in 1896, a successful German industrialist who, among other concerns, was responsible for the creation of the the 2nd largest cannon manufacturing facility in Germany (behind Krupp). His new company started out manufacturing bicycles, military transporters, taxi’s and even omnibuses, however the “Autocar” introduced at the 1898 Dusseldorf car exhibition was generally ignored by the public. Determined to bring an automobile to market, Ehrhardt  gave up on the Autocar, instead courting French concern Decauville and obtaining a licence to manufacture their cars as a Wartburg – the name derived from the Wartburg Castle which overlooks the town of Eisenach where his factory was located.

The relationship with Decauville would only last until 1904, Wartburg being bought out by Dixi, and in turn that operation being taken over by BMW. The story would have finished there, but after World War 2 the (now East German) company was re-established and for a time continued to use the BMW name, producing pre-war BMW 321’s, 326’s and 327’s. The West German BMW concern was none too happy about the continued use of their name, and in 1952 (following the departure of the Russians), were able to convince their East German counterparts to change the name to EMW, and the logo from the blue-on-white propeller to a red-white cross. The 340 remained the flagship, the now well outdated 6-cylinder BMW engine remaining as the sole power-plant.

In January 1956 the company reverted back to the name used so many decades ago – Wartburg – and released the F9 model. But like all other Eastern Block auto manufacturers, Wartburg would be far from cutting edge, the chasm between East and West automotive technology growing exponentially each year, until the Wartburg could best be described with one word – prehistoric.

Wartburg 311  

Wartburg 311

1956 - 1962
Without official party permission, and under the strictest security, development of the 311 took place - EMW determined to at least manufacture a modest, modern middle class vehicle. More >>
Wartburg 353 Knight

Wartburg 353 Knight and Tourist

1966 - 1976
Those that parted with their cash soon learned the car did not handle all that well, nor did it offer a particularly comfortable ride. Many bemoaned the low rent decor and crude steering set-up. The allure of the cheap entry price (£619) and list of standard features were soon forgotten. Yes, there was good reason not to buy a Wartburg Knight - they were bloody awful. More >>
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