Emil and Bernhard Stoewer
In the North German seaport of Stettin, in the province of Pomerania, the Stoewer ironworks was an important feature of commercial life in the late 1890's. Founded in 1858 by Bernhard Stoewer, the company originally manufactured sewing machines, later branching out into typewriters and bicycles. In 1897, Bernhard's sons, Emil and Bernhard, began building motorbicycles, tricycles and quadricycles powered by De Dion engines built under licence in Aachen by Max Cudell.
The 1899 Berlin Exhibition
One of these vehicles won a silver medal at the 1899 Berlin Exhibition; but already the Gebruder Stoewer had their sights set on something more ambitious, for the first full size Stoewer car was on the road within a couple of months. The new model was a somewhat bloated phaeton with its 2.1-liter twin-cylinder engine mounted at the rear, driving the rear axle through a three-speed transmission and side chains. Even by the standards of 1899, this was an outdated-looking machine, so its replacement in 1901 with a more modern design, a front-engined four-cylinder car closely modelled on the contemporary Panhard & Levassor, was inevitable.
From an engineering standpoint, the Stoewers were conservative and cautious, preferring to take their inspiration from proven designs: and this family trait led them to hitch their wagon to a falling star, for the Panhard was no longer the leader of automotive fashion. That cachet had passed to the Mercedes: so, inevitably, the next new design took its lead from Cannstatt rather than Paris, with a pressed-steel chassis, side valves in T-headed, pair-cast cylinders and chain final drive (though there was also a shaft-driven twin-cylinder voiturette with a 1.5-liter engine).
Abandoning Chain Drive
In fact, the Stowers were quick to abandon chain drive, which perhaps showed that they were gaining sufficient confidence to swim against the tide of fashion, and in 1906 they moved into the forefront of the German luxury car trade with the announcement of the P6 six-cylinder model, a car designed for effortless, smooth, silent progress rather than shattering performance. Which was just as well, as its 8820cc engine developed no more than 55-60 bhp, sufficient to propel the heavy car at 55-60 mph.
Kaiser Wilhelm II
But the car was engineered to the very highest standards. The crankshaft ran in four main bearings, the carburetor had automatic air regulation and there were two spark plugs per cylinder, fired by Bosch low-tension magneto ignition. Kaiser Wilhelm II found the model so appealing to his Hohenzollern sense of the spectacular that he ordered one; in 1907 and 1908 Bernhard Stoewer drove a P6 in the Herkomer Trials without success, though in the 1908 Prinz Heinrich Fahrt both Bernhard's P6 and Emil's P4 four-cylinder models attracted attention by their refined manner of going (though it still didn't help them finish in the money).
The P6 remained in production until the end of 1910, when, in deference to current German taste, it was replaced by a four-cylinder model, the B4, with a 4.9-liter engine - it was also available with a 4.5-liter Silent Knight engine built in Coventry by Daimler. Meanwhile, Stoewer had continued to develop their light car range: in 1910 the Type B6 had appeared, with a longstroke 2025cc engine developing around 22 bhp and capable of nearly 50 mph: this design was also built under licence by Mathos of Strasbourg, an arrangement which gave Stoewer access to the Alsatian company's sophisticated distribution and sales network (though it was discontinued, along with the B6, at the end of 1912).
The first Stoewer appeared in 1899. It was a four-seater phaeton, powered by a 2.1 liter engine mounted at the rear and driving the rear axle through a three-speed transmission and side chains.
1927 Stoewer two-seater runabout.
Backbone chassis from a 1936 Stoewer Grief Junior, powered by a 1600cc air cooled engine.
1931 Stoewer Reprasentant, good looking and powered by a 4.9 liter eight cylinder engine.
1930's Stoewer cutaway diagram.
1935 Stoewer Tourer. It was during this period that the company found itself in dire financial difficulty, forcing the State of Prussia to intervene to ensure the safety of the jobs of the Stoewer workforce.
Rear suspension setup of the Stoewer Grief model. The Grief was fitted with a V8 engine and was front-wheel-drive.
The Flying Kilometre
This wasn't the first time that Stoewers had appeared under false colours; in 1908 a batch of 1.5-liter G4s had been built for NAG
, who endowed them with their own coachwork and radiators. The successor to the G4, the 1912 6/16PS B5 offered excellent performance for the period, and periodically during the latter part of 1912, Turner-Smith attacked the mile and kilometre records at Brooklands
: in June, he covered the flying kilometre at 58.60 mph, in August he clocked 62.8 mph over the mile and 63 mph over the kilometre, and finished the season with a 67.44 mph flying kilometre.
Boris Loutzky and the F4 Grosse Stoewer
For 1913, the B6 had been replaced by the 2.4-liter C2, which lasted until the end of 1914, when a handful of the new C6 models were produced, along with the latest 1.5-liter model, the CS. But if the marque was becoming established as a maker of refined and lively light cars, it also permitted itself the odd delusion of grandeur. Stoewer had begun building aero-engines in 1911 to the designs of the emigre Russian engineer, Boris Loutzky: and when Boris suggested that his latest creation should be adapted to fit in a car chassis - presumably the flying machine market was a little slack at the time - Emil and Bernhard jumped at the idea. Surprisingly, the result wasn't the brutal hybrid it might have been. ln fact, the F4 Grosse Stoewer was rather a splendid machine, with an 8.6-liter overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, electric lighting and starting, and a fashionably vee'd radiator which harmonised well with the typically Teutonic cruiser-stem sporting coachwork.
During WorId War 1 Stoewer reformed as a limited company in 1916 with Emil as sales director and Bernhard as technical director, producing Argus in-line aero-engines. It was a conversion of this six-cylinder power unit that was used in the monstrous D7 Stoewer, which appeared in 1919. The engine boasted 11,160cc, making it the biggest car on the post-war market, even though sales in Weimar Germany were hardly likely to set the Oder (on which Stettin stands) on fire. However, one of these cars, driven by Ernst Kordewan, was a regular competitor in the speed trials on the Danish island of Fano from 1921 - 1924, though it could do no better than fastest time (114 mph) in the touring car class in 1922.
The 1922 Estonian Reliability Trial
This model was dropped in 1921, though Kordewan obviously retained his affection for it, as he had a special built in 1929 using the D7 engine in the latest Stoewer chassis. More typical of the company's post-war production was the six-cylinder D5 3.2-liter model, whose side-valve engine was equipped with twin Zenith carburetors and developed 36 bhp. In 1924, power output was up-rated to 45 bhp, and the car became the D12, while in 1926 the engine was enlarged to 3.4 liters and the car acquired four-wheel-braking and the nomenclature D12V (for vierradbremse - 'four-wheel-brakes'). It was a D5 which won the 1922 Estonian Reliability Trial, and another came first in the All-Russian Reliability Trial the following year, with a four-cylinder Stoewer 09 of 2.2 liters in second place.
The Stoewer Superior
The D9 was developed into the D10, which boasted 2.6 liters and 50 bhp, and was the most popular Stoewer model of the period: but Bernhard Stower had withdrawn from the company in 1921 to breed thoroughbred horses on his Pomeranian estate, and the mid-1920s range was somewhat lacking in inspiration. In 1928, however, Stoewer were falling back on their old tactic of copying a proven winning formula: this time they took their ideas from St Louis, Missouri, producing a range of straight-eights designed by Fritz Fiedler using the Gardner car as his model. The Stoewer Superior came in 2-liter and 2.5-liter forms, and its styling was, apart from the European convention of detachable steel artillery wheels, very much American in character, even down to the drum headlamps.
The Stoewer Marschall and Reprasentant
Only straight-eights were catalogued in 1929 and 1930, though the sterility of the Fiedler designs obviously acted as a disincentive to potential customers. The company's financial situation was so bad that in 1931 the City of Stettin and the State of Prussia had to intervene with the injection of 2 million marks credit to safeguard the jobs of the Stoewer workforce. Bernhard returned from retirement to supervise the development of two new luxury eights developed from the larger Fiedler models, the Gigant (3.6 liters) and the G15 (4 liters). The 1931 eights were the Marschall, of 3 liters, and the imposing Reprasentant, with a 4.9-liter engine and handsome styling: but, more importantly, a new small Stoewer, the V5, was the sensation of the 1931 Berlin Motor Show.
This car had a V4 engine and front-wheel-drive, plus all-round independent suspension, and was a relatively fast machine with, however, a rough power unit suffering from then common V4 balance problems. In the interests of smoothness, the R140 was developed for 1933, with a 1344cc in-line four-cylinder engine mounted 'wrong-way-round' so that the starting handle could be used inside the driving compartment. It was succeeded by larger four-cylinder models, the R150 (1488cc) and R180 (1769cc), and this range of advanced and attractive light cars put the company's finances back on to a more viable level.
The Stoewer V8 Grief
Bernhard Stoewer designed another front-wheel-drive model for 1934: this was the 2488cc V8 Grief, which had a light-alloy power unit in an independently sprung chassis. It was a fine car, but enjoyed little succes and sales were disappointingly low. Once the Grief had been readied for production, Bernhard retired for the second time (Emil had already left the firm, in 1932): and once again Stoewer began looking around for technical and financial help. Early in 1936, Hitler's economic delegate, Wilhelm Keppler, proposed a merger between Stoewer and the Cologne-based Ford of Germany. The union, originally conceived by the Kaiser's grandson, Prince Louis Ferdinand, who was an admirer of both Henry Ford and Adolf Hitler, seemed to have much to commend it; Ford was losing German sales because of its American and British connections, while Stoewer was just losing money.
The Prince and Dr Heinrich Albert, who controlled Ford of Germany policy, visited Dearborn to convince the Ford directors that the move was sound business sense, for not only did Stoewer possess government contracts, but also had its own body-building operation which, properly developed, could make Ford less dependent on its existing supplier, Ambi-Budd. So Ford loaned Stoewer 500,000 marks for expansion, and put Erhard Vitger of Ford of Germany to work investigating the financial standing of Stoewer. His report was horrifying: the apparently prosperous Stoewer-Werke was virtually bankrupt, and its manager, Friedrich Hoyler, had deliberately mis-represented its situation to try and save the collapsing company. Nevertheless, the half-million mark loan had nearly all gone, used to pay off the company's more pressing debts.
The Ford-Stoewer Merger Falls Through
Vitger and Albert were agreed, though, that another 800,000 marks would be sufficient capital to allow Stoewer to start making money again. But the Ford directors over-ruled them, refusing to pour more money into an apparently bottomless pit, and the merger negotiations were summarily ended. All Ford could show for the venture was 200 tourer bodies which Stoewer supplied for the Ford Eifel Ten. Fortunately, Stoewer then acquired a licence previously held by the recently-defunct Rohr company to build the Czech Tatra 1.5-liter flat-four economy car; this front-wheel-drive model was marketed as the Grief-Junior, and as such, outlived the Grief, which was discontinued in 1938.
A range of conventional cars, the 2.5-liter Sedina four and the 3.6-liter Arcona six, was unveiled at the 1937 Berlin Show: but within a couple of years, Germany was at war once again, and the Stoewer factory was turning out vehicles for the Wehrmacht. The works was bombed in 1944: after the armistice, Stettin awoke to find itself a Polish city called Szeczin. The People's Republic of Poland wasn't interested in reviving car production in the Stoewer works and so Pomerania's most famous motor car manufacturer ceased to exist.