Wartburg in the UK

The history of Wartburg cars goes back a long way, right back as far as 1898 when the first cars were produced in Eisenach in Germany.

Before the second world war a diverse range of vehicles were produced at Eisenach including a version of the Austin 7 built under licence called the Dixi. Before hostilities broke out the Eisenach factories were part of BMW and were building high quality cars and motorcycles.

After the war Eisenach became part of Communist ruled East Germany. Production of cars and motorcycles restarted there with modified versions of pre-war BMWs. Initially these were sold with BMW badges, but this was quickly changed to avoid problems with BMW in West Germany. Cars were then sold badged as Autowelo and later as EMW (Eisenach Motoren Werke) as they were further developed.

There was a great need in the Eastern Bloc countries for cars that were simple to build, maintain, and own. There was also a need to export cars and earn vital foreign currency. As a first step to achieving this production of the IFA F9 car was moved to Eisenach.

Before the war DKW had been developing a new 3 cylinder 2-stroke car. After the war development continued along divergent paths in both East and West Germany. The East German version, the IFA F9, was developed and initially produced in Zwickau by the Sachsenring factory which was later to go on to produce the Trabant.

IFA F9 Estate from mid 1950s

The F9 was exported to many countries including Europe and South America (It was also manufactured under licence in South America), but did not come to the UK.

In the 1950s much work was carried out on development of a new range of cars. The F9 was used as a starting point, so the new cars featured a 900cc 3 cylinder 2-stroke engine and a seperate 'perimeter' type chassis with independant suspension by transverse leaf springs.

In 1956 the new range of cars started production with a wide variety of models based on a common engine/chassis configuration. This included a saloon, two estates, a coupe and convertible, plus a 2 seat sports car and sports convertible. These cars bore 'Eisenacher' badges and were known as the 'typ Wartburg' and were exported to many countries including Europe, South America, USA, South Africa and China. For many markets the cars were simply known as Wartburgs.

1956 brochure for the 'New Eisenacher Typ Wartburg'

The cars were built to a very high standard (as one would expect from workers previously used to producing BMWs). Heavy guage steel was used giving strong sturdy construction and much use was made of polished aluminium castings and pressings. Some of the cars featured wood and/or leather trim.

The rare (just under 500 made) Wartburg Sports

During production the range was expanded to include van and pick-up versions plus a 4 door convertible was produced for military and police use.

De-Luxe Saloon

In the late 1950s a few Wartburgs were imported into Ireland, but at this time the cars were still unknown in the UK.

4 Seat Coupe. Also available as a convertible

In 1962 the range of cars received its first major revision, the basic body style was retained but the car had many improvements which included increasing the engine size to 992cc with major improvements to the cooling system, transmission and drive train. At this time the cars continued with transverse leaf spring suspension.

3 Door Estate 5 Door 'Kamping' Estate

For a long time it was thought that the first right hand drive cars were built for Cyprus in 1963, however recent research has shown that RHD cars were made right from the start of production (more will be added about this later). In 1963 the Wartburg range of cars was displayed for the first time at the London Motor Show (along with Trabants !). An agreement was reached with Industria Ltd to import the cars into the UK (Industria had previous experience of dealing with Eastern Bloc countries as they were already importing Jawa and CZ motorcycles from Czechoslovakia). Industria set up a network of dealers in the UK and the first cars were sold in 1964.

Initially only 4 door saloon cars were sold in the UK, about 300 of these RHD cars were imported, together with an odd one or two 3 door estate cars.

In 1965 the range of cars received its second major revision, again the basic body style was retained but underneath the car was all new featuring a new chassis with coil spring suspension, a much revised more powerfull engine and many more improvements. A big selling point of this model was its 30,000 mile service interval - this was at a time when many cars needed servicing every 3,000 miles !

Between 1965 and 1967 about 450 RHD Saloons and just under 100 RHD Estates were imported into the UK.

In 1966 a completely new car was announced. This featured a much more modern body but underneath was a perimiter chassis and 3 cylinder 2-stroke engine obviously developed from the previous cars. There were two main models produced: a 4 door saloon and a 5 door estate.

Knight Saloon

This new range was given the model number 353 and the estate was called the 'Tourist'. For the UK market (and some others ?) the saloon was called the 'Knight'.

Tourist Estate

Whilst on sale in the UK between 1967 and 1976 the cars underwent 3 major revisions culminating with the Mark 4 introduced in 1971.

A total of 19472 right hand drive Wartburgs were officially exported to the UK between 1964 and 1976.

After 1976 development of the cars continued in East Germany with further improvements made from time to time. Various cars were personally imported and additionally there were a couple of attempts to import cars on a small scale commercially. Although Right hand drive cars were still being made they were no longer available to the UK, however a number of cars imported with left hand drive were converted to RHD.

In 1988 Wartburg entered into an agreement with VW to produce, under licence, an adapted version of the 1300cc Golf engine, and this was fitted to a new model the Wartburg 1,3. This was visually similar to the previous model and remained in production until 1991 when General Motors Opel division bought the factory.

Wartburg 1.3

A few Wartburg 1,3s have been imported into the UK including one estate which has been converted to right hand drive.

My own 1963 Wartburg 1000

Wartburg Trabant IFA Club UK

Other Clubs on Clubs Page

Lots of Wartburg Sites on Links Page