You know what car is strangely interesting and pretty much completely absent from America? The Wartburg 353. Yes, the mighty East-German car that was the Lincoln Continental to the Trabant’s Pinto, this boxy, two-stroke, big-ish fella was actually exported to a lot of places, like the UK, where it was dirt cheap and called the Wartburg Knight. There was a nice roomy wagon version, a car that seemed to be the answer to those buyers who wanted the dynamic, shoebox-like look of a Volvo 240 but without all that tedious performance and much, much more smoke. Also, the chassis is just weird-looking.
As you can see above, it did have some cool little extra round taillights so you can drive it with the tailgate open and still be legal, or at least visible through the cloud of two-stroke exhaust that is now flowing inside the car.
The two-stroke engines used in these were three-cylinder DKW-derived engines, making between 50 and 55 horsepower and having only, per DKW tradition, seven moving parts: three pistons, three connecting rods, and one crankshaft. If you think of the con rod as part of the piston, then it’s only four parts!
They were so smoky that they earned the nickname “Farty Hans.” Seriously, look it up.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Wartburg chassis; I even wrote about it back in 2020, because it so doesn’t look like it should be under that boxy car. It looks like a lute or snowshoe, and the suspension supports for the rear wheels are just bizarre. I mean, look at it:
I guess it’s a sort of literal corner-cutting perimeter chassis? shaped like a pear? Amazing.
Also amazing is the fact that there’s a Serbian punk band who made a whole song about the Wartburg 353! It’s kinda catchy!
I can read just enough Cyrillic to see that the grave at the beginning is for a Trabant! Amazing.