The Wartburg Company were particularly associated with the manufacturer of motor vehicles within the Communist bloc in East Germany during the immediate post-war years.

According to local history, in 1905 Automobilwerk Eisensach was founded by Heinrich Ehrhardt in the small town of Eisensach, overlooked by the Wartburg Castle, from which the company eventually took their name.

Originally trading as Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach (FFE), the company was initially involved in the production of pedal cycles and armoury.

With the launch of the new company, FFE became only the third company in Germany to produce motor vehicles, behind Benz and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft.

In 1904 things had gone slightly wrong for FFE, with their financial situation less healthy and with their license to produce the Wartburgwagen having run out, the Erhardt family gave up on the idea of car production.

FFE underwent a kind of management buyout, with their chief engineer Willi Seck taking control. The first major management decision was to rename the company Dixi. After releasing several new models, mostly to a lukewarm reception, in 1907 Dixi launched the U35, which soon gained considerable approval for its basic good looks, performance and reliability.

With the Dixi company slowly consolidating its position, along came the First World War with all of its financial ramifications. Despite the setbacks, Dixi-Werke AG as they were then known got back into production, despite suffering from a chronic lack of capital.

To protect themselves from almost inevitable failure, Dixi-Werke merged with the Gothaer Waggonfabrik company who had produced aeroplanes during World War One.

With the German economy struggling badly, the new corroboration soon began to struggle, despite enjoying considerable success, particularly with the DA-1 3/15, a version of the British Austin 7, built under licence from 1927 onwards.

Late in 1928. auto giant BMW, long aware of Dixies dodgy position stepped in to acquire the company at a knock-down price. BMW, up to that point, had been solely involved in producing motorcycles and were almost desperate to get into car production.

BMW continued with production of the Dixi at the Eisenach factory, even releasing a few updates, before introducing a few models of their own design.

Production at Eisenach continued unabated going into the Thirties, with BMW introducing newer and better models consistently, increasing their share of the luxury car market.

Once again, all that was to come to a halt in 1939, when production was switched to keep up with demands by the Nazis for cars and motorbikes to be produced to meet the war effort.

With the Allied armies advancing, the Eisenach plant suffered considerable damage, just as the war was ending.

When the Germans eventually surrendered, the residents of Eisenach and surrounding areas might well have been relieved when American troops occupied the Thuringia province area.

However, their relief soon faded when, as part of the disengagement treaty, the region became part of the Soviet Bloc, under the control of East Germany, even though the international nopad separating the East and West, were just a few short miles away.

Production at Eisensach resumed in October 1946, with the factory, now known as Wartburg, releasing a simple model, titled the 321 bearing a strong resemblance to the Dixi, using a lot of leftover parts.

Next came the 340-1 four-door sedan, starting in October 1949, this time fitted with a two-litre six-cylinder engine and torsion-bar suspension.

It took Wartburg four years to release their next model, a streamlined IFA F9 sedan with front-wheel drive and powered by a three-cylinder engine , capable of generating 28 BHP.

Although most of the Wartburg production was meant for East German consumption, a few models made their way into the West, with the motoring media impressed with the quality of the vehicles with signs of the BMW work ethic still very obvious.

In the late Fifties, the management decided to revive the Wartburg name, used for cars built at Eisenach in East Germany until production had ceased in 1904.

By the early Sixties, Wartburg was regularly exporting to the US, with sales for the 1000cc engined Knight mini compact particularly brisk. Two years later the model was superseded by the Wartburg 312, complete with a new chassis and gearbox. The bodyshell was carried over from the Wartburg 311, now fitted with independent coil-sprung suspension all around.

With their two-tone paintwork and plenty of chrome trim, the early Wartburgs looked far more upmarket than they really were, with crude engineering struggling to offset the value of their relatively low price.

Bearing a strong resemblance to the Borgward Isabella coupe, the Wartburg Coupe was a superbly stylish car that was crying out for a more potent powerplant than the 900cc (55 cu in) three-cylinder unit with which it was equipped.

Output was increased from 22kW (30bhp) to 28kW (37bhp). The non-synchromesh four-speed gearbox and front-wheel drive layout were also carried over — the front-wheel drive was innovative at the time.

The mechanical specifications were barely changed between the old model and the new,- almost all the differences between the two cars were in the bodyshell', especially in the case of the coupe.

The coupe offered relatively little rear passenger space, but a huge bonnet, under which was housed not just the engine, but also a longitudinally mounted gearbox.

The first post-war Wartburgs were built by the state-owned IFA company in 1950, badged as the F9.

Although the Wartburg Sport was listed as a separate model, in reality, it shared almost everything with its more common 311-based Coupe and Cabriolet counterparts.

A three-cylinder 900cc (55 cu in) engine still drove the front wheels via a four-speed gearbox. The flowing lines and wraparound window glass front and rear were also retained — these were cars which were genuinely good-looking vehicles.

The Wartburg Sport was first announced in 1957, with its major selling point being a powerplant that had been tuned slightly to give more power — 37kW (50bhp) instead of the standard car's 28kW (37bhp). This significantly improved performance, and the car was now able to travel at 140km/h (87mph), as opposed to the standard model's top speed of 115km/h (72mph).

This was the car that ensured Wartburg was finished outside its homeland. Other than East Europeans, few people would accept the pollution produced by its three-cylinder two-stroke engine or the crude build quality of the car in general.

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