The DKW F8 was a compact front wheel drive two stroke engined saloon introduced by Auto Union AG in 1939 as a replacement for the popular DKW F7. The F8 was slightly shorter than its predecessor despite having a marginally increased wheelbase. The base model, known as the Reichsklasse, was manufactured only till 1940 but the Meisterklasse sedan continued in production till 1942. In addition to the saloons, cabriolet (saloon and coupé) versions were offered.

After the war the car had reappeared by 1949 as the IFA F8, the (formerly) Auto Union plant at Zwickau now being under Soviet control. It continued in production until approximately 1955: in addition to the sedan and cabriolet bodies, various additional body types available post war included a delivery van and estate variant.

Engine options

The base ‘Reichsklasse’ model had the two stroke twin cylinder engine from its predecessor, but fractionally bored out. Engine capacity was now 589 cc. Claimed output and top speed were as before at and 18 bhp (13.2 kW) and 80 km/h (50 mph).

The ‘Meisterklasse’’ version of the DKW F8 also inherited its predecessor’s similarly configured engine of 692 cc. For this engine 20 bhp (14.7 kW) was claimed with a top speed of 85 km/h (53 mph). It was this larger engine that reappeared in the IFA F8 in 1949.

Power was delivered to the front wheels by means of a three speed manual gear box with a lockable freewheel mechanism on all three ratios. The engine was started using a Dynastart device, which was a combination self starter / alternator.

The body

The body was mounted on a box frame chassis which facilitated the fitting of different body options, such as the light vans and trucks produced during the IFA period. The outer skin of the car comprised a combination of steel panels and, for the central portion, fabric covered timber frame bodywork. After 1953 key panels were made from duroplast, reducing the weight of the car and anticipating the light weight technologies that would be applied to Trabant construction.

Model life

The F8 had replaced the DKW F7 after only a two year model life. The small DKWs were among the best selling small cars in Germany during the 1930s, and regular model replacement was part of Auto Union's successful marketing strategy. It seems that the F8 was itself scheduled for relatively rapid replacement by the steel bodied DKW F9. War intervened, however, and production of the Reichsklasse and Cabriolet was ended in 1940. Production of the Meisterklasse continued till 1942. By 1942, when passenger car production at Zwickau was ended, approximately 50,000 F8s had been produced.

At the 1947 Leipzig Fair the car reappeared, badged now as the DKW-IFA F8. Production of the eastern IFA F8 recommenced in or before 1949, and it is believed that by 1955 approximately a further 26,000 of the cars had been built. A wider range of body options would be offered with the additions of an estate and the light commercial variants. In 1954 a Cabriolet deluxe was introduced, intended primarily as an export special for the western market. After the IFA brand had been phased out, the final F8s were evidently badged as Wartburgs. The two cylinder 700 cc two stroke engine lived on in the iconic Trabant.

Sources and further reading

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