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Wartburg Gallery

Wartburg doesn't necessarily mean DDR-design, paper maché and universal beige. In the former German Democratic Republic there was little money for designing things. There was mostly an eye towards simple functionality. But with this car it's different.

The Wartburg 311 de Luxe was built in 1959. More Wartburg information at end of page.

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Information about the Wartburg de Luxe

Make: VEB Automobile Company Eisenach
Model: Wartburg 311 de Luxe
First registration date: November 09, 1959
Engine: 3-cylinder, 2 cycles, 1000 ccm, 45 hp
Cooling: Thermo siphon, i.e. with water, but no pump. Cooler installed behind the engine. No thermostat. Temperature is regulated with blinds installed behind the cooling grillwork.
Transmission: 4-gears and freewheel, steering wheel gearshift.

Enticed by a friend, I first bought a Wartburg 311 Kombi in the summer of 1990. I couldn't resist the unusual technology, the funny body and the low sales price of € 300/DM 600.

Although this car was drivable it had been totally mismanaged with hardly an original piece, even frame and body had already been exchanged! By chance I got an offer for a 4-door luxury limousine, which was in considerably better and more over original condition. For Eastern block cars quite unusual. Even the wooden first aid box with invoice documents from 1959 was present! The previous owner himself had 'imported' the car from Saxony where it had belonged to the first owner for nearly 30 years. The still low purchasing price of €200.00/DM 400 made the decision easy.

At first I wrestled my new purchase through the TÜV (inspection process) but soon cancelled the registration due to various acute technical deficiencies. The constantly hot-running brakes were a definite concern.

Technical restoration took place during the next few months along with partial body restoration and installation of a few lacking original elements. Other Wartburg cars donated the parts.

Finally in the summer of 1993 I used my exotic Oldie every day. The amusing technical items were fun but also contained secrets. Because of a defective ignition cable and worn out carburetor the engine hardly worked; the battery was constantly empty, the cooler leaked, a shock absorber broke off, the clutch assembly died on a trip to Dresden, the exhaust pipe was almost always leaking, damage to the connecting rod bearings made simple forward driving difficult…

Slowly I remedied things but at the same time realized that exotic, old and heavily used cars are not really for every day use since they lack reliability and comfort and it is difficult to obtain spare parts. Since then I have used it only as my second or third car.

Many an uninitiated gas station attendant is irritated when I purchase lawn mower oil by the gallon and scrupulously put lead-free gasoline into such an ooooold car…

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last modified 12/04/2002