Wartburg 353 Estate

It's very hard to comment on a utilitarian object. I imagine it would be similar to reading a blog about light bulbs, comparing and contrasting the light output, ease of installation, likelihood of burnt fingers upon removal. In fact, there's probably already a blog out there covering this stuff, if you're interested.

The Wartburg 353 fits in that category. It's so practical, so unpretentious, so frank in its statement that I can't help but like it. The statement being, of course, "I move stuff around."

If you want to get from A to B, the simplest and cheapest way is via Wartburg. It's a three-box car with the corners filed off to stop anyone getting hurt, with a pingy little two-stroke engine up front. Suspension is simple and the lights look like they were glued on as an afterthought.

If this car had been built in the West, it would probably have been marketed as "bold" and "assertive" and all the other rubbish reviewers use when they try to make something sound exciting and edgy. The Wartburg isn't any of that. It put out a crippled 50bhp that could propel it over 100km an hour if you had a free weekend. And if it was wet, you'd better hope A-B was a perfectly straight line, as in the rain the wheels might as well have been made of sugar.

The simplicity of the design betrays the lengthy origins behind the Wartburg brand and the 353W in particular. Spawned in 1966, the 353 was built by BMW. No, sorry, this is an EAST German car, so that's EMW. Either way, the base model is actually of Polish origin, being most of the mechanicals and the shell from the never-produced FSO Warszawa 210, of which the only definite produced example resides in a factory about 1500m from where I found this Wartburg.

Unsurprisingly then, comrades of consumption in the old DDR were, well, not exactly anxious but definitely eager to get their hands on the car. With the factory struggling to pump out 100 cars a day, some customers had their names on the delivery list for 10 years before receiving their blunt-nosed little oil burner. Had Poland not agreed a deal to produce the Fiat 124 instead (oops, I mean the Polski Fiat 125p) then the Warszawa 210 would have been stolidly rattling around the roads too, although probably with the same 2.4litre 4-cylinder engine tjat powering everything else in Poland at the time, rather than the Wart's little 3-cylinder two-stroke.

Instead, this decaying example in varying shades of matt paint and filler represents, if not the bones then at least the cartilage of the old German Democratic Republic. The Wartburg went through the wringer with Volkswagen who failed to make it profitable in the new Capitalist market, and Wartburg, like 8500 other DDR state companies, was sold off to Opel and the factory flattened.

In much the same way, it is completely uneconomical to own a Wartburg these days, and the solid matter of their existence and purpose weighed up against so many Deutchmarks (or zlotys, or even the Mickey Mouse Money that is the Euro) is a sad sight to see.


Anonymous said...

someone has not a clue what he is talking about where the Wartburg cars are concerned there in some ways better than western cars