Founded by Heinrich Ehrhardt in 1896, a successful
German industrialist who, among other concerns,
was responsible for the creation of the the 2nd
largest cannon manufacturing facility in Germany
(behind Krupp). His new company started out
manufacturing bicycles, military transporters,
and even omnibuses, however the “Autocar” introduced
at the 1898 Dusseldorf car exhibition was generally
ignored by the public.
Determined to bring an
automobile to market, Ehrhardt gave up
on the Autocar, instead courting French concern
Decauville and obtaining a licence to manufacture
their cars as a Wartburg – the name derived
from the Wartburg Castle which overlooks the
town of Eisenach where his factory was located.
The relationship with Decauville would only last
until 1904, Wartburg being bought out by Dixi,
and in turn that operation being taken over by
BMW. The story would have finished there, but
after World War 2 the (now East German) company
was re-established and for a time continued to
use the BMW name, producing pre-war BMW 321’s,
326’s and 327’s.
The West German
BMW concern was none too happy about the continued
use of their name, and in 1952 (following the
departure of the Russians), were able to convince
their East German counterparts to change the
name to EMW, and the logo from the blue-on-white
propeller to a red-white cross. The 340 remained
the flagship, the now well outdated 6-cylinder
BMW engine remaining as the sole power-plant.
In January 1956 the company reverted back to
the name used so many decades ago – Wartburg – and
released the F9 model. But like all other Eastern
Block auto manufacturers, Wartburg would be far
from cutting edge, the chasm between East and
West automotive technology growing exponentially
each year, until the Wartburg could best be described
with one word – prehistoric.