The Dampf-Kraft Wagen company or for short DKW is a historic manufacturer of both cars and motorcycles. Founded in 1916, by a Danish engineer named Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen in Saxony, Germany, DKW began producing steam fittings, thus the name Dampf-Kraft Wagen which translates to Steam Powered Vehicle.
Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen attempted to manufacture a steam-driven car in the same year that the company was founded.
His attempt to produce a steam powered car proved to be unsuccessful, but by 1919 Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen did successfully produce a two-stroke toy engine, that he aptly named, Des Knaben Wunsch which translates into "a boy's desire".
Later Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen put a modified version of his Des Knaben Wunsch in a motorcycle which he named Das Kleine Wunder or the little marvel and thus began DKW's Motorcycle legacy.
In the 1930s, DKW had earned the distinguished title as the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer in which they took from The Indian Motorcycle Company from across the ocean in America and also had the luxury of joining Audi, Horch and Wanderer during 1932 to form the Auto Union but the Auto Union had changed hands several times from Daimler-Benz before ending up in the hands of The Volkswagen Group in 1964.
DKW produced automobiles from 1928 until 1966 in which all their cars used two-stroke engines. The company was also a pioneer in the front wheel drive system in 1931. DKW also produced a rear wheel drive car which was lesser known.
After the war brought some major issues for the Auto Union Company since they were originally located in Saxony which became the German Democratic Republic, so it took a bit of time before they managed to reunite all the partner manufacturers.
The motorcycle branch of DKW manufactured some famous models before and after the Second World War. As part of the war reparations one of their motorcycle designs were given to the Harley-Davidson Company in the United States as well as BSA in the United Kingdom.
This was to be the ending of The DKW motorcycles, since after they gave the reparations to several other companies including Yamaha that were using their designs without permission. However their engines are still being made today. Since Auto Union shared its ideas, Volkswagen used their design in a similar fashion in the Beetle which is still manufactured today in its original form in Mexico.
Original Authors: Nicholas
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 02/06/2008