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History
MOTORWORLD Manufaktur Berlin

The very traceable history of the MOTORWORLD site can be traced back to 1722. In this year, the Royal Prussian Rifle Factory was founded by Frederick William I. For almost 200 years, i.e. until 1919, hand, cut and thrust weapons were manufactured here. The restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles then put an end to arms production and so the workshops became part of the newly created Deutsche Werke AG along with 12 other army and navy workshops. In 1920, pots and kitchen equipment began to be produced here, as well as water taps and agricultural equipment.

About 100 years ago, the area officially and for a long time developed into a site for vehicle manufacturing. Initially, the Star motorcycle was manufactured here, which shortly thereafter received the name Derad and from 1924 was called D-Rad. In April 1925, parts of the motorcycle production were reorganized into Deutsche Kraftfahrzeugwerke AG. With the R04 type motorcycles, the works, which also produced in the Spandau “Freiheit”, became one of the most successful manufacturers in the entire German Empire at that time.

In 1927, one of the greats began manufacturing automobiles here on the property: William C. “Crapo” Durant – the founder of General Motors, moved the production of his Durant Star models to Spandau – to the Old Dining Room, right on Zitadellenweg – the building that today bears our logo. Unfortunately, he was not as successful on the European continent as he was in the United States, where he made history by acquiring Buick and Oldsmobile as early as 1908, and so he went out of business in 1929. Its premises went to the J.S. Rasmussen Motorenwerke, which had already been producing engines and motorcycle parts on the south site (now Kaufland) for a year and was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in 1928, with around 65,000 motorcycles produced.

Two years earlier, in 1926, the long and successful history of DKW automobile production began here:
Jörgen Skafte Rasmussen, a Danish entrepreneur, had already met the engineer Rudolf Slaby in 1919 – historians speak of a chance meeting on Friedrichstrasse. Slaby was traveling with one of his electric cars, which he produced primarily for the Japanese market. However, an earthquake in 1923 had brought the business to a standstill, and so he agreed with Rasmussen to try to equip the soapbox-like vehicles with the two-stroke engines that were already very successful as DKW motorcycle engines and to market them as DKW. The brand DKW leads back to steam power car, of which in fact was produced only one copy. The technology was heavy and very complex – compare the vehicle with a small locomotive.

And so, on 01.01.1928, Zschopauer Motorenwerke J.S. Rasmussen AG, Werk Spandau – DKW Automobilfabrik was founded and, under the management of Rudolf Slaby, production of the DKW Type P with self-supporting wooden body and DKW two-cylinder two-stroke engine began. The Audi Type P with a Peugeot four-stroke engine was also produced here, derived from the “big” DKW P25 – the rear-wheel drive mid-size car with the legendary 4=8 four-cylinder two-stroke engine. Complete vehicles were manufactured here until 1940.

From 1931, production of the so-called F models (front-wheel drive) began, for which the bodies were still made of wood in Spandau. Assembly of the finished vehicles then took place in Zschopau, and the F series was so successful that a number of prototypes of the DKW F9 were still being built here in 1941 – of the vehicle that founded its own history as the IFA F9 after the World War.

Auto Union AG was founded in Chemnitz on June 29, 1932, with retroactive effect from November 1, 1931. From then on, their trademark became the four rings, with each individual ring standing for one of the incorporated brands, Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, to this day.

Even today, traces of the alterations made by the Auto-Union in 1933 can be seen in the existing buildings. Buildings were added, others were extensively renovated.

In 1943, large parts of the DKW plant were destroyed but immediately rebuilt, making it the only remaining Auto-Union production facility in western Germany. Transmission parts, dynostarters and much more were still produced here for Auto Union until 1964. The last new developments to be developed here were parts for the young hopefuls DKW Junior (F11) and DKW Schnellaster (F89L), which were already being produced at today’s Audi plants in Ingolstadt.

After the two-stroke engine, which many enthusiasts still remember from the Trabant or Wartburg, could no longer keep up with the rapidly advancing development of the four-stroke gasoline engine in terms of exhaust gas behavior and fuel consumption, the plant was closed after Volkswagen took over Auto Union in 1964 and sold to the electronics manufacturer BOSCH.

BOSCH manufactured antennas, receivers and various components for large electrical systems here until 2002. The peninsula was used as a recreational area for employees during that time, camping and playgrounds, boat docks and sunbathing lawns were thus used for years. Unfortunately, new testing methods revealed some soil contamination and so the property was designated as no longer usable in 2002.

Today we disposed of the contamination and secured the site for visitor traffic. But we leave history to be experienced!

Are you interested in the exciting history? Then book a guided tour of the grounds with an introduction to the history & a look ahead: gregor@motorworld.de