Bug-Eyed Beauty: 1958 DKW Schnellaster Van

There is no doubt you’ll be the talk of the car show after finishing up this project! This odd bug-eyed beauty is a 1958 DKW Schnellaster Van, and you can see its shared style ancestry with other German designs that began appearing in the late forties and early fifties. If the VW Type 2 van had a more utilitarian step cousin – this is it.

Here’s an idea. Buy this van, restore it to its former glory, and take it to every Audi car club gathering and claim it to be one of theirs. Double down and tell everyone this is the absolute first car ever produced by Audi. In a way – you would be telling the truth! DKW (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen) merged with Audi, Horch and Wanderer to form “Auto Union”. In fact, the famous four ring logo of Audi’s is from each company getting a ring and forming a union. This model, also known as the DKW F89 L (a staple of commercial vehicle production from 1949 to 1962) was the first vehicle they produced. And if you look close above, and you can see the very first use of the logo we know and love today.

Thanks to reader Dominic Ortiz who found it here on eBay, the seller notes this DKW has a transplanted 1970 Beetle 1200cc powerplant which may or may not have a bored kit completed to give it a bit more oomph. Although adorable, there’s no doubt this will be a labor of love to complete – including finishing up things like much of the electrical, the wiper system, the parking break, and running gear like those unique headlights. Note the headlight design by the way – the hood pops up to reveal simple lens that cover fixed in place bowl lights. Clever.

I’d agree with the seller that this particular oddity could go the way of a Rat Rod, a great hipster food truck, or in my opinion return it to its glorious roots as a proud member of what has become the famous Audi badge. Considering I spent my weekend popping the clutch on my brothers Audi S4 over and over and having my head slammed against the headrest (don’t tell him) the thought of this piece of German history in the collection in mighty tempting!


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  1. boxdin

    I’m getting tired of this one; It’s a parking brake, not a parking break.

    • Al

      Eye two am gedding tyred off thiz!

    • Mountainwoodie

      hang on I m busy fixing my breaks.

      • Al

        Dont get two fix-ee-ated on thiz project. Ewe mite half a brake down.

      • Geri

        don’t know if anyone knows- or cares- the DKW was a 3 cylinder engine with 7 moving parts.. crank, 3 rods,3 pistons, gear train doesn’t count,
        I’d like to have it (not at 10K) but it would get a hemi V-8, yes it would,,

    • Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

      I’m a Pom so I just thought it was the American way of spelling!

      • Al

        I don’t mind a Prisoner of Majesty in Exile.

        Please do not pummel us with, bonnets, boots, windscreens, tyres and fettling. It is a trifle boring.
        Say what!

      • Geri

        Pom?? ahhh you Brits are all alike : )

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Come on gang, he’s a rookie. Give him a brake.

    • Brent

      If the brakes break can you use the parking break to broke it to a stop??

      • Whippeteer

        @Brent. No, it’s broken…

      • Marauder

        Ha ha! Give me a break. I need one, and by CA law I am owed one!

    • Clinton

      Well I wonder how the THREAD is on the tires. Or if the rims are CURVE checked.

      Those are just as bad.

  2. Michael

    Blank canvas. So many cool things you could do with it. Love it.

  3. Carter

    The Auto Union was created before WWII in 1932. The four companies merged to compete with Daimler-Benz, and did so very successfully. This is far from the first model to wear the four rings but is very neat and hard to find nonetheless.

  4. Rock On Member

    Not unless the brake is broke boxdin!!!

    • knelipot

      If the brake is broke(n) then the brake is breaked and not a brake but a broke brake which means it’s a broke not a break or a brake. It’s a parking broke. Now I’m confused….

  5. Rick

    Quite the ambitious starting price..

  6. Leon

    Those wheels are totally wrong Needs something more vintage to compliment it

    • Bill Wilkman

      Couldn’t agree more. Can’t understand why so many people ruin the vintage character of a car with goofy aftermarket wheels. Hope the seller saved the original wheels and hubcaps. :o/

  7. Mike B

    Okay, I’ll ask: And where are those headlights that are supposed to be behind the lenses? So the benefit of front wheel drive to maximize the cargo area has been lost in order to turn something unique into…a VW van. wow. Maybe coulda gone with an Audi turbo 4 in the original engine location and had something interesting here, but we get a VW van with some raw plywood floor bits and no headlights so it’s not road legal. The Germans must have some name for it like Fahrvergnothin.

    • Rspcharger Rspcharger

      Zoom in on the headlight lenses with the hood open. You will see tiny little bulbs in there.

  8. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member

    dang that’s a rare piece of auto work right there…….

  9. Wolfgang Gullich

    Sad to see it’s missing the original front-mounted I-3 2 cycle engine. These were the direct ancestor of the modern
    minivan. Either way, these are very rare in any form.

  10. JACKinNWPA Jack in NW PA Member

    I took a “parking break” once…her name was Rhonda.

  11. Rex Kahrs Member

    No amount of rarity would make me spend 10K on this rat rod. Give me a brake. And some headlights.

  12. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    Scottburgh Motor Show, South Africa, 2010. If memory serves me correctly the hood opens but leaves the actual headlights inside the engine bay.

    • JoeBazots

      Just saw one on another site on CL in Oregon. No motor or trans, but otherwise complete – $2700 or something like that. Also a blank canvas, but with correct wheels, etc. No VW monstrosity.

  13. Mark S. Member

    I’m thinking A 2.5 throttle body 4 cylinder and trans axle out of a dodge caravan drive line back up front would be a good choice. Remove that VW conversion put in the trailing axle, possible a 90’s dodge caravan donor would fit the bill. Than a nice two tone paint job with a vintage logo on the side in German of course. I’d do a basic camper arrangement in the back so you’d have somewhere to stay when your at the car rally’s. Interesting find.

    • M1008

      Sorry, nothing from a Dodge Caravan would be a good choice. Any Honda 4 cylinder engine/trans combo would be nice here. However I think the VW combo would shoot this thing down the road very well. I like the ugly asss little thing

  14. Brian

    Looks like a miniature International Metro

    • M1008

      This Metro would probably be better for us here. This is a nice one

  15. Bill McCoskey

    This vehicle was never considered an Audi, at least in Europe, it’s an Auto Union. I have a sporting version of an Auto Union, the SP1000, a 2-seat sports coupe that sort of looks like a ’57 T-bird. It has a much larger displacement 3 cylinder 2 stroke engine, at 1,000cc.

    Because this little truck now has a VW engine in the rear, and no side access door, that’s a big waste of room. Plus, these trucks had a body framework made of WOOD behind the driver’s area, so I’m wondering what they have secured the VW drive train to. F series engines & front drive assemblies are not difficult to find, I know of one in a sedan only about 30 minutes from me here in Maryland.

  16. Maestro1

    Everybody needs to calm down on the spelling. This is an interesting project. I would join the audi owner’s ckub and see if you can make any progress regarding whatever parts are necessary.

    • Al

      Ewe r rite, oui kneeds two com down. Spelink aint r write two krit-a-size.
      It iz an inter restink projekt.
      Eye wood join the oddy ckub an sea if ewe kahn mayk progrez on fine-ding parts.

      • boxdin

        This reminds Me of the Guy who didn’t like My use of Capital Letters. Sometimes you Need to Make Sure the reader Gets The Point by using Caps when Necessary. So therefore I will Continue to Use Caps when the Point Needs to be Hammered in. All in Jest of course.

  17. Rex Kahrs Member

    Well, if we expect immigrants to learn to speak the English language, then shouldn’t we be able to? I mean, every language is different from every other language because of rules…spelling, punctuation, whatever rules you want to name. If you ignore all those rules, then you’re speaking your own language, and not really English.

    As in all things that are worth doing, speaking and writing our national language is worth doing RIGHT!

    • Al

      Write or is it rite, or just maybe last writes.

    • Mike

      Rex, you’re absolutely right of course. I did write to Bill Gates once to point out on his language preferences that there was no such thing as American English – sadly no reply as yet. All this said, I really like the DKW but not it’s implant. The original unit, whilst pathetic, would make this rarity a splendid rebuild project

  18. Pugsy

    Now, this is different.
    A little cutting and headlight reworking, some nice mags, shoe horn a BBC in there somewhere….oh yeah…..

    Another “no reserve” auction starting at 10 g’s….say what?

  19. Will Owen Member

    DKW was not Audi, but another Auto Union marque. Audi came into being after a guy name Horch had sold his self-named car company, including the rights to the Horch name. So when he got back into the car game, he just translated his name (which means “Listen!”} from German to Latin: Audi.

    DKW, if I recall correctly, was an outfit building steam traction engines that was bought by Auto Union and its name applied to a line of small cheap cars, switching the meaning of DKW from “Dampf Kraft Wagen” to “Das Kleine Wunder.” Or so it’s said. I actually looked at a ’30s DKW roadster, an odd little thing with a plywood body and two-cylinder two-stroke engine (and oil-soaked engine compartment) at a lot on Stevens Creek in San Jose ca. 1968. I did not buy it. However, I have seen several of these things, like them a lot, and would love to have one with its original drivetrain. This one is okay, too, just not compelling.

  20. brucespoint

    Word: Quattro

  21. John P

    Cool.. but it’s been owned by a VW lover and mostly the mechanicals are VW. The Headlight assemblies are no different than pre-‘66 VW Type 1 parts-just like the dash components and engine.. it’s still cool minus the JDM-seque outside appearance..

  22. Whippeteer

    Here’s one for $2500 without a drivetrain in Eugene OR. https://portland.craigslist.org/clc/ctd/d/1956-dkw-van/6382001382.html

  23. JimmyinTEXAS

    @Whippetter ,
    It is already gone. The ad is taken down.

  24. Martin Horrocks

    These were built under license in Spain. Survivors exist, restoration projects usually and need not be very expensive.

  25. chad

    “…~900 cc 3 cyl 2 stroke
    IS rear suspension w/TA & torsion bars
    Rack & pinion
    16” load deck…”
    Wonder what the wheel base is? The back doors?
    frnt suicide doors…
    I like it!

  26. Mark Evans

    Saw one of these sitting behind a dry cleaners in Toronto 20 years ago with their logo on it,but going to earth. They weren’t interested in parting with it .Using it for some kind of storage. Only one I’ve ever seen till today-WAY Cool. Dry Cleaner & truck long gone.

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