Rare Garage Find: 1939 Adler Trumpf Junior

In the 1930s Adler was among Germany’s “Big 3” automakers along with BMW and Opel. Beginning in the early 1900’s they produced a myriad number of automobile models, motorcycles and even bicycles. By the time the roaring ’20s rolled around they were one of Germany’s top automakers. In the first half of 1930, they even developed a Volkswagen prototype. It was a mid-mounted engine on a tubular chassis with four-wheel independent suspension. The lead engineer, Josef Ganz, who was also Editor-In-Chief of Motor-Kritik magazine dubbed the prototype Maikafer or May Beetle.  After a shift in management, the development of the Maikafer was halted. The new technical director, Hans Gustav Rohr wanted to shift the focus to front-wheel-drive cars and in 1932 Adler released the Trumpf. Two years later in 1934, they released a smaller scaled-down version dubbed the Trumpf Junior. Amazingly one of these Trumpf Juniors has made its way to America where it still survives today with quite a history. The car has made its way to New York where it is being offered for sale here on Gullwing Motor Cars, where it is listed for $14,500. Thanks to Kyle K. for the tip.

The styling cues of the ’30s are present throughout the design of this pre-war cabriolet but the true appeal of this little gem is in the engineering. The front-wheel design allowed the body to be lower to the ground and increase cabin space. This allowed comfortable seating for four adults in a relatively short 102-inch wheelbase. There wasn’t any room sacrificed in this compact design, not even for the retractable roof which just stacks up at the back of the car.

Under the hood is the 995-cc engine mounted low between the frame. The four-speed transmission is driven off the front of the crankshaft and mounted entirely between the engine and front axle. The generator and fan are mounted above the transmission, while the fuel tank mounted over the engine feeds a side-mounted carburetor making this quite a compact design.

The interior is extremely efficient as well. The fuel gauge and voltmeter are integrated into the speedometer for a single sightline to all the vitals. The four-speed shifter is column-mounted to make more efficient use of floor space. Even the tiny glove box with its open design is literally only big enough for a pair of gloves.

You can read about the stories, tall tales, and mostly undocumented history of the car in a feature article written for the August 2012 edition of Hemmings Sport and Exotic. This little Adler is quite a unique little car. What do you think? Is this a classic feat of German engineering or just another quirky little car of a bygone era?

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  1. F Again

    My solemn promise is that I will not make a crack about the name of this vehicle. But Adler’s pretty funny.

    • Gerard Frederick

      This is as asanine a comment as I have ever had the displeasure of reading. You invite profound insults, no more. Adler wqas a technical powerhouse like no other. In the ´30’s they designed the most revolutionary streamlined cars ever seen. Their Adler Diplomat was a gorgeous, technically superior to anything else luxury car and their model called Autobahn was a breathtaking example of modernity unlike any other. While this was going on they built a men´s bicycle with 3 speed transmission in the rear hub, driven via a shaft. After total destruction during an air raid on Frankfurt in 1944 they re-started in the late 1940´s with revolutionary motorcycles of between 100 and 250 cc´s. Their designs were shamelessly stolen by Ariel in England ( the Ariel leader) and by Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki in Japan, forming the bnasis for their motorcycle industries.

      • luke arnott

        Don’t think the Ariel Arrow & Leader machines had anything copied from Adler.

  2. JohnfromSC

    Nice car that I’ve not seen before, but if I owned this I think I would check the integrity of that fuel tank quite often. I might not drive it for the same reason: A puncture of that fuel tank due to age or a frontal collision will send a shower of gasoline directly onto the exhaust manifold. Marshmallows anyone?

  3. hatofpork

    Fuel cell.

  4. Kurt

    Great little car, but finding parts would be well nigh impossible.

    • David

      You might be surprised – there is, or was until very recently, a very active club in Germany that offered lots of NOS and repro parts.

      • Kurt

        Very good!

  5. luke arnott

    Adler made typewriters too – remember them?

    • David

      And sewing machines – still do, matter of fact.

  6. David


    I am thinking this is a Trumpf? Without knowing the wheelbase or cc:ing the engine, it just seems bigger than a Junior. Our Junior is strictly a two-seater. And I had the honor of driving this car around IMS during a Concours several years ago!

  7. David

    I am wondering if this one is not a Trumpf? It seems a lot larger than the Junior at Lane Motor Museum, which is strictly a two-seater.

    • Mike

      Generally a Trumpj JUNIOR is a four seater. The famous Sport and several Special bodied Juniors where two seaters. My family owens a Karman bodied Junior over 40 years. And question?

  8. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Engineering seems to be far advanced for the time. Sort of has the look of an early Triumph sports car. Would definitely like to see this car in person. Very nice. Thanks Barn finds for bringing this to us readers.
    God bless America

  9. Gerard Frederick

    Luke, mechanicals of the Ariel Leader were a PHOTO COPY of the Adler SB250 with the exception of the front suspension and the strange body disguise. Why they changed the front suspension is anyone´s guess and why they covered the bike in those weird panels is also somewhat mysterios.

  10. 433jeff

    After watching years of WW2 documentaries this gets lumped in.

  11. Raymond J.

    Of one thing you can be absolutely certain, if it’s for sale from Gullwing Motor Cars… there is another one for sale in better condition… for less money!

  12. Burger

    Looks like all it needs is a Field Grey paint job and appropriate graphics, and you have an authentic military staff car. Of course, you could never drive it then, as it would freak out many who saw it.

  13. Lou Rugani

    Adler (“Eagle”) is one of the four rings of Auto Union, or AUDI.

    • Gerard Frederick

      Sorry, but that is incorrect. Adler had absolutely nothing to do with the Auto Union. The Auto Union was formed during the great depression and consisted of 1) DKW (a 2-stroke powerhouse producing motorcycles of up to 1000 cc´s and small delivery vehicles called Framo) 2) Wanderer (middle class cars and heavy motorcycles) 3) Audi ( cars using an american Rickenbaker engine) and 4) Horch ( luxury cars including magnificent sports roadsters easily comparable to the very best)

  14. Kelly Breen

    That is an historically significant vehicle for a very reasonable price, but I would put it on par – not ahead of the Citroen and Cord. Front wheel drive was a rarity, but not unheard of in 1939. By 1939 Cord had worked out all of their bugs and they probably deserve the title for the best front drive machine. This takes nothing away from the Alder. It is a well proportioned and nice looking car.

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