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Wartburg 353/Knight (1965 - 1988)

Last updated 11 March 2013

Surprisingly advanced specification, and not too bad to drive
Let down by its smoky engine


Forget the tired old cliche that Communist cars were all rubbish. There were plenty of horrors, of course, but as most companies behind the Iron Curtain were working with comically small amounts of budget, that they built anything at all is a miracle. The Wartburg 353 was an interesting aberration, though - because not only was it built down to a price in East Germany, but also it was rather good. In places.

Despite being based on a pre-war DKW design, the Wartburg 353 was still an advanced car when it went on sale in 1965. Front-wheel drive and aerodynamically efficient styling meant 80mph from a mere 49bhp. It became a big hit in East Germany where it became the middle-class's car of choice. However, it lagged behind the western opposition in some important areas, such as its all-round drum brakes and that smoky two-stroke.

Briefly imported into the UK, and was sold at a very low price until 1974, but continued in East Germany until 1988. Two-stroke engine made way for VW power towards the end of its production run.

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