Deutsch Motoren (German gas engines)

Audi forerunner waits 60 years for a second chance


Kevin Hesse’s German DKW engine showing the operating instructions in German.

Content Tools

Ivan Zeeb's father owned a farm equipment dealership in Dixboro, Mich., so he was familiar with small engines. While an infantry man during World War II, he came upon a small generator that the Germans abandoned along a railroad track while retreating from France. It was so much different than any engine he had worked on back at his father's shop that he and a fellow soldier carried it back the two miles to the base camp and had it shipped home. After the war was over and he was sent home, he tried to get it running, but discovered that the magneto windings were shorted out. He sent the magneto to a shop in Chicago, but after several months and no progress he became worried that he may not ever get it back. While in Chicago for other reasons he picked up the un-repaired magneto just in time; the company went out of business soon after.

Sixty years later he asked my dad and I if we would like to try to get it running. We looked to see if there was any way to repair the magneto ourselves, but it would have to be rewound. In the meantime we temporarily converted it to battery ignition. The engine is a single-cylinder 2-stroke and it had a couple of levers on the carburetor, which we didn't know what they were for. Also, we had no idea what fuel mix to use. I copied all the instructions down that were on the metal plate on the fuel tank and went online to have them translated into English. They are very detailed and complete. We filled it with fuel and, following the instructions, gave the starter strap a couple of pulls and it started up. I put a voltmeter on the generator to check the voltage. It had two outputs. One was 12.5 volts and the other was 100 volts. I've been told it was used to power a radio transmitter.

Inside the cover is a tool kit and spare parts that included not only an extra set of points, a spark plug and other common items, but also a full set of gaskets, extra nuts, bolts and washers, piston rings and other items to overhaul the engine in the field. Everything but a new magneto.

From what research I could do I discovered that DKW, the company that made the engine and generator, was a forerunner of the Audi automotive company. The four circles that Audi uses as its logo came from the merging of four companies, including DKW.

The engine is very smooth-running and quiet. The base is actually a large muffler. It has a tachometer and the governor keeps the engine at 3,000 RPMs. The engine size and horsepower are unknown at this time, but most likely in the 5 HP range.

Ivan was a collector of engines and tractors and belonged to the antique engine club in Ypsilanti. While we have yet to have the magneto rewound we have been running it on battery and were able to display it at a few shows for Ivan before he passed away last year.

Contact Kevin Hesse at: 6028 E.Joy Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105;

Junk-pile find connects German engine enthusiasts

By Karl Schwab

My wife was out of town for a few days, and when it is just me at home, I don't usually bother to cook just for myself. It was a nice summer Sunday evening, so I decided to just ride my bicycle over to a local fast-food restaurant a short ride away. On the ride back, I was riding on the sidewalk of a main highway, and down the way ahead of me I saw a pile of stuff at the curb with cars stopping and people going through its contents. I rode up to this pile, which contained some things that I wish I now had. Between the people and objects, I saw an item that looked like an air compressor pump. I stared at it just a little longer and then I saw a spark plug! I then saw what looked like a carburetor. Then a starting crank handle. Then a fuel cap held to the fuel tank by a leather strap. It was an engine that I had never seen before.

I dropped my bike and grabbed it. It was dirty, greasy and heavy. I had to keep an eye on my bike so as not to lose it in the feeding frenzy. I could not leave my bike, it would probably be snatched, so I climbed on my bike, balanced the engine on my thigh and carefully rode the quarter mile home. I found out later that the homeowner had passed away, and his collections were being disposed of prior to putting the property up for sale.

When I got to my house, the engine was getting very heavy and it was digging into my thigh. I rode up on the lawn and gently dropped the engine into the grass. I had made a mess of my pants, but I thought that this find may be worth it. Excitedly, I got out the de-greaser and sprayed the engine down with it, following up with a good spray from my garden hose. It looked much better now and it had what appeared to be an aluminum instruction tag affixed to the fuel tank. Great! But I had a big surprise; it was all in German!

At this time, I had the engine sitting on my driveway­ - a very uncomfortable place and position to really get into it. I remembered seeing back in the pile, what looked like a metal sewing machine base; I thought I could probably mount the engine on it to work on or maybe even run it on it if I were so lucky.

I quickly rode over to the pile once again and the base I was looking for was still there. This was neat; it even had a faintly painted pinstripe on the front of it. I quickly mounted a piece of plywood to this base and mounted the engine on top of it.

The next day, I went to my local library and got a German to English translation book. I was able to translate that this was a 2 HP, 2-cycle gasoline engine. The starting instructions were detailed, and I went through the list and made the settings. This was a complete engine, carburetor, fuel tank, magneto, muffler, starting crank handle; it had it all!

Will it run, I thought? I put the crank handle in the starting position and tried to turn the engine over. I could not. Then I pushed down on a knob located on the cylinder head - a compression release! Now the engine turned over easily. No spark, but lots of compression. I checked the magneto, and it had an open wire in the windings. I substituted an automotive coil and a 12-volt battery and now I had a good spark. I made up a 2-cycle mixture according to the instructions on the engine tag, added fuel to the tank and I had a leak at the fuel petcock. The cork gasket sealing the sediment bulb had dried out. I quickly made another and the leak stopped. I set the carburetor settings to the instructions provided, depressed the compression release and cranked her over. After a few revolutions, the engine fired up and made a lot of noise. I let it run for a couple of minutes, adjusted the carburetor and slowed the engine to a nice steady idle. Now, I thought, what do I have here? Now that it was running, I could not stand looking at that old paint, so while it was all cleaned up, I sprayed a coat of paint on it in a like color.

At that time, I was just getting onto the Internet and I got our first digital camera. I took a couple of photos and posted them to a couple of the antique engine websites. I got two responses; one from a fellow in Indiana who had one like it and another from an engine collector from the Netherlands, John Hammink. John remembered seeing something like it in his travels but could not give me any real information on it. I took it to a couple of engine shows around my area, and some of the engine collectors there said that they had never seen anything like it.

The next year, I continued showing and running the engine, and at one show, a fellow came up to me and asked me where the generator was for it? Finally, a clue to the use of this engine. He said he had the engine, but the generator had voltages he could not use, so he discarded the generator and hooked it up to a small generator that he could use. Another fellow came over and said that he had an engine like this one, but he had the complete unit: generator, case, repair/replacement parts and all. His name was Kevin Hesse. He told me his engine, however, had a different starter system (rather than a cranking handle like mine) and he was interested in the difference. He wasn't able to bring his circa 1937 engine to this show, but he offered me photos of his on his website. He also said that when his engine was running, it could hardly be heard. As it turns out, the base this engine was designed to sit on is also its muffler, which I don't have. The generator output is 12.5 volts/100 volts; probably voltages for tube-type radio equipment of its time. The included tool kit contains a set of gaskets, extra nuts, bolts, washers, bearings, brushes, rings, points, plug and condenser.

The next year, my brothers-in-law and I went to the NAMES (North American Model Engine Society) show in Southgate, Mich. While browsing through the vendor area, my brother-in-law quickly said, "there is your German engine stand!" What my stand turned out to be was the legs and bed for a treadle lathe. The complete lathe was being sold for $400 dollars, as I recall.

It's a fun engine to show, and because of this engine and meeting new people interested in engines, it got me started on collecting engines. I went to Portland, Ind., this past summer and bought my first hit-n-miss engine: a 1927 Economy 1-3/4 HP Model S.

Contact Karl Schwab at: (586)751-3117;