Deutsch Motoren (German gas engines)

Audi forerunner waits 60 years for a second chance


| May 2006



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

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.