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Classic Velocity Blog

The Screaming Threes

Classic Velocity

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DKW is no stranger to this blog both in two-wheel (see DKW 350) and four-wheel (see DKW 1000) versions. On two wheels, DKW was a competitive force in more than one era. Ewald Kluge rode a 250cc motorcycle to victory in the 1938 Isle of Man lightweight TT, and followed that up with a second place finish in 1939. Following the war, DKW (now part of Auto Union and headquartered in Ingolstadt), resumed the production of small bore two stroke machines and was eager to return to competition.

Once Erich Wolf assumed the leadership of competition machines, new 2 stroke works racers were developed in 125cc, and 250cc, displacements. After a disappointing 1951, the megaphone exhausts were replaced by expansion chambers, and a 3 cylinder version of the 350cc machine was introduced in 1952. The triple was developed by adding a nearly horizontal cylinder (75 degrees) to the nearly vertical twin cylinder arrangement previously in use. The machine also gained a four speed gearbox. The outcome was a 46 HP machine that would hit 140 MPH. The machine was thirsty though, and required a large alloy tank similar to NSUs and the AJS "porcupine". Despite this, results initially were not very good as reliability and handling issues prevented further successes.

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Then in 1954, Robert Eberan Von Eberhost, a former assistant to Ferdinand Porsche, was placed in charge of racing efforts. He chose Hellmut Georg to work on the competition engines, and it is believed that there was a specific charge to make the 350cc machine competitive. A series of changes were introduced, including adding 38mm Dell Ortos, and a bevel-driven Bosch Magneto. Other changes included direct oiling, telescopic forks, and four drum hydraulic brakes.  This was ground-breaking innovation at the time. The result was that DKW finished 1-2-3 at the Nurburgring in the 350cc class despite being down on top speed.

In 1955, a revised version of the "screaming three", so named because of the sound and the fact that it made peak power at 9500RPM, emerged complete with streamlining. On the improved machine, August Hobl was able to win the German championship, and finished third in the World championship. In 1956, Hobl followed that up by finishing second in the world championship. However, with motorcycle sales in a major slump, racing efforts were cutback. Then Auto Union, controlled by Daimler Benz by share count, merged DKW, Victoria (see Victoria Ventures) and Express, into a combined motorcycle unit called Zweirad Union. The DKW motorcycle brand rapidly faded into history.

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