A Simple History of the Rear Engined Passenger car

Part Three, Production.

Louis Renault was pioneer of motoring who constructed his first car in a garden shed in 1898,at his parent’s home at Billancourt, near Paris. His company that he rules in an autocratic manner prospered becoming one of the great carmaker in France. During the Second World War when France was occupied by German forces, his factories were under German direction and he produced trucks for the German forces. His main preoccupation at that time was not freedom or France, but the preservation of his factories ready to resume producing cars when the war was over. To that end in 1941 he had his staff with Edmond Serre as head of project design a new car and produce a prototype. Fernand Picard, Serre's deputy, played the leading roll in design of the car.
Renault 4cv first prototype.
The car that emerged was unlike any previous Renault model but externally bore a passing resemblance to the Volkswagen prototype that had been revealed to the world before the war. But the car had a specification completely different to the Volkswagen with the exception of rear engine location. The 4cv differed in many ways from the Volkswagen, first it had a unitary chassis, and it had a water-cooled inline four-cylinder overhead valve engine of 760cc. Wishbones were used for the independent front suspension with coil springs used all round and rack and pinion steering. The performance was modest with a maximum speed of 57mph (92kph). Later prototypes also had their own distinctive body that would become well known in time.
Renault 4cv engine.
Louis Renault had made many enemies during his years of autocratic rule and having been seen to cooperate with the German invaders only compounded his crimes to his enemies. At the end of the war he did not live to see his new car go into production, because his countrymen imprisoned him. Dying in mysterious circumstances, his assets and his factories were seized by the state.

Sir Roy Fedden is remembered for the highly successful sleeve valve air-cooled radial aero-engines he designed for the Bristol Aeroplane Company, England, Before and during the Second World War.  He was dismissed in 1942 after a disagreement. He and his team began the design of a radical car in 1943. They produced a design with many unique features, a sleeve valve air-cooled three cylinder radial engine that was located at the rear of the car driving a torque converter. The all-independent suspension using swing axles to drive the rear wheels had Lockhead-Thornhill hydro-pneumatic strut springing and a part aluminum chassis frame. A prototype was ready for road testing in 1945, but the roadholding was deficient and after the prototype flipped over on test in 1946 the project faded away.

In 1945 Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent state, after being occupied by German forces from 1938 until they were driven out by the Russian forces towards the end of the Second World War. Czechoslovakia was no different to the other countries of Europe in having a severe shortage of transport vehicles. Tatra carried on producing a limited number of both the Type 57, a front engined economy car and the Type 87 a luxury car, as well as heavy trucks. After the communist coup d'etat in 1948, the economy of the country was rigidly directed and Tatra was directed to concentrate on heavy truck manufacture, only making a limited number of prestige cars for the communist party bosses.

By 1944 sixty five percent of the plant at Wolfsburg, specially built to produce the Volkswagen had been destroyed by allied bombing. The tooling used to manufacture the Volkswagen saloon had been removed from the site and the remains of the factory was being used to produce Volkswagen based military vehicles and other war materials. The first allied troops to reach Wolfsburg at the end of the war were Americans. They were soon replaced by British troops as Wolfsburg was in the region designated as the British zone of occupation. The factory was at a standstill and chaos rained in the area. With the active support of Volkswagen workers the British army soon put the remains of the factory and its workers to work repairing and servicing its vehicles. As all kinds of vehicles were in short supply, the British forces and the Volkswagen workers gathered together any Volkswagen components that had remained when production had stopped civilian or military types. They began the assembly of whatever vehicles that could be made from them, for use by the occupying forces and civilian authorities. They were so successful that in 1945 the six thousand plus then employed at the plant produced seven hundred and thirteen vehicles.
Regie Renault was founded in1946 using the Renaults factories. It operated as a private company but owned by the state, similar to Volkswagen after 1948. The state appointed Pierre Lefaucheux as president of the new company and he soon prepared the 4cv for production, showing the car first at the Paris Salon in October 1946 and production started the following year. By 1950 production was up to four hundred a day.
Renault 4cv section.
The Volkswagen factory was listed for disposal for war reparations but none of the motor manufacturers of the allied countries it or the Volkswagen, having little regard for the car. The British army engineers thought otherwise having grown to respect the military Volkswagen’s they had encountered during the war years. As the Volkswagen plant was the only car plant in the British zone of occupation and vehicles were urgently needed, the tools to manufacture the Volkswagen saloon were returned to the plant, repairs to the building were stepped up. The production of the car was resumed, this time with the 1131cc engine that had been developed for the military models in 1941. During 1946 almost ten thousand cars were produced and the following year almost nine thousand. Some of the latter were exported to nearby European countries.
A Standard Volkswagen 1945-53.
In January 1948 the occupation authorities appointed Dr Heinz Nordhoff as director of the plant. With production and exports rising, at last cars were supplies to the people the car was originally designed for, the German motorists at large.
All the principle engineers involved in the development of rear the engined cars were imprisoned at some time at the end of the Second World War. Ferdinand Porsche was detained by the French authorities for a couple of years, without any charges against him. This effectively removing him from working on future projects, but his son Ferry filled his place at the head of the Porsche design team.

Hans Ludwinka was also imprisoned, in his case by the Czechoslovakian authorities for his involvement with war production for the Germans. He lost all his assets and the rights to all his patents. Ledwinka replacement as the chief engineer at Tatra was Julius Mackerle; he set Ing Soucek to design a replacement for the Type 97. The Type 97 had been an expensive and complex car and what was needed was a car for a more suitable for the times. Work started on the new design at the end of 1945; the result was the T107 it had similar proportions to the Type 97 but was slightly larger and heavier. The engine was again a 1750cc air-cooled flat four unit, but of simpler construction with a single camshaft and push rod overhead valve that produced 48bhp. Torsion bars were used in place of the transverse leaf spring at the rear was the other major changes in specification, although the whole of the car was completely new.
Tatra T107 first prototype.
The body designed by Josef Chalupa was of advanced form even for a Tatra, with a full width body of flowing lines passable as being drawn at the end of the twentieth century not in the first half. The first prototype was produced in December 1946 and a second in 1947. Another designer was brought in as the car didn’t perform as required and five more prototypes with a 1952cc engine and other changes were produced. In this form the car went into production as the T600 Tatraplan.
Tatra T600 Tatraplan.
Tatra made 4275 of this model by mid 1951 then production was transferred to the Skoda factory, were another 2099 were produced by the end of 1953, Tatra concentrating on truck production. By which date over half a million of the prewar designed Volkswagen's had been.

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