16-17 January 2014

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Lot 4

1960 DKW Schnellaster Kastenwagen 3=6

  • Chassis no. 22524620
  • Engine no. 66157370

Sold for $60,500

42 bhp, 896 cc two-stroke, water-cooled inline three-cylinder single Solex 40ICB carburetor, four-speed ZF front transaxle, four-wheel independent suspension with a transverse front leaf spring and rear trailing arms and torsion bar, and hydraulic four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 108.3 in.

  • Two-and-a-half-year nut-and-bolt restoration
  • Versatile, economical, and useable
  • One of two known restored examples in the U.S.A.
  • Class award at the 2013 Forest Grove Concours

After a downpour at the 1955 Pebble Beach road races, the staff at Road & Track decided that they needed a vehicle to serve as a combination mobile office, galley, and bunk for future West Coast races. They looked at a Wells Cargo trailer and a Ford wagon; a Fiat Multipla; a Volkswagen Kombi (bus); a Chrysler Town & Country wagon; and Alfa Romeo’s “Romeo” Camper. But what they actually bought for their new “Pressmobile,” as it said on the side, was a DKW 3=6.

DKW had been the largest European motorcycle manufacturer before World War II, and it was a two-stroke specialist, so it was little surprise that their 3=6 followed the trend. Even the name, “3 equals 6”, is a subtle boast about the powerplant, which has three cylinders that give the performance of a small six. Volkswagen’s Micro Bus, however, was probably the closest competitor. At the time, it would have been notably smaller and lighter and correspondingly less expensive. The DKW made up for its weight disadvantage with 42 horsepower and 57 foot-pounds of torque, yielding “enough ‘steam’ to pull a much heavier Karavan along at a better rate,” said Road & Track. They also noted that the torquey, high-revving two-stroke would burn rubber in first gear, while also being able to cruise comfortably at 60 mph. Its best quality, however, was its handling on the open road, “which can only be described as amazing.” Add tremendous reliability—one tune-up and a single loose wire in Road & Track’s first 9,000 miles were the only work required—and ahead-of-its-time features, like a curbside door with five feet eight inches of headroom, a flat floor, and front-wheel drive, and the DKW is a look forward at the minivans that were to come decades later.

This example was rescued from a storage shed at a mining operation in southern Oregon in 1996, and an unconfirmed story says that it had been used by a hosiery salesman in the 1960s to service his route along the Pacific Coast. Assorted 3=6 models were actively sold in the U.S.A., and while no records of importation numbers have been found, it’s likely that less than 1,000 of the Kastemwagen panel trucks were sold. Today, only six are known in the U.S.A.; two of them are restored, two are complete and unrestored, and two are parts vehicles, making restoration extremely challenging.

It might not even be possible to complete another Schnellaster to this level. The consignor’s search for parts stretched over at least eight countries and three continents, including the U.S., Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, and Crete. Even the machine screws, which are used exclusively throughout the bodywork, are new old stock parts. Every mechanical component is original to the vehicle, right down to the rebuilt relays, wiper motors, turn signal switches, and voltage regulators. The factory color was duplicated from original paint that had been found on the firewall, under a panel that had not been exposed to weather, and the van was finished correctly, as per the factory, in a single color inside and out, with black fender trim, extruded aluminum brightwork, and a wood load floor. The original engine, often found seized in a 3=6 from lack of oil, was rebuilt with sealed bearings for longevity and with modern synthetic two-stroke oil, and it offers improved performance and less two-stroke smoke.

After a two-and-a-half-year restoration, this Schnellaster Kastenwagen appeared at the 2013 Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded Second in Class; points were deducted for incorrect tires, which have since been replaced.

Other Schnellaster Kastenwagens can be found, but it is unlikely that any others have been or can be restored as correctly and sympathetically as this icon of the evolution of modern transportation.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more