Tuesday September 17, 2019
‘Most people haven’t got a clue what it is. Some think it is a Volvo while others read the badging on the front and get it confused with a Borgward’. But to be fair, Peter Frost’s 1963 Wartburg 311 Luxus-Limousine is a fairly exclusive sight, even by the standards of the classic car world.
The brand was not uncommon in Britain during the 1970s, a time when you were quite likely to encounter the square-rigged Knight saloon emitting that distinct two-stroke engine note as it trundled along the A303. However, less than 1,000 RHD examples of its 311/312 predecessor found a home in the UK.
The 311 was, in fact the first Wartburg-badged car to leave the state-owned VEB Automobilwerk Eisenach factory in former East Germany. Power was from the 901cc engine, and the rather attractive four-door coachwork was mounted on a separate chassis. Two years after the 311’s debut in 1956 exports commenced to former West Germany. By 1962 the engine was enlarged to 992cc with the 312 version, although the 311 badging was retained for some markets.
The Wartburg was quite extensively sold abroad – it was even made in Argentina as the “Graciela W” – and British sales began in 1964. Imports were handled by Industria Ltd. of Holloway (tel. NORth 8261) who sold Czechoslovakia-built motorcycles.
The advertisements promised accommodation for five, a heater, a cigarette lighter, a radiator blind and reclining front seats all for just £539 9s 7d – which meant a Wartburg cost as little as a new Mini. For the discerning motorists, especially one who did not object to his. /her neighbours regarding them as an extra from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold or The Quiller Memorandum, the “1000 De Luxe” was a genuine bargain.
Industria subsequently offered the three-door wagon – ‘a real estate car’ – but the Coupe and the delightful five-door “Camping” were sadly never offered in the UK. Nor was the Luxus-Limousine with its extra brightwork, map reading lamp, wooden door cappings and even a full-length fabric sliding roof.
Peter came by his example 27 years ago ‘it was first used as the chauffeur-driven transport for the boss of a factory in Poland. It is a nice looking car as well as being spacious and well-built. It also drives very well, and there is a freewheel that operates in the top three ratios of the four-speed steering column gearchange. It makes a clutchless gear change a lot easier’.
The 312 was uprated with a modified chassis and suspension in 1965 and the final examples were built in 1967. Today Peter’s Luxus always manages to cause a stir whenever he takes it for a drive around Middlesex.
As a long-term aficionado of Soviet Bloc machinery, he has noticed a change in attitude towards such cars over the past two decades – ‘Most of the Skoda jokes have died out. Some older classic enthusiasts still look down on Eastern European cars, but they have an increasing following among young people’. And after experiencing the very agreeable Luxus, it is easy to understand why.
WITH THANKS TO – PETER FROST
We have been arranging insurance for classic cars for over 30 years at Lancaster!
With 2 year agreed valuation cover from only £18, as well as mileage discounts, car club member discounts and many other benefits – we aim to find the best price for your needs.