DKW…or, Dampf Kraft Wagen. A German crafted motorcycle with quite a history.
DKW started out as a factory that produced steam fittings. It’s owner, Danish engineer Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen, started the factory in Saxony Germany back in 1916. In that same year, Rasmussen tried to make a steam driven car engine. He was unsuccessful in the endeavor, but by 1917 Rasmussen had made a two stroke toy engine which he called, called Des Knaben Wunsch — “a boy’s desire”.


Rasmussen played around with this engine, and decided to put it into a bicycle frame, calling this newly designed bicycle: Das Kleine Wunder — “a little marvel”.
The automotive world considers this move to be the true start of the DKW brand. DKW and it’s motorcycle engine had become the world’s most popular motorcycle, thrusting DKW into the leadership in motorcycle manufacturing.


By 1932, DKW became known as Auto Union, having joined forces with Audi, Horch and Wanderer. By 1957 Daimler-Benz bought the Auto Union brand continuing building motorycles until they sold the rights to the Volkswagon Group in 1964.


During the war years, DKW produced very famous models such as the RT 125 pre- and post World War II. After the end of World War II, it was decided that the design drawings for their two stroke engine would be doled out to Harley Davidson and BSA, this was a punishment to Germany, and was to be used as reparations. I guess it’s true, “to the victor go the spoils.” The HD version of the engine was known as the Hummer, and BSA called theirs the Bantam. Both of these engines are known to me, so I would guess they did pretty good off the engine designs from DKW.

Image courtesy J. Wood & Company Auctioneers and Liquidators, from their Daytona 2008 Antique & Classic Motorcycle Auction


6 comments on “DKW”

  1. Great article! I was at the H-D Museum in October where I saw a Hummer for the first time. It struck quite a chord with me as my first ever ‘bike was a BSA Bantam. There were two key differences: firstly, the Beeza always had telescopic forks, which I don’t think appeared on the Harley until 1951 (?). Secondly, because Americans and Germans both drive on the wrong side of the road, the clever BSA engineers had to reverse all the drawings so that kickstart and gear shift were correctly placed on the right-hand side of the engine, and not the left hand…..:-)

  2. Affer, Thanks,I’m glad you liked it! Get back with me…I want your link to your website! I keep trying to get back there by using the link on your name…but alas…it fails…

  3. Thank mou for honoring DKW. Gerry Frederics

  4. Does anyone know where you can find the DKW RT125 drawings that everyone got during the war? I'd like to build one or something very similiar as very close as I can get. chopppergirl at air –

  5. >Hello From Belgium Chessy,Thats a verry nice promotionfilm of the 1927 DKW.I saw the production of the 98cc 1938 version i think.I drive it myselve, with a 1939 engineI was in zwichau with that bike on the road,2080kmBegin this year me Marnix and my frend Hans we ewent to Assen 1060 Km on the road fantastic bikes, still going

  6. >RT3…I'm very glad you stopped by! Those are huge mileage numbers on an almost 80 year old motorbike! Fantastic! If you click on my name here, you can email me, I would be very happy to see your bike, if you have any photos to share? Be well,

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