Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Car of the Month - December 2003

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Adler 2.5 Liter - 4-seater cabriolet body by Karmann - manufactured in 1938

It may look peculiar now, but at the time it was Germany's most advanced car: the streamlined Adler 2.5 Liter model, also known as the Type 10 or the "Autobahn-Adler". The model was presented in 1937 and was the work of Austrian engineer Karl Jenschke, who had established a name in streamlined car design with his Steyr Type 50 from 1935, a car not unlike the later Volkswagen "Bug" of fellow Austrian Ferdinand Porsche. Both the design of the body as that of the chassis and engine were unlike any other car on the German market at the time, and it created quite a stir.
In the 1930s streamlined design was the fashion in the car industry. Apart from a lot of experimental cars a number of avant-garde production models set the trend and showed the shape of things to come, like the Chrysler Airflow and the Tatra 77 of 1934 and of course the Lincoln Zephyr of 1936. The Adler 2.5 Liter followed in the wake of these cars, though it was certainly original. Most noticeable about it was that it combined the traditional streamlined shape of half a raindrop with a spacious and practical interior which could seat up to six people in the sedan version. Up to then streamlined bodies often lacked leg and head room, but in the Adler this was avoided by constructing an arrow-like front suspension lay-out which allowed the engine to be placed more in front and by bending the side bars of the chassis around the floorpan instead of placing them underneath. Next to that it was a rather wide (1.74 m) and a high (1.65 m) car, which added to the roomy interior but made it look a bit ungainly.
Another remarkable aspect was that it was thrifty. It had a drag factor of only 0.36 which is similar to that of coupe models of the 1970s and a modern 6-cylinder in-line engine with alloy heads and pistons which produced 58 hp @ 3800 rpm from 2494 cc displacement. This resulted in a maximum speed of about 125 kph, but more important: it could cruise at 115 kph and use only 12 litres of fuel per 100 km. These features combined with its relatively agile performance gave the car its epithet "Autobahn-Adler".
Still, thanks to its independent front suspension, its wide track and its rear swing-axles it offered excellent road holding which made the car even more at home on winding and twisty roads. Its ground clearance of 21 cm even gave it some off-road potential, which was eventually to become the downfall of many a 2.5 Liter model commandeered by the German Army during the second World War.

Unfortunately for Adler the car wasn't a commercial success. It was expensive to built and the middle class market at which it was aimed didn't have the money to buy it due to the pre-war economy. So between 1937 and 1940 only 5290 cars of this type were sold. It was available as a 4-door sedan, a 2 or 4-seater cabriolet and as a Sport-Limousine (coupe) model, of which the last was more powerful and the least produced.
These days the Adler 2.5 Liter model is hardly remembered, which is an unjust fate for this remarkable and last car developed by Adler. The Adler car factory was bombed during the war and after the war the company abandoned car production and decided to concentrate mainly on manufacturing typewriters; nowadays Adler is only active in real estate. Due to the short production life of the 2.5 Liter model and the fact that many of these cars were run down during the war it never had a chance to make a name for itself and it ended up in a dusty corner of car history. Fortunately there are still some of these cars around to remind us.
There is more info (in German) about the Adler 2.5 Liter and many pictures of a 4-door sedan version of this model on the Adler Autobahnwagen pages of Marina Block.

© André Ritzinger, Amsterdam, Holland

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