Pre-War Streamliner from Germany Was a Wing on Wheels

When they weren’t busy tattooing serial numbers on our grandmothers, those wacky, pre-war Germans were obsessed with aerodynamic streamliners. From racing boats to the legendary Auto Union grand prix machines, mastering the black art of aerodynamics was a national obsession – and no one came closer to building a practical, every day “wing on wheels” than Karl Schlör, whose super-aerodynamic Schlörwagen appears, here.

While working as an engineer at the Aerodynamischen Versuchsanstalt (Aerodynamic Institute) in Göttingeng, Germany, Schlör began work on his streamliner. Starting with a 38 HP Mercedes model 170H, Karl redesigned nearly every part of the car’s body and chassis, resulting in a vehicle with flush-mounted windows and wheel spats that are similar, in concept, with GM’s EV1 and Honda’s original Insight hybrid – as well as the ultra-efficient solar racers of today.


Under the Skin of the Schlörwagen

schlorwagen streamliner pre-war germany

The fruit of Karl’s efforts was a rear-engined, 7-passenger super sedan driven from a front, central seating position (fighter plane-style) that was first unveiled his Schlörwagen at the 1939 International Motor Show in Berlin. At the show, it was quickly nicknamed the “Göttingen Egg,” but it proved to be significantly faster than the Mercedes 170H it was based on. How much faster? The Mercedes topped out at around 55 MPH, while the Schlörwagen (despite being nearly 7 feet wide) could reach 84 MPH … that’s a 52% improvement that also trounced its contemporaries in terms of fuel economy!

Recently, the Göttingen Egg was rediscovered and placed in a modern wind tunnel, to “grade” Schlör’s work on the streamliner. The results were astonishing: a 0.15 coefficient of drag – that’s better than any contemporary product car, and comparable to Volkwagen’s XL1 ultra high mileage supercar … and that thing don’t fit 7 people!


1939 Schlörwagen Streamliner

Source | More Photos: DLRde, via Wired.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.