Otto Daus was possessed of a singular natural ability to understand and improvise mechanical things. He came from an aviation background, as did many microcar builders of the time. Having designed, built, and flown his own aeroplanes by 1914, he vowed never to fly again after what he saw during the war. He worked for a long time, from 1929 to 1947, as the chief designer for the company Vidal und Sohn, makers of the well-known (at the time) Tempo three-wheeled trucks.
After World War 2 Daus formed his own independent engineering office, taking with him several Vidal people. He remained on good terms with Vidal, however, and continued to do design work for the company, including a Geländewagen, or off-road vehicle, in 1958. This Daus 214 was a three-wheeled, front-wheel drive Kübel/Schwimmwagen-style vehicle with a Heinkel motor and a retractable propeller.
In 1954 Daus tried his hand at going into microcar manufacture with the microcar pictured, which was fitted with an ILO 200 two-stroke engine with thermo-syphon cooling, like that of a Ford Model T or Austin Seven, and a sophisticated electric pre-selector transmission. There were three forward and three reverse speeds, and the engine could be removed or installed in just 16 minutes. The top speed was around 75kmh (47mph).
While the cable-operated brakes were rather old-fashioned in the mid-fifties, there was rack-and-pinion steering and the suspension was by transverse leaf spring front and rear. The bodywork was made of steel; just as this car was being built glassfibre was starting to take off as a material for bodyshell manufacture, but Daus opted for steel all the same.
Daus's microcar would remain a one-off and it would never be road registered as it was never issued with an official 'KFZ Brief' or vehicle registration document, ensuring that it was always just a static collector's item.
||Rear-mounted, 197cc, 2-stroke, 1-cylinder
||3-speed electric pre-selector, rear-wheel drive
- The car pictured was sold by RM Sotheby's in 2013 for $32,200. Many thanks to RM Sotheby's for the use of its pictures to illustrate this article.