Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge

Richard Dredge

Zundapp Janus

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Rising from the ashes of the Dornier Delta project, the Zundapp Janus looked bizarre but sold well

In 1955, German microcar maker Dornier unveiled its tiny wundercar, the Delta. An angular vehicle that was symmetrical along its length and width, it featured a bizarre seating arrangement. Two pairs of passengers sat back to back, having got into the car via a door on the front or an identical one on the back.

Although the car's concept was especially odd, that didn't stop German motorcyle maker Zundapp from buying the rights to produce the tiny oddball. The result was the Janus, which was named after the Greek god that faced both ways, and which went on sale in 1957 featuring several changes from the Delta's design.

Firstly the doors were no longer hinged at the top – instead they were more conventionally hinged at the side. The styling was also changed to look slightly less strange, but the centrally mounted engine remained – this was a car which defied all convention when it came to car design and construction.

The engine itself was less idiosyncratic, as it was a 248cc single-cylinder two-stroke – something which wasn't that dissimilar from the powerplants installed in many of the microcars which were suddenly becoming popular due to the Suez crisis. But in 1958 the plug was pulled, Zundapp returning to focusing on motorbike production. Now there are reckoned to be just 40 or so roadworthy Zundapps worldwide, even though almost 7000 were built.

When The Autocar tried out a development Janus in 1957 it seemed surprisingly enamoured with the car. far from being put off by the Zundapp's symmetrical design the magazine stated: "Most refreshing in the present miniature car epidemic is the apparent absence of plagiarism on the part of the German designers, and their refusal to follow any standard line of approach. None is less conventional nor more universally practical than the Zundapp Janus, which offers a greater capacity than any, for either passengers or goods, in proportion to its engine size and overall dimensions".

The magazine continued: "Our experience of the Zundapp was confined to the fully laden condition, in which it gave a remarkably stable and pleasant ride considering its wheelbase of less than 6ft… the Janus proved stable and unexpectedly comfortable over some atrociously pot-holed dirt roads. Behind the wheel, one was conscious that the 248cc single-cylinder two-stroke engine had little in reserve with a full load, although with one or two up it probably performs quite heartily".

Vital statistics
Produced 1957-1958
Number built 6900
Engine Mid-mounted 248cc, 1-cylinder
Transmission 4-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power 14bhp
Top speed 50mph

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