Like many other producers of Microcars, the German manufacturer Zundapp got its start in motorcycle production. It was founded in Nuremberg in 1917 to produce munitions and as the First World War came to a close, switched to motorcycles. The first product was introduced in 1921 and sold at a very reasonable and low price.
Their first attempt in the automotive industry came during the 1930s when motorcycle sales began to taper off. Their first creation was designed by the legendary Dr. Ferdinand Porsche who was currently working on 'the people's car' at the time. Only three prototypes were ever created. All were powered by a five-cylinder radial engine.
Motorcycle sales began to pick up so the company abandoned its automotive endeavors. They would dabble in the production of aircraft engines and light machinery for a while, before returning to automobile production.
This new attempt at entering the automobile industry came over two decades from their last attempt. It was now the mid-1950s when Zundapp introduced their 'Janus 250' model. It was a small, four-passenger vehicle which contained seats that faced away from each other. The name 'Janus' was very appropriate, as it was named after the Roman god who faced in two directions. There were entry doors at the front and rear which allowed ample room for entry and exit. The style was similar to the Isetta versions.
Another feature of the seats was that they could be folded down to create sleeping space for two. The Janus was powered by a 245-cc single-cylinder, two-stroke engine that produced 14 horsepower. The engine was courtesy of the company's experience in motorcycle production. The 15 cubic-inch unit was placed between the two bench-type seats.
Top speed was around 50 mph and around 60 mpg was feasible. Hydraulic drum brakes could be found in the front and rear, and a four-speed manual gearbox (plus reverse) was standard. Other standard equipment included mirrors, front and rear vents, optical gear indicators, and an ivory-colored steering wheel.
Production lasted from 1956 through 1958 with an approximate total of 6,900 units produced. A mere 1,731 were produced during the first six months, falling far short of the expected totals. They had hoped to produce 15,000 cars per year. By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2008