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SNAPSHOT 206: 1951 Hanomag Partner

This modest family car may at first glance seem unremarkable – but it is in fact a prototype for a bold new attempt by the Hanomag company to return to motor car production.  Their previous car had been the modern, unitary-bodied 1.3-litre, developed from 1936 and launched in 1939, which sold over 9,000 examples in 1939 until the factory converted to wartime production of Maybach engines for military vehicles.  Hanomag had principally made its name for the production of tractors, starting in 1905 with steam propulsion and from 1910 with petrol engines, building up a healthy reputation during the 1920s and 30s.

But it did not ignore the potential of passenger cars.  The 2/10PS Hanomag was developed by two engineering students, Karl Pollich and Fidelis Böhler, as one of the first German small cars, launched on the market in 1925.  It was revolutionary in concept (with a water-cooled single-cylinder engine behind the seats) and bizarrely short, tall and lumpy in appearance, thus earning itself the nickname of the “Kommisbrot” or “Army Loaf.”  But it was practical and highly competitive in price and sold nearly 16,000 examples in its two years of production.

More conventional cars followed, and by 1930 Hanomag lay second only to Opel in the German market.  From 1931 a succession of new cars, all based on a deep-section steel platform that integrated with a body structure designed and built by Ambi-Budd in Berlin, assured the success of Hanomag and led Pollich to design both the pre-war 1.3-litre and, from 1947, the prototype we see in our Snapshot: the Partner.

This was a front-wheel-drive light car with a 3-cylinder 697cc 2-stroke engine mounted in the front overhang and all-round independent suspension by rubber-block torsion bars, the front on double wishbones and the rear on trailing links.  The unitary body with two rear-hinged doors was built by Karmann in Osnabrück.

And now we come to a unique feature of the car.  In our picture we can just see that the body offered space for three adults on the separate front seats – and there was room for two children behind these in emergency seats.  The generous luggage capacity further expanded if the child seats were not in use.

Sadly, the advanced features of the car did not lead to series production.  Between 11 and 20 prototypes were said to have been produced and exhibited, but most were scrapped, and only one example survives.

Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive

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