Communism's 'Ferrari of the East' is back on the road after 27 years

It was built out of bits of East German Trabant and Wartburg cars, yet its rakish drop-nosed looks and - by Communist standards - staggering top speed of 102mph won it the nickname "Ferrari of the East".

Now, 27 years after Communist East Germany's only sports car went out of production, its makers have decided to re-launch the two-stroke engined vehicle that was once the star of motor racing circuits behind the Iron Curtain. "Ferrari of the East" may have been the title bestowed on the wing-doored car that looked as if it had been lifted from an early James Bond movie, but its real name is the less glamorous Melkus RS 1000.

Last month the Dresden manufacturers, Melkus engineering, produced the first of its revamped sports cars based on the original. The latest model, stylishly painted glistening yellow, was unveiled at the city's transport museum by Peter Melkus, the company owner, who declared, with tears in his eyes: "The Melkus marque is reborn !"

Fifteen of the new cars are due to be completed by early next year and the company says that nearly all of them have already found owners. "Once we have completed our remake of the original, we plan to embark on the next generation, the Melkus RS 2000," Mr Melkus said.

Communist East Germany was hardly a car owners' paradise. Fifteen years was the average waiting time for a two-stroke, smoke-puffing and plastic-bodied Trabant or Wartburg car, which were the only domestically-made vehicles. Parents were known to put their children on car manufacturers' waiting lists shortly after they were born.

Given such dire economic circumstances, the Melkus RS 1000 had no difficulty in achieving legendary status. It was the brainchild of an East German driving instructor called Heinz Melkus, who had a passion for Ferrari and Lotus cars and a gift for mechanical engineering.

"My grandfather once took a rare trip to Yugoslavia and his Wartburg was overtaken by a sleek-looking Lotus while he was driving on the Autoput motorway. After seeing the Lotus, he wanted to build sports cars himself," his grandson Sepp said. "In 1969, when East Germany was preparing to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the authorities finally gave him permission to build a sports car to mark the event and the Melkus RS 100 was born," he added.

In 1969 and throughout the 1970s, Heinz Melkus scoured East German factories and car breakers' yards for Trabant and Wartburg parts that formed the basis of his sports car. The building took place in a garage close to his Dresden home using a Wartburg 353, 75-horse power, two-stroke engine and a body moulded out of fibreglass.

The 101 cars built were snapped up by enthusiasts. Heinz Melkus went on to become East Germany's equivalent of Michael Schumacher.The gradual economic decline of East Germany finally brought production of the Melkus RS 1000 to a halt in 1979.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

General Cover Teacher - Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Qualified Teachers needed for Supply in t...

English Teacher Urgently Required - Secure Unit - Nottingham

£100 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Are you a fully qualified ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on