Porsche 597 and DKW Munga: "futuristic" German military vehicles of the 50s

(To Gianluca Celentano)
24/05/22

After the Lamborghini LM002 4x4 of the late 80s animated with the 12 cm³ V5167 of the Countach especially suited to some Emirati sheik or the unusual Fiat Oltre prototype, the extreme SUV of 2005 never built and worthy (in theory) successor of the AR76, the German Porsche also created a military "floating light" at the end of the 50s.

In the German army, reconstituted after the Second World War in '55 with the name of Deutsches Heer, the brands that are the most popular thanks to the logistical and operational set-ups are Unimog, Mercedes and Man (since 2011 it is part of the Volkswagen AG group) which are at the top in terms of performance and reliability while Volkswagen, the most easy, carves out a space in the specific military mobility as in the case of the interesting 4x4 ambulance set up on VW AMAROK.

In light of these important names, even Porsche, which has always had a historical connection with Volkswagen, built a multi-role vehicle around 1950 to cope with the performing Jeeps and Land Rovers.

Nicknamed Jagdwagen hunting car, Porsche was presented Type 597 4x4 (opening photo), an amphibious vehicle that aroused interest also in the civilian market even if the specimens remained numerically very limited.

At the time, several German manufacturers such as DKW and Auto Union AG had the opportunity to revive the automotive industry after the war by entering public tenders to offer a multi-role and versatile vehicle to the German army.

During the reform of the Bundeswehr in the 50s, the house founded by Ferdinand Porsche even produced chassis for light vans, but in addition to its fast cars it was the 597 project that was most appreciated.

La Jagdwagen it was set up on a sturdy but light steel frame with independent telescopic suspension, while its engine was initially a 4-cylinder boxer of 1.5 cm3 and 50 hp, replaced with the 1.6 cm3 used by the Porsche 356 and also air-cooled. Always positioned at the rear, the Porsche engine was associated with the gearbox bell, which in the case of the 597 was a synchronized 4-speed gearbox with reduction and final performance in the order of 100 km / h.

Its PTT of only 870 kg and its leading and trailing edges made the Jagdwagen agile and able to overcome slopes of 65% with 4 occupants on board including the conductor.

The four-wheel drive was inserted on the front and a speed reducer was activated by means of a command for the heaviest passages. The narrow section of the tires increased its mobility on muddy terrain while its structure, albeit with a low waistline and the absence of doors, was perfectly buoyant without real propulsion, but only by accelerating the 4x4 rotation of the wheels.

The housing structure could be tarpable in case of wind or rain and the instrumentation really reduced to the bone, while the seats were removable according to the load needs.

The power supply of the batteries was 24 volts, a military custom and, although it reminded a bit of a bathtub or a variant of the mythical Beetle also because of its front round lanterns, the same English and French competitors showed considerable interest in the 597.

DKW Milk

Much better luck was the off-road vehicle DKW Auto Union - now Audi - which again in the 50s presented a futuristic military vehicle and more, with a displacement of only 1.000 cm3. His name Munga, multipurpose entered service in 1956 and about 46 thousand units were produced.

Used by the West German Bundeswehr and the German border police, it was immediately appreciated for its robustness and practicality.

Designed to transport from four to eight occupants based on the type of set-up, it had different conformations and a unique feature that made it instantly recognizable: the sliding front fenders. The front grille bears the characteristic four rings of Audi which was then Auto Union, but many know it with the initials of its project, F91 / 4 or Mehrzweck-Wagen.

It possessed compact dimensions and a wheelbase of only two meters but, unlike the Porsche 597, it was not amphibious.

It sure sounded nice its fast 3-cylinder 974 cm³ 2-stroke engine delivering 44 horsepower.

4-speed gearbox and permanent all-wheel drive plus two reduced ones made this vehicle of only 3 meters with a Ptt of only one thousand kg in the smallest version, an unstoppable and "light", too reconnaissance, albeit a bit too noisy.

Photo: web