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Melkus portrait: Melkus revives the East Gullwing

Reinhard Schmid
Melkus portrait
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F token fly - every spot weld is unique here at Melkus. A small work of art, placed with a sense of proportion. Cordless screwdrivers rattle at irregular intervals. Screw, file, drill. It sounds like handcraft, and it smells like it. Two-component adhesive tickles the curious hairs of the nose as a greeting. At Melkus, automated production lines seem as far away as the light-flooded workshop hall in a residential area of ​​Dresden in the Japanese metropolis Tokyo.

In 1970, the only real GDR sports car started

'I want the idea of ​​mine Bring grandfather back to life, 'says company boss Sepp Melkus. In 1955 his grandfather founded Heinz Melkus KG. In addition to his driving school, the company founder and racing driver designed various racing vehicles in the 1950s and 1960s before small-scale production of the only real GDR sports car, the Melkus RS 1000, began in 1970. By 1979, 101 copies of the Melkus RS 1000 mid-engined sports car with a three-cylinder two-stroke and a plastic body were built based on the Wartburg 353 chassis and Skoda and Trabant components.

'Getting the parts in the GDR at all was a miracle. You had to be inventive. The exterior mirror, for example, consisted of an upside-down bicycle lamp,' remembers Sepp Melkus of the beginnings while holding a wing door of the current Melkus project opens. Together with his father Peter Melkus, the idea of ​​developing a spiritual successor came up in 2006. The Melkus RS 2000 was in the public spotlight for the first time at the IAA 2009.

Lightweight construction is the focus of the new Melkus

Around 20 units are to be produced every year. As a homage to the historic GDR athlete, the current Melkus RS 2000 also bears the unusual door concept. The specification reveals the relationship to the historical brother even more clearly, at least as far as the composition with foreign parts is concerned. 'It's like in the past, when we put the Melkus together from parts of different cars,' says Frank Nutschan, while with the patience of an angler he checks a gap with a tape measure. The 59-year-old is now the longest-serving Melkus worker. Since 1971 he has been working for the sports car manufacturer in Dresden, which today has ten permanent employees.

While the sports car tinkerers used to build mainly East German Wartburg parts,today they fall back on a British small series athlete. 'My grandfather was called Colin Chapman of the East because of his lightweight construction,' says Melkus Junior and quickly reveals the secret of today's organ donor.

Lotus Elise 111R was the godfather

The aluminum chassis of the Melkus RS 2000, the 1.8 liter four-cylinder, the six-speed gearbox and the steering come from the Lotus Elise 111R . 'Otherwise we manufacture everything ourselves,' adds the Melkus boss quickly, the new edition of which is also causing a critical tone at the British sports car manufacturer. Except for the lotus technology, almost everything is painstakingly handcrafted. It takes around eight weeks for a Melkus RS 2000 to leave the automobile manufacture. Thanks to the hand-laminated plastic body in combination with the aluminum chassis, the East German gullwing only weighs around 950 kilograms.

The rattling rang-täng-täng melody and the blue and white two-stroke clouds on the maiden voyage are history. Instead of 1,000 cubic engines and 70 hp, every Melkus now rolls out of the workshop with a compressor. With the help of a rotary compressor from Rotrex, the output of the direct-injection Toyota suction increases from 192 to 270 hp. 'In the RS, the trunk is also much bigger, you want to go on a trip to the Baltic Sea,' says Melkus Junior with a smile. In the RS 2000, the Elise luggage compartment the size of a washbasin has become a better bathtub with at least 225 liters.

Wiesmann as a model for Melkus

'When it comes to the chassis, we offer three variants for the Melkus RS 2000', explains the company boss. But small series fans can not only choose between adjustable Sachs, Bilstein or Öhlins chassis. Melkus customers sometimes need a whole day to choose the leather, the decorative seams and other extra wishes in the interior of the Ost-Flounder. 'There's almost no such thing as impossible with us. Every Melkus RS 2000 is more or less a tailor-made suit,' says Sepp Melkus, whose model is the Wiesmann factory in Dülmen. The price for the exotic sports car is also reminiscent of haute couture. Around 100,000 euros have to be transferred to Dresden for a Melkus RS 2000.

The Melkus story

Born in Dresden, Heinz Melkus (1928-2005) took part in motorcycle races in the late 1940s. In 1950 he started his motorsport career in the car before developing the first Melkus racing car based on VW a year later. In 1955 Melkus founded Heinz Melkus KG. In addition to a driving school, which continued until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the man from Dresden devoted himself increasingly to building racing cars.

After Melkus KG exclusively designed vehicles for motorsport purposes in the 1950s and 1960s, the Melkus RS 1000 series sports car was developed from 1966 onwards. The GDR government tolerated the development, but obliged the company to deliver three prototypes on the 20th anniversary of the GDR in April 1969present. In 1970 small series production finally started. The basic price of the RS 1000 was 29,800 Ostmark, the waiting time for the sports car was relatively short at two years compared to the Trabant (around ten years waiting time). Initially, the RS 1000 was only allowed to be purchased by selected GDR citizens and holders of a motorsport license.

A total of 101 copies were built up to 1980, of which 80 are still in existence today, according to Melkus. In honor of the company's founder, who died in 2005, the Dresden sports car manufacturer launched another small series of the RS 1000 in November 2006, limited to 15 vehicles.


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