Adler Trumpf

Back in the days of the Penny Farthing cycle; perhaps one of the least well-designed means of transport in history; a German engineer named Heinrich Kleyer fell in love with cycling after spending a year so in the United States where he was introduced to cycle racing.

The Penny Farthing bikes that they raced were capable of quite high speeds because the large size of the wheel gave a longer distance covered for every turn of the pedals; but they were hard to get on, hard to get off and downright dangerous in the event of an accident or even when it was necessary to come to a halt for any reason.

The logical improvement on this was the so-called low safety wheel bicycle, the forerunner of those we still use today; by using a chain drive with a large front cog fitted with pedals and a smaller one on the rear wheel the gearing could be adjusted to give higher speeds. From 1886 Kleyer started manufacturing these; soon he was supplying wheels to early car manufacturer Benz; then he was building voiturettes (motorised tricycles) to help out a manufacturer called Max Cudell who had problems making as many as he could sell.

The next logical stage was for him to build his own voiturettes using De Dion engines; by today's standards these were pretty primitive with a top speed of only around 18 mph but in 1900 this was the state-of-the-art. Motorcycle manufacturer followed and his factory became very busy keeping up with demand.

Manufacturing his own engines was the next step; an innovative engineer named Edmund Rumpler came in to design them and he created a multitude of different models and engine designs; by the start of World War I Adler had more than 30 models in their product catalogue, together with a reputation for building reliable, rather than fast or luxurious, vehicles.

After World War 1 business was slow to pick up again but the company rebuilt its reputation for reliability and the first car to be driven all the way around the world was an Adler, driven by a car racing lady called Clara Eleonore Stinnes! This was no pleasure trip; the route included the wastes of Siberia, the Gobi Desert and a perilous journey across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal. Real paved roads were very few and far between.

This was all excellent publicity for Adler but the German economy was still shaky and after an abortive attempt to sell the business to Chrysler it was decided that a change of direction was necessary. An innovative aviation pioneer and car manufacturer called Hans-Gustav Rohr was brought in to design new models and one of the first was the Trumpf, introduced in 1933, and generally recognised as being one of the finest cars of the 1930s. It was available in either saloon or sports car mode.

Adler had already introduced mainland Europe's first hydraulic braking system. The Trump had front wheel drive; rack and pinion steering; all round independent suspension; and a four speed gearbox. This car symbolised the start of the modern era of car manufacture. Unfortunately however it suffered from one major problem; the engine was grossly underpowered.

With a capacity of 1500 cc initially this four cylinder side valve engine put out a mere 30 or so brake horsepower; however, streamlined body design helped by aerodynamic expert Paul Jaray gave a maximum speed of around 56 mph; not terribly fast (although there were a number of racing successes) but the cars were still good lookers and very reliable.

A smaller car, the Trumpf Junior, and more developments including different engine sizes, followed and all together about 100,000 Trumpfs were said to have been built until World War 2 halted production. After the war Germany's economy was shattered, Adler's Frankfurt factory had been bombed, the allies were demanding war reparations, and the company decided to give up on car manufacture. The rebuilt factory made motorcycles for a while, and then typewriters, for which Adler became well known, as memories of their cars faded into history.