The Auto Union 1000 was a compact front-wheel-drive saloon manufactured by Auto Union AG between 1958 and 1963. It was the first (and in many markets the last) model branded as an Auto Union by the manufacturer since the 1930s: it replaced the paradoxically named DKW 3=6, although the latter continued in production, reassuringly now branded as the DKW 900, for another year. The two cars were broadly similar, but the new car had its two-stroke engine enlarged to 981 cc yielding a 10% - 37% (according to model) power increase.
Apart from the enlarged engine, which now provided in the base model 44 bhp (33 kW), the 1000 featured the old four ring Auto Union badge across the air grill along with the ‘Auto Union’ name above it, in place of the ‘DKW’ badge that had adorned the nose of the earlier model.
In addition to the two- and four-door saloons, there was a ‘pillarless’ coupé which shared the profile of the saloons apart from the absence of any fixed B pillar. A three-door estate version was also offered, branded as the ‘Universal’, between 1959 and 1962. For the new decade, the saloon was renamed Auto Union 1000S and received, in August 1959, an eye catching wrap around windscreen. Neither the windscreen nor the name changes entirely concealed the fact that at a time when competitor designs employed the modern ponton, three box form, this Auto Union’s body along with most of its technical features descended directly from that of the Zwickau developed DKW F9 prototype of 1938. Fortunately in 1938 the front-wheel-drive DKW design had been an innovative one.
Appearing in 1958 was the Auto Union 1000 Sp, a low-slung two-seater sports car that was produced for Auto Union by the Stuttgart coach builders, Baur. The fixed-head version was joined in 1961 by a cabriolet. Adorned with tail fins, the stylish modern look of the car gave rise to the "baby Thunderbird" (schmalspur Thunderbird) soubriquet in the press, and belied the fact that it was, under the skin, another Auto Union 1000, albeit one with an increased compression ratio and a claimed maximum of 55 bhp (41 kW) to place on the road. The 1000 Sp was lower but not (assuming only two people were in the car) significantly lighter than the standard-bodied saloon: a claimed maximum speed of 140 km/h (87 mph) nevertheless put its performance at the top of the range.
In Argentina the 1000 was manufactured under license by IASFe (Industrias Automotriz de Santa Fe) between 1960 and 1970, the lineup consisted of the 2- and 4-door sedan, the 3-door Universal estate (station wagon), and Carrozzeria Fissore drew the Coupé and Spyder "1000 SE" on the basis of German "1000 Sp", but this time more elegant and it departed from the visual appearance of the Ford Thunderbird, the "Fissore Coupé" stood out with one piece front bumpers and longer wrap around bumpers in back, an alternate roof line, side louvers in the front fenders between the front wheel cut outs and doors ornated with chrome strips and an elegantly appointed interior, limited numbers of the coupé where built and are highly sought out by collectors. Licensed productions of the Coupés and Spyder where also assembled in Spain.
A 1000S Coupé was tested by the British The Motor magazine in 1960 and had a top speed of 80.9 mph (130.2 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 23.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 31.5 miles per imperial gallon (8.97 L/100 km; 26.2 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1259 including taxes on the UK market. In the same year, the much larger Austin Westminster retailed for only £1148 in the UK, reflecting, in particular, the extent to which British automakers were still protected by import tariffs in their home market.
The Auto Union's 981 cc two-stroke three-cylinder engine came in various states of tune. After 1960, advertised power in the saloon versions was increased to 50 bhp (37 kW). Power was delivered via a four-speed manual gear box, controlled using a column-mounted lever. The electrical system was a six-volt one which by this time was beginning to look old fashioned.
1961 saw the introduction of the so-called Clean Oil Regulator “Frischölautomatik”, a system incorporating a separate oil tank and pump to dispense the oil which, in a two-stroke engine, is mixed with the fuel ahead of combustion. The stated purpose was to reduce the characteristic blue smoke emission for which the car was known. This was to be achieved by ensuring that oil was introduced in exactly the correct 1:40 proportion to the fuel, and the device was advertised as a way to improve engine longevity. The timing of this innovation proved unfortunate The 1962/63 winter was an exceptionally cold one in Europe. The Auto Union 1000 model experienced an unexpected increase in crankshaft damage because the oil, its viscosity affected by the cold weather, was unable to flow freely through the narrow feeder pipe in the carburettor.