Winklhofer & Jaenicke, the business that became eventually known for its Wanderer cars, was established in 1896 in Chemnitz. They built motorcycles from 1902 and automobiles from 1903. The Wanderer brand was chosen in 1911 for overseas exports and was soon adopted for domestic sales.
The first two- or three-seater models used four-cylinder 1145 cc and 1220 cc engines. The 1220 cc model lasted until 1925. The first six-cylinder model appeared in 1928. By 1926, when Wanderer introduced a successful Typ 10, the company was making 25 vehicles a day; parts were made at the old plant in Chemnitz and assembled at the new site in Siegmar, delivered by rail right to the assembly line. Motorcycle production continued in Chemnitz alone.
During the Great Depression, in 1929, the company owner, Dresdner Bank, sold the motorcycle business to Frantisek Janeček, and in 1932 divested the rest of Wanderer. The company formed part of Auto Union with Horch, Audi and DKW. In this quartet, Horch was positioned as the luxury brand, DKW built cheap two-stroke cars, Audi and Wanderer competed in different segments of mid-priced, technologically advanced small cars (heaviest, 6-cylinder Wanderers reached 1.5 tons dry weight). Wanderers of Nazi period acquired a trademark radiator design, shaped as a heraldic shield.
The next Wanderer model (1692 cc four-cylinder) was similar to a parallel DKW model. In 1933, an Audi model was equipped with a Wanderer-built 1963 cc six-cylinder ohv engine. The top model from 1936 to 1939 was W50, propelled by a 2257 cc six-cylinder engine. There were also sporting fours (W24 and W25) and another six-cylinder model of 2632 cc (W23). Wanderer cars were always admired for their high quality and sporting character. In 1941 all civilian production was replaced with military vehicles. A subcamp of Flossenbürg concentration camp, KZ Siegmar-Schonau, was operated during the war to provide slave labour for the Wanderer vehicle plants.
The Siegmar and Schönau plants in Saxony were destroyed during World War II, closing this chapter in the history of automobiles. Post-war efforts to restore East German auto industry concentrated on Auto-Union facilities in Zwickau and Zschopau: Wanderer plants never recovered. Wanderer managers migrated to West Germany, being instrumental in the recovery of DKW.
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