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Take a look; we’ve got a Heinkel, a Reliant, and a Morris Minor live and in person. Not to mention Carlo, our lovely narrator!
The Heinkel Flugzeugwerke (Heinkel Aircraft Works) was established in Northern Germany in 1922 by Ernst Heinkel of Germany. Heinkel began his fascination with airplanes as a child when he first saw zeppelins, rigid “airships” shaped like whales. His interest in unique forms of transportation would continue his entire life.
It comes as no surprise to learn that the inventor of such an imaginative microcar was also interested in unique kinds of airplanes. Heinkel loved high speed aircrafts. His support allowed the first airplane to be flown completely under turbojet power in 1939. Of course, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were coming to power during the 1930s, as well, and Heinkel’s airplanes were very valuable to the Luftwaffe, or the German Air Force. Some Heinkel bomber planes and a night fighter model became very popular in the Luftwaffe. Heinkel also developed the first fighter jet, although his model never made it past the prototype stage
Despite the Nazi’s power, Heinkel did not like Hitler’s regime or plans for Germany. He was very upset to lose his Jewish employees before World War II and his contempt for the Nazi party ultimately resulted in a government takeover of Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in 1942. Heinkel then spent the end of the Second World War in Austria working on airplane designs.
After the war ended, Heinkel was put on trial by the Allied forces but was acquitted of all charges because of his anti-Hitler activities. Just like many other airplane manufacturers, Heinkel was prohibited from producing airplanes, so the company made bicycles, scooters and the Heinkel microcar.
Heinkel got the idea for his microcar after seeing BMW’s Isetta, a very common vehicle, but made improvements so that the finished product was lighter and faster. Heinkel made his sole microcar, the Heinkel Kabine, only from 1956 to 1958. This microcar came in three models: a three-wheeler with a 174 cc engine, a three-wheeled version with a larger engine, or a four-wheeled version with a larger engine. The Kabine had a steel unit body, which meant the vehicle’s weight was supported by its external structure, rather than by a separate internal structure. Unlike many other microcars, the Kabine also had a reverse gear. For those with families, the Kabine had some room in the backseat for children. The little car became known in Germany as the “Smooch Bowl,” although you’ll have to come up with your own ideas about what that means!
Even with these design improvements, the Kabine was not popular enough to be profitable for Heinkel. Ernst Heinkel did his best to compete with the other microcar brands, but when he passed away in 1958, the original Kabine went with him. The Kabine’s production rights were sold to an Irish company, Dundalk Engineering. However, that contract only lasted a short while because Dundalk had very poor quality control and assembled the cars on dirt floors with improperly-stored parts. After that, a company in England called Trojan Cars produced Kabines until 1966. The microcar was also assembled in Argentina from 1959 through 1962.
The Heinkel Company itself was bought by Verinigte Flugtechnishe Werke in 1965 and eventually became part of Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Bluhm in 1980.