1988 Wartburg 353 W 1.0


Different, great fun and a very practical classic


Nothing in the year I owned it whatsoever.

General Comments:

These cars from former East Germany are actually very good.

In Western Europe, East European cars are seen as a bit of a joke, but I can tell you that these are a very good car that will run and run, if maintained.

The 993cc, 2-stroke engine is a delight to drive. Good acceleration at lower speeds and a lovely throaty engine note (although not quiet or refined).

The engine has 3 cylinders, and actually sounds like 3 engines at times.

They're not easy to drive at first (when used to modern cars), and drive like cars of a much older genre (their chassis dates back to 1938, and engine is from a similar vintage).

You need to accelerate through each gear, then let the revs of the engine drop, before changing up a gear, to drive them effectively. Once you master this method, they're immense fun to drive, and are a true classic car that can be driven daily.

These cars are also fitted with a 'freewheel' device that is designed to ensure the engine is never starved of lubrication. As these vehicles run on a mix of petrol and 2-stroke oil, they have no sump.

The guy I bought the car from, told me they run best on a ratio of 50:1 petrol/2 stroke mix, but I disagree and preferred to use 40:1 or slightly richer. I used to put 500ml of oil into the tank, followed by 20 euros worth of petrol, which roughly equated to about 36:1 at the time. Anywhere between 35:1 and 40:1 I found best, and always felt better knowing the engine was getting ample oil.

The clutch is only needed when engaging first and reverse gear; you make clutch-less changes up and down in all other gears.

They have disc brakes on the front and drums on the rear, which provide decent stopping power, provided you pump them hard. Brakes have no servo, so you can't slow the engine down using the gears as in a modern car.

The suspension is soft, and the cars roll a lot when cornering (a bit like Citroens and other French cars when they were still French!), but this only adds to their quirky charms.

These cars are still very cheap to buy, when you can get one, as they're becoming a rare sight.

They're pretty basic and spartan cars, low on creature comforts, and only the top of the range models had a cigarette lighter! Mine had an ashtray, but no lighter!

They are though, tough and practical with a huge boot and a super free standing jack that actually lifts up the whole side of the car, so you could change two wheels at once if you wanted.

Mechanicals are very tough, and the cars are very easy to work on for diy/ers. I'm sorry I sold mine now :) but lost my job and had to at the time.

Would love another one, or a Trabant.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 29th March, 2010

17th Jul 2010, 07:26

Wartburgs are great cars that keep on going and always start easily. Check out a new blog on these cars, with info, pictures and video clips.


2nd Jan 2011, 18:54

I towed a Volvo with a caravan on the back with a Wartburg. It was only about 3 miles, but it did the job. Bloomin' heck, that was 30 years ago. Memories.