Sunday, December 28, 2008

Army Bread is Good Bread (Kommissbrot ist Gutes Brot)

If yesterday's posting (Gutbrod) sounds like it might be "Good Bread", then today's posting is the logical next step.

The Hanomag 2/10 "Kommissbrot" was launched in 1925. the little (10 foot long) car was powered by a one-cylinder, 499cc, water-cooled, four-stroke engine that generated 10 hp and was able to propel the car to a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour, getting 60 miles per gallon.

The design was very simple -- independent front suspension/rigid rear axle without differential. The car had a single headlight, only one door, and a starter cable between the two seats. Susan Cerf of the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum (Tampa Bay has a recently-restored 1927 model) described the starter cable as similar to a lawn mower, "just pull the cord and there she goes."

While the 2/10 could be referred to as a "people's car", and its promotion used the line, "Five pounds of sheet metal and one pound of paint is the Hanomag" (an unusual claim that perhaps suffers from too literal a translation), people took a look at the car's unusual shape and dubbed it the Kommissbrot, or Army Bread, referring to a shape that resembled that of a loaf of bread.

With a daily output of "up to" 80 pieces, 15,775 vehicles were sold from 1924 to 1928, at a price of approximately 2,300 Reichsmarks. (For comparison, Ford Model-T's were selling at about 1,200 Reichsmarks) The follow-up to the Kommissbrot, the Hanomag 3/15, also falls into the category of minicar. Built from 1929 to 1931, the 3/16 was powered by a 750cc, four-cylinder engine. Timing was unfortunate, with the economic downturn of 1929 -- leading to large stocks of unsold vehicles. And even a strong showing in 1930, with the company capturing a 14% share of the German domestic car market (second only to Opel), the withdrawal of some loans forced the company to restructure, exiting the minicar market.

Oh...and we tried to translate Gutbrod from German to English, and couldn't make the connection. Good Bread in German is Gutes Brot.

(Much of this story first appeared in MINUTIA, Issue 16 - Number 2.)

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