One of the fun aspects of old microcars is the way that they were built by people and companies who had little to no previous experience building motor vehicles. The Isetta was designed by a refrigerator company, Fuldamobils were constructed by a company that made generators, Peels by a boat builder, Scootacars by a locomotive manufacturer; not to mention all the ones built by just random dudes with an idea. The funny little guy up top is the Deltamobil which was built by the Deltawerke company, maker of furnaces and oil heaters. I guess I can see a connection in that cars also generate heat.

In 1954 in Germany people were sick of riding motorcycles and bicycles, the only cheap transportation available to a country whose industry was pretty much obliterated by the war. So, the race was on to come up with something as cheap as a bike, but with a roof. (At the time, a Beetle was seen as a middle-class car in its home country. Most folks couldn’t afford one.) Pretty much anyone with the room tried their hand at coming up with a solution. And the man in charge of Deltawerke, a Mr. Lindner, decided to join them. Not much appears to be known about him, but he seems to have had a pretty ingenious engineer working for him building those furnaces, a guy named Heinrich Auer, his head technician.

He charged Auer with designing a three-wheeled car. Heinrich was apparently a bumper car fan and started by coming up with a teardrop shaped tubular steel frame that wrapped around the outside of the wheels so it could also act as a 360º bumper. Which sounds great for a tiny car that you need to squeeze into tight city parking spaces. There was a transverse leaf spring up front, and rear suspension was a rigid axle cushioned by rubber bands, much like another micro, the Kleinschnittger. They got a cheap 9 horsepower 200cc Ilo scooter motor with attached Dynastart and 3 speed Hurth transmission to power the rear wheel by chain. 8” scooter wheels finished off the rolling chassis. Ayer then hand shaped that adorable little body out of light weight aluminum, which, at the time, was conveniently easier to procure than steel. Headlights came from VW. It had actual blinkers instead of semaphores, which was considered ultra modern. As was the column mounted shifter and white steering wheel. And, the little skirt that goes around the outboard frame allowed for a wider door than most other microcars.

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With the curved windshield it has a really forward thinking, streamlined alien bug look that was quite futuristic for ’54. Its most technologically advanced feature was a speedometer that was divided into sections which lit up to tell you what gear you were in. This was particularly helpful with the sequential gearbox where you can sometimes lose track of what gear you’re in. The bench seat was covered in rubber air cushions so you could adjust your level of ass comfort as needed. Ironically, however, it wasn’t equipped with a heater.

The first car was completed in September of 1954 and Lindner began testing it. It was said to be quite stable and, at under 700 pounds, probably went fast enough for what it was even with only 9 horsepower. Without the funds to advertise his car, Lindner personally made 8 sales just by driving around. Its 2200 DM price was pretty cheap and people were desperate for inexpensive transportation. In December, the Deltamobil got official approval for manufacture and production began. Everything was still being done by hand, though, as 8 sales was nowhere near enough to get a proper assembly line built. To drum up interest, Lindner drove the prototype from Munich to Stuttgart to show the car off to a friend who published some kind of car magazine. Unimpressed, the guy told Lindner to stick to furnaces. An infuriated Lindner made the slow drive home in a huff futilely determined to prove him wrong. A month later, though, the car did get some positive press in Roller Revue. They said, “the construction makes a rock solid impression,” and that the car marked a big step forward in the development of small cars. Ayer had continued to tweak his design making small improvements. The upped the power to a 2 cylinder, 250cc motor putting horsepower into double digits. After 8 cars had been built, however, Lindner couldn’t find any more buyers on his own and had no way of financing mass production. He tried to sell a license to Zündapp who were looking to build their own microcar and they showed serious interest. But, after seeing a proper fixed roof Fuldamobil, they decided to pass on the ragtop Deltamobil. (Funnily enough, they did end up licensing another Delta, a prototype built by Dornier that became the infamous Janus.) By April of 1955, BMW had released the Isetta, and Glas the Goggomobil and Lindner realized there was no room in the market for his weird little car. He went back to oil heaters and even greater obscurity. As far as I can tell, the 8 Deltamobils did find homes, but none of them seem to have survived. And these two pictures are apparently the only known photographs. The lovely model behind the wheel remains anonymous.