Meet the Ferrari of the Soviet Bloc.
What is it?
If the name Melkus rings a bell in your mind, it’s probably because there was a car company in the previous decade using the same name. But maybe a few know that the original Melkus existed from 1959 to 1986 and produced only one road car – the RS 1000, featured in our Soviet Bloc cars series this week.
Where and when was it made?
During its life, the Melkus RS 1000 was manufactured in a highly limited production run of only 101 copies. All of them were assembled in a factory in Dresden, East Germany, under the supervision of race driver Heinz Melkus from 1969 to 1979.
Most of the RS 1000s featured a 1.0-liter two-stroke three-cylinder petrol engine with 70 horsepower (51 kilowatts), sourced from the Wartburg 353. It was mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, sending the power to the rear wheels. Some examples had a bigger 1.2-liter unit, giving the car a top speed of more than 109 miles per hour (175 kilometers per hour).
What’s so special about it?
In one way or another, the Melkus was ahead of its time in terms of engineering. Why it was slightly underpowered, it featured a fiberglass body, wrapped around a traditional ladder frame with roll bar integrated into the windscreen. Thanks to this simple construction, it had a curb weight of only 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms). Oh, and don’t forget those killing gull-wing doors.
This low weight made the task of the tiny 1.0-liter engine to accelerate the vehicle relatively easy – 0-62 miles per hour (0-100 kilometers per hour) sprint takes 12 seconds, while top speed is around 103 mph (165 km/h). Pretty impressive for a 1.0 two-stroke engine, right?
Speaking of the motor, it had the same distinctive buzz like the Trabant 601 and the Wartburg 353 – just check out the video below and enjoy the “supercar” sound. Race variants of the RS 1000 had a modified engine with up to 118 hp (87 kW) for a top speed of 130 mph (210 km/h).
Some called it the Ferrari of the Soviet Bloc – mainly because of its resemblance with the Ferrari 250 GTO. The headlights shape and their plastic cover, the wheel arches, and even the roofline were all inspired by the legendary Italian supercar.
If you take a look at the gallery below, you’ll find pictures with a modern interpretation of the Melkus RS 1000. These sketches present the RS 2000 that was revealed during the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show as a successor of the original RS 1000. Despite its nice design and Toyota-sourced 1.8-liter turbo engine, the model was limited to only 25 units. Sadly, in 2012 Melkus filed for insolvency at a district court in Germany, thus ending the story of the company again, nearly 30 years after the original automaker disappeared from the industry in 1986.
Photos: Melkus via AutoWP