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THE 1921 RUMPLER TROPFENWAGEN—AERO WONDER AND MOVIE STAR PART 2

THE RUMPLER W-6 Tropfenwagen appeared yesterday at SimanaitisSays as a 1921 look into the automotive future. Today in Part 2, we examine the car’s technicalities, why I can link it with cars I’ve driven, and its brief and lamentable movie stardom.

Julian Edgar offers a most informative YouTube on the “extraordinary Rumpler Tropfenwagen.” Note the wind-cheating disc wheels of this particular example. The image is from theoldmotor.com.

Aero Efficacy. “To prove the efficiency of his design,” R&T wrote in March 1956, “Dr. Rumpler staged a demonstration in which his car and normal types of the same era were driven over dust-covered roads to observe the formation of dust-clouds eddying behind the respective vehicles. Of course the conventional cars raised great swirls, but it was claimed that the only dust raised by the Rumpler consisted of small plumes from the rear wheels.” 

Aero theory predicted a controlled wake, with little turbulence. Modern wind tunnel assessments gave a drag coefficient of 0.28. Image below from classic-trader.com.

“Further tests,” R&T reported, “were run on a drum-type dynamometer, which indicated that at 60 mph, the Rumpler lost only 24.5 percent of its total available power due to wind resistance compared to 33.0 percent on a conventional design. Mercedes thought the idea so interesting that they built a racing car along identical lines.” 

A Minor Correction. Indeed, it was actually a Benz, as Mercedes and Benz didn’t merge until 1926. The 1923 Benz Typ-RH Tropfenwagen scammed Rumpler’s name and added RH, likely for Rennwagen mit Heckmotor (racing car with rear engine). 

1923 Benz Typ-RH Tropfenwagen. Image from grandprixhistory.org.

Later, in the 1930s, Mercedes-Benz built a series of mid-engine production cars, including the 150 (W30), all evolved from Rumpler’s original layout. The last remaining 150 Sport Roadster has been fully restored by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA in Irvine, California, in 2010. 

1934 Mercedes-Benz 150 Sport Roadster, driven by Mercedes-Benz Classic Center’s Nate Lander.

My Second Query Answered. In 2010, selected journalists (your author included) were offered driving experiences with Mercedes-Benz classics. Thus I added driving the Mercedes-Benz Sport Roadster (evolved from the original Rumpler W-6) to my memorable drive of the 1933 Napier-Railton at Pebble Beach in 2007.

Bankruptcy and Movie Stardom. Alas, only about 100 Rumpler W-6 were built. According to Wikipedia, “Sales were hindered by small problems at the start (cooling, steering), the appearance of the vehicle, and the absence of a luggage compartment. Most were sold as taxis, where easy boarding and the high ceiling were advantages. The last cars were built in 1925.”

As noted in classic-trader.com, “In 1926 the Rumpler Werke AG Berlin went bankrupt and were liquidated. At just about the same time Fritz Lang produced his futuristic film Metropolis…. Tropfenwagens were cheap to buy and therefore perfectly fitted Lang’s need for filming his science-fiction drama.”   

Chaos ensues during Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, 1927. Rumpler Tropfenwagens are part of the conflagration. Image from imcdb.com.

Today, only two Rumpler Tropfenwagens exist: One resides in Munich’s Deutsches Museum. The other is in Berlin’s Museum for Transport and Technology, not inappropriately as part of its aviation exhibition. ds  

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020 

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