Thursday 4th January 1872
Born on this day, Edmund Rumpler, Austrian automobile and aircraft designer. He collaborated with Hans Ledwinka on the first Tatra car, designed the first German engine to have engine and gearbox as a unit at Adler and patented a swing axle rear suspension system.
By age 30, in 1902,he had quit Daimler to become technical director of Adler. He designed the first German engine to have engine and gearbox as a unit at Adler. The next year, he patented a swing axle rear suspension system (an idea later adopted by Ferdinand Porsche for the KdF Wagen and Porsche 356, as well as by Chevrolet for the Corvair).
The Wright brothers turned Rumpler’s attention to aviation. He quit Adler in 1907, and in 1910, copying countryman Igo Etrich’s Taube, Rumpler became the first ever aircraft manufacturer in Germany.
Rumpler continued to be interested in automobiles, and after the First World War, he applied aircraft streamlining to a car, building the Tropfenwagen (German, “drop car”) in Berlin. A production model proved a sensation at the 1921 Berlin Auto Show. Rumpler’s efforts produced a car with an astoundingly low Cw of only 0.28 (when tested in 1979); the Fiat Balilla of the period, by contrast, was 0.60.
The Rumpler design inspired the 1923 Benz Tropfenwagen (which used the virtually-unchanged Rumpler chassis) and Auto Union (also built in part by Rumpler engineers) Grand Prix racers.
Rumpler’s Tropfenwagen was not a commercial success, and only 100 Tropfenwagen were built, just two of which survive. Rumpler returned to aircraft.
Because Rumpler was Jewish, he was imprisoned after Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, and his career was ruined, even though he was soon released. He died in 1940, and the Nazis destroyed his records.