The Amazing Edmond Rumpler Designed Tropfenwagen

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  • 1921 Rumpler Tropfenwagen at the German Museum of Urban Transport

Edmond Rumpler, a brilliant Austrian aircraft designer, introduced his unprecedented Tropfenwagen at the 1921 Berlin Auto Show. The teardrop-shaped body (tropfen translates to drop), with its curved glass greenhouse, produced a very low drag coefficient of only .28, which is on par with the aerodynamic cars of today. In addition to the shape of the body, the minimal horizontal fenders and the belly pan helped to achieve this figure.

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  • Left and center: Rear views of the 1921 Rumpler Tropfenwagen. Right: 1923 Rumpler Tropfenwagen on exhibit at the German Museum of Technology

It appears that between 80 to 100 Rumpler Tropfenwagen’s were built in the four years that they were in production. Only two examples are known to have survived and both can be seen above: the German Museum of Urban Transport car built in 1921 has the earlier shorter style of passenger compartment; the 1923 German Museum of Technology Sedan features a longer cabin with the rear top-section of it used for storage.

The cars seated four or five passengers in the center of the body resulting in a very comfortable ride. A convertible version was also produced and can be seen in a line drawing below. That version with four passengers aboard weighed in at 3,000 lb. with the sedan at 3470 lb., both were capable of speeds above fifty mph.

The interesting video above shows a period film of a Rumpler Tropfenwagen being driven in several different scenes, possibly on the streets of London. Two things to note while watching it are: The fitted luggage and its compartment, and the trafficators Rumpler fitted for use as turn signals.

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  • Chassis and drivetrain -”Automotive Industries” October 27, 1921

The car utlized a W6 Siemens & Halske-built, 157 ci. (2,580 cc) 36 hp. overhead valve engine. Three banks of paired cylinders were used, all working on a common crankshaft. Note one of the unique three connecting-rods units at number four in the image above.

The engine, clutch, three-speed transmission, and the final-drive were all together in a unit power plant. The rear swing-axles were suspended and located by angled cantilever leaf springs, while the beam front axle was suspended by a pair of parallel leaf springs of the same type.

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  • Illustrations and a line-drawing -”Motor Age” November 10, 1921

The novel design of the car and the potential for a light-weight and excellent handling racing car attracted Benz chief engineer, Hans Nibel. The resulting Benz Tropfenwagen racer seen at the bottom used a Rumpler chassis with a 121.5 ci. – 80 hp. (1,991 cc) dohc straight-six. The cars that were built handled extremely well but were uncompetitive and were dropped after three years. The basic design was used later by Auto Union for its racing cars, VW and Porsche. Many other streamliners can be seen here on The Old Motor.

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  • Construction details – “Automotive Industries” October 27, 1921

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12 Responses to The Amazing Edmond Rumpler Designed Tropfenwagen

  1. Lee Stohr says:

    Rumpler was an amazing engineer. He had a huge career in aviation in WWI. Then he designed this car which has the basic powertrain layout of every modern racing car.
    Automobile Quarterly Vol XXII No3, 1984, has a great article on Rumpler by Griff Borgeson. It also shows a Rumpler in the USA, owned by Vernon Jarvis Trust, on permanent display at Florida’s Silver Springs.
    Karl Ludvigsen did a great series of articles in the Automobile, May thru August 1999.
    There is little else on Rumpler in the English language.

  2. Tom M. says:

    Two Tropfenwagen are shown sharing a dismal fate in Fritz Lang’s 1927 film “Metropolis”, about the society of the future.

    Interesting also that prior to his pre-1920 aviation work, Rumpler collaborated with Ledwinka in auto design, at Nesselsdorfer- Wagenbau, a predecessor of Tatra Motors.

    Tom M.

  3. Bob Croslin says:

    David, I’m almost sure the museum at Silver Springs closed years ago. The latest thing I could find on it was a reference to it’s being an arm of the Don Garlit’s Museum which is a short drive from there, but SS is now a state park.

    • Bob, Thanks for checking and yes it did close quite some time ago. I wonder if the Rumpler that was there is back in Germany now?

      • Lee Stohr says:

        The Rumpler in the German Museum of Technology photo above does look like the car in Automobile Quarterly. Same colors, wire wheels, window layout.

        • JebNY says:

          I also remember seeing a blue Rumpler in the US and actually found the pictures from 1977. I didn’t say where it was taken. I remembered it being at Harrah’s but it was likely Silver Springs, we were down there in 1977.

  4. Jeff Ray says:

    I am attaching a link regarding The Rumpler Drop Car that once resided at the Horseless Carriage Cavalcade in Silver Springs, Florida. I was fortunate as a child (10 in 1957) to tour the museum while on family vacation. When I opened up my current Old Motor e-mail, I was very surprised to see a Rumpler Design included. To me The Old Motor has brought back a Memory that is soon to be 57 years old. Thank You and I hope others enjoy seeing the Rumpler Thanks, Jeff
    http://blog.modernmechanix.com/horseless-carriage-cavalcade/

  5. jeffome says:

    The blue Rumpler was in fact part of the Vernon Jarvis Trust, which was on long term loan to the Cavalcade Museum in Silver Springs. The entire Jarvis Trust collection of cars was purchased in 1986 by Bob Bahre of Maine, and soon thereafter the Rumpler was sold to the museum in Germany.

  6. Lee T. says:

    Wonder where this film was taken? They are driving on the left side of the roads.

  7. Igor says:

    I published an article on the Rumpler Tropfen-auto in Restored Cars Australia magazine about 9 years ago. I found a wealth of patents attributed to Edmund Rumpler, including streamlined helmets for fliers (and drivers), pressurised cabins for high-altitude passenger planes, electrically heated driving gloves, front-wheel-drive buses, and various streamlined body shapes for vehicles.

    The fundamental transaxle patent is Rumpler’s, going back to 1903 in its first version. Forget Christie, it was Rumpler that ultimately made front wheel drive practical.

    Rumpler was stubborn about his automobile – it was too much plane and too little car to be altogether successful.

    Then again, the Hyperinflation of 1923 destroyed much of German industry for a time. No bailouts back then…

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