Rumpler Tropfenwagen – the first streamliner

Rumpler Tropfenwagen hero image

Car Design News’ Karl Smith investigates the Rumpler Tropfenwagen, an innovative pre-war car that inspired new approaches to aerodynamics

Until the Second World War, it was commonly assumed by both professionals and laymen that the automobile and the airplane would evolve and eventually merge into some sort of personal flying car. Engineering developments in one area often previewed similar developments in another.

Automotive marques with great heritage stories can claim a place in both automotive and aeronautical history. One can review the history of marques such as Avions Voisin, Bugatti, Rolls Royce and even Ford, with its Model T car and Trimotor airplane, and find a desire to conquer long distance travel and speed with both land and air vehicles.

Many of the automotive engineers worked in aeronautics during this time and vice versa, sometimes moving frequently back and forth between airplanes and automobiles. One such engineer was Edmund Rumpler, an Austrian engineer who spent most of his career in Germany. He started his career by collaborating with Hans Ledwinka on the first Tatra car, the Präsident, in 1897. He would then move on to Daimler, and later became the technical director of Adler in 1902. He would design the first German engine to combine motor and gearbox into one unit. The next year he designed and patented a swing axle rear suspension.

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