Gottlob Espenlaub, the grandfather of streamline design

Gottlob Espenlaub, born in 1900 into a humble family in Germany, stood out as a visionary in aviation and automobile design. His unique and creative career spanned from his beginnings as a glider pilot to the creation of innovative vehicles that defied the conventions of his time, giving clues to what would become the streamline design which we would see later in other European models such as the Alfa 40/60 or in current models such as the IONIQ 6.

Although he had some professional beginnings related to aeronautics, his love of flying led him to become a glider pilot, facing extreme weather conditions to perfect his skills in the air. His creativity was forged little by little while he built his own glider airplanes, demonstrating how air can be an ally and not a brake on aerodynamics.

Espenlaub, apart from being an intrepid pilot, was a skilled carpenter, his complete development of his prototypes made him create more and with fewer budgets, which made him perfect his technique and vision. His aeronautical contribution was used during the war and brought to production aeronautical models. Beyond this war contribution, his vision and creativity also landed in the automobile sector.

In search of streamliner design

Convinced that aerodynamic principles were crucial in both aviation and automobiles, Espenlaub applied his knowledge to automobile design. He modified his Wanderer 8/40H.P.adjusting the bodywork to improve aerodynamics and address wind resistance.

Espenlaub used this car to tow his creations from his workshop to the landing strip and apparently the performance was not as expected. Therefore, he decided to address this issue and provide a solution. His point of view was clear: if he managed to apply the knowledge acquired in aviation to the automotive industry he could create more efficient vehicles and advanced from an aerodynamic point of view.

Motivated by this point of view, to improve the speed and efficiency of automobiles, Espenlaub carried out the modifications crafts in your Wanderer. For example, he lowered the ride height, created a lower, longer roof, incorporated smaller windows, and designed a rear end with a pronounced vertical cut.

These modifications laid the foundation for his future explorations in vehicle design and gave Gottlob the necessary arguments to be a pioneer in the convergence between aviation and industrial vehicle design with designs that would challenge conventions and stand out for their innovation in the industry.

Design contributions

In the 1930s, Gottlob Espenlaub officially presented its first revolutionary rounded vehicle, built with a structure of wooden slats and lacquered fabric. This car, the result of his avant-garde approach, merged innovative aerospace concepts with land mobility, marking the beginning of his influence in the sector.

After World War II, in 1947, Espenlaub launched a model with three wheels and an elongated body of more than five meters. This design incorporated a low windshield and large windows, demonstrating its continued commitment to the application of advanced aerodynamic concepts in land mobility. In a later phase, it circulated the streets of Wuppertal in the 1950s with a project that more closely resembled a ground combat aircraft than a conventional automobile. This design made more than two and three wonder among themselves if what they were seeing was real.

The peak of Espenlaub’s career came with the presentation of three realistic and viable models. A elegant coupe two-door, built in aluminum on a conventional chassis that housed an Ilo two-stroke three-cylinder engine of 1,000 cc and 40 HP of power. Its innovative technical details, such as the cooling system using a mixture of air and water, provided extra technology to the design.

A second model, slightly larger and with a modified front, envisioned a potential production of around 30 units per month, with an estimated price of 8,000 marks at the time. Although the precise technical details are scarce, it is assumed that it incorporated an Opel engine, showing Espenlaub’s versatility to adapt to different market demands. Lastly, the third car on the list was a little coupe equipped with another two-cylinder 400 cc Ilo engine.

Gottlob Espenlaub, throughout his life, proved to be a creative pioneer, which managed to transcend beyond the barriers between aviation and automotive design. Gottlob adapted each of his modifications to the changing potential demands of the post-war market, the proof? these three cars with three engines and different directions. Now, the curious thing about all this is that none of them went beyond the prototype state, being able to say that “Espen”, as he was known at home, was ahead of his time.

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