Hungarian microcars of the '40s and '50s

Right after the Second World War Europe was ruined. A part of the continent was commanded by the Allied Forces, another by the Soviet troops. Both regions saw the rise and fall of the bubble- or microcars. The Western part of Germany had similar position to Hungary right after the war. They weren't allowed to manufacture cars, so the bubblecar boom started. But while it died out in the late '50s, in Hungary not any of the one-offs ever reached production. Here are some of the attempts of the late '40s, early '50s.
During the War the Weiss Manfred Steel Works, once a maker in small quantities of two-stroke engined touring cars started to work on the prototype of Hungary's Volkswagen.
The result was breathtaking: for the friction of the manufacturing costs of a Fiat Topolino a full four-seater car was created.
It was called the Pente, after its designer J nos Pentelényi. Pentelényi was a well-educated engineer and with cues taken from German pre-war small cars he started to design his own Hungarian people's car. The directors of WM approved the project. The main features of the Pente: small weight, simple construction with only a few parts, reliability and low manufacturing costs. The first Pente was powered by a two-stroke, two-cylinder 500 cc engine, capable of 15 bhp at 3600 rpm. It was put just ahead of the rear axle. The turbo fan built into the flywheel sucked air from the front via a chassis channel. He rejected water-cooling to lighten the car and to simplify the cooling process. No starter was included in the original plans, but the prototype used one.
The intended weight was 400 kg, according to contemporary reports. The prototype weighed just 5 kg more. Planned dimensions were 3000 mm length, 2000 mm wheelbase and around 1300 mm height. Pentelényi pointed out that his car was cheaper than the Fiat Topolino and easier to manufacture: "The manufacturing costs of the two-cylinder, two-stroke engine are about 50 per cent cheaper than the 4-cylinder, 4-stroke unit of
the Topolino". On the 2nd of May, 1946 the plans got the approval of the factory and by December the Pente 500 was up and running. Everybody praised the capabilities of the engine: it reached 60 km/h max. speed without any difficulty.
View from profile View from front Rear Inside

Pentelényi decided to build a bigger, 600 cc version. It was also succesfully tested. Detailed plans started to take shape to produce the car in bigger series. But in 1947 the Hungarian oil reserves ran out and in 1949 the forced nationalization of all the Hungarian factories marked the real beginning of communism. The Hungarian government denied the WM factory permission for manufacture and in October, 1948 the experiments came to an end. The Pente 600 survived the decades and now it is exhibited at the Hungarian Museum of Transport. The Pentes were years ahead of their time. They were the forerunners of the Fiat 600 and would have been a hit anywhere in Europe.

The Pente was an island in the sea of the Hungarian car scene of the late '40s. Due to the fact that within the newly founded COMECON (Eastern version of the EC) Hungary was the only country not allowed to produce passenger cars, tens of thousands of motorbikes flooded the country. Ironically these motorbikes were made in the WM factory, which was rapidly renamed R kosi M ty s Factory. Their bikes which had been first named Csepel, from the industrial district where the factory lied and then Pannonia from the ancient name of Hungary, gained international reputation. Not just motorbikes, but also commercial vehicles (lorries, trucks and buses) left the gates of Hungarian plants.
When the communists consolidated their control in 1949 and due to the shortage of metal, oil and other basic materials, they requisitioned, once again, the few remaining Hungarian passenger cars. (During the 2nd World War, there had been a command to deliver up all the cars.) The above mentioned Csepel motorbikes remained the sole vehicle an individual was allowed to possess. But the desire remained to travel by a closed, comfortable car-like mobile.
So clever mechanics around Hungary built bubble-cars right after the war, which were mostly powered by motorbike engines. The quality of these one-off creations ranged from sad to good. And very soon it became clear that the Government classified them as cars which meant that maintance became extremely hard due to the lack of fuel.
Let's see two of these home-built cars!
Endre Surányi, 86, now a very agile old man publishing articles, writing books and having refreshing memories. He was a motorbike racer in the '40s and '50s, a repairshop owner and had other activities. In 1946 he completed his first microcar, a 50 cc two-seater which was hardly able to move.
The motorised shoe as it was called
So he quickly created a bigger model with a ??? body. It was powered by a 125 cc Fichtel&Sachs engine. The 2.3 metres long car weighed only 86 kg. The engine was placed right into the rear axle to lighten the construction. No one believed it should work, but it worked although the ride was a bit shaky.
The 125 cc version In traffic the 125 cc car. Look at the bus too...

A few communist party leaders tried the car for a spin but for the above mentioned reasons the car finally went into the hands of the pioneers.
In the passenger seat: Ernô Gerô the 2nd person after Communist party leader, Rákosi. The person in the background with grey hair is Mr. Walter, Delmá an internationally renowned car- and motorbike racer before the War.

In the meantime Surányi built an upgraded version, with a slightly modified body and a 250 cc DKW engine. It was also a two-seater. It weighed 150 kg and plans were carried out to produce it in small series by a Hungarian company which made small engines but these plans never materialized.
The 250 cc version
Surányi didn't lose his enthusiasm and when he worked at the Hungarian Research Institute of Automobile Transport he created a third model. It was never finished and just as with the others cooling remained a basic problem. After these half-built projects Sur nyi only planned others but they didn't develop beyond the drawing board.
The other car, from 1949 was the Buday.

Its creator, Miksa Buday was never such a public figure as Surányi. He made his streamline-bodied two-seater for his own joy. It was powered by a BMW motorbike engine, with Zündapp transmission. It was still on the streets in the late '50s. Buday later worked for a factory which made powerboat engines, named after him.
Do You want to see the 2nd part? See You there!

Go back to the East European cars main page!
Or go back to the Opening page!
Copyright July, 1996
Paul Negyesi
Budapest, Hungary.
This document or its parts can not be reproduced, quoted in any means. You can create a link freely, but please let me know about it.