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Created: 25 September, 1997
Last updated: 06 December, 1997

In the beginning of 20th Century, when the automotive industry was established in Europe and the USA, Poland was occupied since decades and remained in economical depression and political turmoil. The industrial development was far away from this of Germany or England, consequently there is no evidence of any attempts to manufacturing, or at least constructing of a motor car. The self-propelled vehicles, which appeared on the roads then, were only the foreign imports, since there were a lot of so-called "garages" which were often combined with the agencies of the various exotic automobile brands. The innumerable craftsmen (mainly carriage and furniture manufacturers) offered high quality and aesthetic coachworks as well. The first Polish automotive entrepreneur, was in a sense, Count Karol Raczynski, a famous automobile promoter (founder of the Automobile Club of Poland), who was financially involved in automobile industry in Belgium within the years 1900-1901. He was also probably the first owner of a car in Poland (De Dion Bouton in 1897).

In 1918, soon after World War I , Poland finally regained its independence. The heritage of the decades of occupation by three enemy neighbours were: different law, administration, monetary and metering systems, incoherent railway and road networks, neglected industry. The re-born republic faced its first own political and economical problems, and a military conflict, too. Despite of these disadvantages, attempts to produce a "native" automobile were undertaken by some motivated enthusiasts.
Here's a list of cars made in Poland, before the 2nd World War, courtesy of Dariusz Piecinski .

Links marked with asterix are external links!


The first documented initiative to a Polish car refers to the robust SKAF minicar for two persons advertised in 1921 by Stefan Kozlowski and Antoni Fraczkowski. Their advertisement mentioned: a light (300 kg) vehicle for two persons, powered by a 500 cc water cooled engine and equipped with the mysterious friction transmission. Its wheelbase was 2.2 meters and the maximum speed, according to the ads., was 40 km/h. Impressive about this car was its... oil consumption quoted as one litre per 100 km. Although the firm Fabryka Malych Samochodow SKAF (The SKAF Light Automobile Company) was established in Warsaw at 22 Rakowiecka Street, this robust minicar didn't attract the public attention and only 3 prototypes were made. Unfortunately, neither photos nor detailed data of the SKAF are available.


As far as the full-sized cars is concerned, in the early twenties engineer Mikolaj Karpowski came onto the scene. As a Major in Motorised Troops he was known for his improvements in Ford T models, which were widely used by the Polish Army then. On the 1st of June 1924 he presented a prototype of a relatively big open car, pompatically named the Polonia. Karpowski's approach was focused on simplifying the repair and service activities, that is why his automobile incorporated some interesting, unparalleled features. For instance, one mechanic was able to change all the toothed-wheels within 16 minutes only, without taking the gearbox out of the car. The original six-cylinder 4765 cc, 45 HP engine had detachable, tinware oil sump, and special "inspection openings" in the crankcase, through which serious engine repairs were possible without taking the entire powerplant out of the vehicle. The engine itself was fitted in the separate frame, which protected it against damage, even if the chassis suffered a serious deformation. The external, engine-powered oil pump with hand-controlled oil flow was also applied. Despite of these features, construction with solid axles and semi-eliptic leaf springs, not uncommon these days, wasn't well received. The conical clutch and the brakes applied only to the rear wheels were risky in the heavy car capable of 100 km/h, that is why the construction was criticised by the specialists. They also pointed at wide utilisation of the parts of other manufacturers. Unfortunately, Karpowski couldn't attract any of the potential sponsors to support mass production of the Polonia. The Ministry of Defence was already involved in the CWS *car project, and private investors tended to dealing foreign imports rather, then to promote manufacturing of the Polish automobile. The only prototype ever built was bought to be a prize at a raffle and its further his tory remains unknown.


The Ralf-Stetysz stand at the Paris Auto Show in 1926
Ralf-Stetysz TC and it's crew at Monte Carlo Rallye in 1929 (Stefan Tyszkiewicz second from left)

A prospective initiative was undertaken by Count Stefan Tyszkiewicz in 1924. As a professional engineer, he constructed in France a chassis of a passenger car with relatively big ground clearance, especially designated for usage on bad roads, common in Poland then. The off-road driving capabilities of the car, named the Ralf-Stetysz (or simply Stetysz, abbreviated from Rolniczo-Automobilowa Fabryka Stefana Tyszkiewicza - Agriculture & Automobile Factory of Stefan Tyszkiewicz), were extended by the switchable differential gear. Two kinds of engines, both of the Continental brand, were applied: the six-cylinder 2760 cc and the four-cylinder 1500 cc (the automobiles were marked as types TC and TA respectively). The vehicles were officially presented in 1926 at the Paris Automobile Show and were highly evaluated among so-called "colonial cars". Manufacturing begun in a small factory "Automobiles Ralf-Stetysz" at Boulogne. In the meantime Tyszkiewicz established his Motor Vehicles Department in Towarzystwo Akcyjne Konstrukcji Mostowych K. Rudzki i S-ka (Bridge Constructions K. Rudzki & Co.) located in Warsaw at 3 Fabryczna Street. Therefore the production of the Ralf-Stetysz was moved to Poland, and designing of the original Polish engine was also considered since the specialised factory machinery became available at the new location. Bodies for these cars were supplied by the Coachbuilding Dept. of Plage & Laskiewicz Mechanical Works in Lublin. Tyszkiewicz extensively promoted his product in many ways. For instance, two automobiles successfully took part in the prestigious Rajd Polski (the Polish Rally) in 1928, one car dispatched in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1929. About 20 cars were manufactured until fall 1928, when the factory was burnt down with all its equipment and a number of ready made cars. As the financial loss was great, Tyszkiewicz finally abandoned the idea of building his own designed car in favour of importing the foreign ones. He was later known as a representative of Fiat and Mercedes in Poland.


The Iradam collage-advertise,the only one which showed the bodied car plus some views of the chassis and the portrait of its creator
chassis1 chassis2
The Iradam chassis at Communication and Tourism Fair, Poznan 1930.

Adam Gluck-Gluchowski, an engineer from Cracov, began his conceptual work on construction of the minicars about 1920. He was of the opinion that a cyclecar couldn't be created by a mere reducing of the size of regular car, but should incorporate its own original technical solutions adequate for its size and purpose. The drawings of such a vehicle were published for the first time in 1926 by the Auto - the most popular pre-war Polish automotive magazine. The first prototype, built on constructor's own expense in 1927, was shown at The International Communication and Tourism Exhibition in 1930 at Poznan. Both the drawings and the ready car, named the Iradam (a combination of the constructor wife's name Irena and his own name Adam) were enthusiastically received and highly evaluated by the specialists for their originality. In fact the Iradam was exceptional in many aspects. The single cylinder air cooled engine was combined with the clutch and gearbox into a monobloc, and fitted in the rear. The rear wheels were powered by the flexible shafts (probably for the first time in the world). The independent suspension of all the wheels incorporated double transverse leaf springs. The chassis frame was composed partly of a metal plate, and partly of metal tubes. This car had an open body for 3 persons (one seat in front, two in the rear). The prototypes were further tested with different engines: Total 500 cc, JAP 600 cc and JAP 980 cc. Despite of the successful test drives, Gluchowski couldn't attract the attention of any of the potential manufacturers. The rear-engined cars weren't in fashion yet, and the World Crisis once again put an end to the attempts of a talented constructor. The mass production of the Iradam had never begun. Gluchowski however, continued his work and in 1935 presented another prototype of a vehicle for 4 persons powered by the original 1000 cc two cylinder opposed-piston engine with the fuel injection and hydraulic torque converter. The car was named the Adam Gluck and it shared the fate of its predecessor. It was rather the experimental automobile and it was too modern to be a cyclecar for the masses.


In 1927 Jan Laski established the firm named Towarzystwo Budowy Samochod ów AS (The AS Automobile Company). The factory located in Warsaw at 64 Zlota Street begun manufacturing of the cars designed by Aleksander Liberman, named AS (the Ace). Automobiles bearing this badge were equipped with the French engines Chapus-Dornier 998 cc and Ruby 1095 cc (later CIME 1203 cc) and were marked as types S-1 and S-2 respectively. These vehicles were purely utilitarian, with no pretensions to motor sport achievements or broad popularity. Most of them were bodied as taxi-cabs and delivery vans by Szydlowiecka Fabryka Powozow (Szydlowiec Carriage Factory). This kind of specialisation was probably the key to success of this reliable but not exceptional construction. Production statistics quoted three series of 60, 80 and 100 cars made. Despite of the fact that the last release was probably incomplete, a good 200 cars had rolled out the factory gates, by the time the production ceased in 1931 due to the World Crisis. Nevertheless taxis of this brand were seen in Warsaw till WW II.


The profile of the WM car
The WM car with low and elegant open body
The WM chassis front view. Note the cooling fan placed directly on the crankshaft.
The WM chassis general view. Note the tubular propellershaft housing which was the part of the chassis frame.

In 1927 Wladyslaw Mrajski undertook a prospective initiative of designing a light, economical and reliable popular vehicle. As a professional related to Centralne Warsztaty Samochodowe - CWS (Central Automobile Works) * he began this task in a clever way. Through the press advertisement and his own business connections he arranged the group of sponsors (mainly the private owners of mechanical factories) willing to participate financially in the prototype construction and its later mass production. The chassis was ready on 28th October 1928. The 733 cc air-cooled four-stroke two cylinder opposed-piston engine was applied, with the cooling fan located directly on the crankshaft. The torque was transmitted via single plate clutch, four speed gearbox, propeller-shaft without swivels and the warm gear to the solid rear axle. The propeller-shaft tubular housing was the part of the chassis frame, and the rear axle could swing slightly around it. The suspension consisted of a quarter-elliptic leaf springs in front and double transverse semi-elliptic leaf springs in the rear. The car named the WM was equipped with the open wooden body for two persons with the extra rear seat for children. The wheelbase was 2.4 meters, the ground clearance 0.2 m. and the highest point of the open body (excluding the windscreen height) was 0.84 m. The WM weighted 350 kg and performed the maximum speed of 75 km/h, while the fuel consumption remained below 6 litres per 100 kilometres - a quite reasonable figures then. The second prototype was equipped with the saloon body for two persons with the folding seats and the bigger fuel tank, especially for long tours. The WM did well in rallying with its creator behind the wheel. For instance in 1928 the 1041 km distance was covered within 24 hours during the Starlike Rallye to Bydgoszcz. Despite of the obvious advantages of the WM, its mass production has never begun since the private industry was disorganised by the World Crisis.

Some famous scandals and spectacular bankruptcies among the car dealers and importers effectively deterred serious investors of everything which was related to the self-propelled vehicles. That is why some other "automobile factories" could be named here, but there is no evidence of at least one completed prototype of those brands, and firms were kept alive by assorted financial operations rather, than manufacturing of the motor cars. The low and steady demand of the automobiles on domestic market then could hardly help in successful launching of the native automobiles, and the World Economical Depression put the end to many small private factories involved in automobile production. This time the CWS * cars also appeared on the market. These best known original Polish vehicles constructed by Tadeusz Tanski and manufactured in hundreds by the Centralne Warsztaty Samochodowe (Central Automobile Works) within the years 1928 - 1931 were in any way inferior to the competitive foreign products as well as some interesting mini-cars also constructed in that period.

Disclaimer from the author: I am not the official representative of any of the parties mentioned in the entire text. Despite of my highest attention paid on accuracy of the historical facts, some miss-statement are possible due to the limitations of the available sources. The images were copied from selected Polish archival magazines.

Written by: Dariusz Piecinski , Lublin, Poland, Aug. 1997.

Published on-line by Pal Negyesi

Copyright ©, September 1997.

Disclaimer: KTUD Archive was created to feature automotive history. Read it, enjoy it but as many hours of work went into the creation I don't want any impostors to do something with the information or pictures without asking me, the maintainer. Thanks. Pal Negyesi