Randecker Maar

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The Gatter Volksautomobiles
Gatter Cars ran on the roads of Bohemia and the adjacent German territories in the 1920s and 1930s. With a price of just 1000 Reichsmark they were the most inexpensive automobiles in Europe of the time. Their creator Willibald Gatter was born in 1896 in Hühnerwasser, then Austo-Hungary, today Kurivody (Ralsko) in the Czech Republic. The Austro-Daimler engineer was inspired by the idea to produce small and inexpensive cars, affordable also to the working class. In the city of Aussig (Ústí nad Labem), Gatter built from 1926 to 1929 his model "Schreckenstein" ("Grosser Gatter"), an elegant four-seater with swing axles, praised by the press of those days as the "perfect model for an European Car." Between 1930 and 1936 Willibald Gatter produced the "Kleine Gatter" (Small Gatter) in the city of Reichstadt (Zakupy) in about 1650 units and seven different models. The cars were equipped with two-stroke engines, had 10 PS and reached a speed of 80km/h. They were ideal for the mountainous terrain of Northern Bohemia. Since the Gatter car cost little more than a motorbike, the press soon awarded it the name of Volksauto or Volkswagen, meaning "Peoples Car".

  The Nazis would use this term when creating their Volkswagen Works in Wolksburg in 1937 that produced the VW-Beetles we all know so well. It was in his "Kleine Gatter" that Willibald Gatter won countless prizes in the mountain races of the 1930s. In 1931, he even challended world champion Rudolf Caracciola in the Schauinsland race. Amongst Gatter's greatest successes were gold medals for the "Grosser Bergpreis von Deutschland" (German Mountain Grand Prix), the "Tatra Sternfahrt", the "Böhmisches Bergrennen", the "Schwarzwald Zielfahrt", the "Riesen- and Isergebirgsfahrt". When an economic crisis hit Bohemia in the mid 1930s, it was the low and middle classes that suffered most and Gatter's clientele were soon impoverished. By 1936 the Autowerk Gatter had to close down.

At the end of World War II the Gatter family were refugees in Western Germany. Here Willibald Gatter intended to reproduce his 1930s success. In the early 1950s he again built the prototype for an affordable small car, the "Gatter-Mini". But lack of investment capital as well as consumer preference for large American-style cars meant that this model never got beyond the prototype stage. Today probably only one Gatter Car survives. It is a 1932 four-seater model with reverse gear and chain drive.