Modelcar Danhausen 1/43rd 1959 DKW Junior

By Craig Meador


In the spring of 1959, The DKW Junior was introduced as an economy priced competitor to the Volkswagen Beetle. Auto Union (the parent company of both Audi and DKW) hoped that the Junior would capture a large share of the “starter car” market. This was not to be the case. The Junior was not a bad car by any measure. It was well built, reliable, economical, and could carry four adults from point A to point B in reasonable comfort, in a reasonable amount of time. The problem was the 750cc, 34 horsepower two stroke engine. In the immediate post war years, West German drivers had embraced the two stroke engine for its reliability and mechanical simplicity. By 1959, the same drivers demanded the smoother running four stroke engines and regarded two strokes as noisy and smelly. Despite a substantial advertising campaign touting the Junior’s refinements (especially the engine), sales were respectable, but disappointing. The 1961 model had its engine displacement increased to 800cc. In a final gasp, 1963 saw the Junior re-badged as the Audi F-12 and given a 900cc engine and slightly longer wheelbase. That same year, Volkswagen AG absorbed Auto Union, and the Junior soon passed into automotive oblivion.

Forty five years on, surviving Juniors have a pampered life thanks to a devoted cadre of enthusiasts. A surprising number of these cars can be seen throughout the world, in pristine running order and appreciated more today than in their own time.


Modelcar Danhausen was an eclectic line of 1/43rd scale white metal model cars sold by Spielwaren Danhausen (Danhausen Toys) of Aachen Germany. Owners Hans and Paul Lang were quick to recognize that the die cast car market was no longer the sole realm of children, but was becoming increasingly popular among adults. The Langs added a large line of die cast models, and were one of the earliest businesses to offer mail order services to collectors around the world. In 1975, the Modelcar Danhausen line was introduced, featuring both European and American subjects in kit form and finished models. Most were mastered by the firm of Tin Wizard (who still offers their own line of limited run collector car models today).

Although Danhausen was highly successful, personal and professional conflicts between the brothers escalated. By 1987, after numerous lawsuits and countersuits, both Hans and Paul Lang went their separate ways. Modelcar Danhausen was no more. Today, Paul Lang produces both the Paul's Model Art and Minichamps line of die cast cars. Hans Lang owns his own hobby shop.



What’s in the box? First of all you'll find there isn't one. Instead, you get a styrofoam tray with cut-outs for the individual parts and a clear plastic lid. The white metal parts are well cast. My example had no pits, but there was some flash. A few of the fine details, such as the turn signals and door handles are a little soft, but the body scripts are sharp and readable. With the exception of the body and grill, the rest of the kit appears to be made up of generic parts. The interior is a one piece affair with bench front and rear seats (not very practical for a two door car). The dashboard and steering wheel also have little resemblance to the actual car. Finally, there is a vacuformed one piece insert for the windshield and windows. Although this model is around thirty years old, the plastic was neither brittle nor discolored. There are no instructions provided, but as there are ten parts in total (not counting the wheels and tires); they won’t be missed.


White metal is quite soft, which is both a blessing and curse. Some of the parts had acquired bends and warpage somewhere along the line. These flaws were corrected by g-e-n-t-l-y bending the offending part back into true. Use too much élan in this process and you will be sorry! The next job was cleanup. The same set of jewelers' files I use on plastic models cleaned up the flash and smoothed out the rough spots on the Junior. The body was given a light wet sanding with 600 grit sandpaper, then shot with Tamiya White Primer. The body was then rubbed down with successively finer grades of sandpaper. The interior shell was painted with Tamiya Grey Primer. The roof was masked off and the body and dashboard shot with Model Master Enamel Pale Green. After the paint had dried for about a week, I picked out details using Italian Red and Tangerine (!) Model Master enamels, along with Chrome Bare Metal Foil. The gloss coat came via the modelers' friend: Future Floor Wax. After several coats, the finish was polished using the Micro Mesh system, then given a final rub down with McGuire’s #10 Plastic Polish.

Although all parts are designed to be held in place by a single machine screw in the bottom of the chassis, for final assembly I elected to cement everything in place with J&B Weld two part epoxy. This turned out to be far less of a disaster than I had feared, and with a little care and patience everything ended up in its’ proper place with hardly a bad word uttered.


First off, this build was a hoot. It was quick and dirty, warts and all. The kit dimensions are accurate, and at the end of the day it looks like a DKW Junior. I approached this project as a vintage kit build, straight from the box with nothing added or meddled with. For me, this kit represents the birth of the limited run, niche market model. If you want a DKW Junior in your collection, and are obsessed with counting each and every rivet, this kit is probably not your cup of tea (there are alternatives from Revell Germany and the Minichamps line). But, if you really want to kick it old school, the Modelcar Danhauser DKW Junior is STILL available from Tin Wizard at (Usual disclaimers; not affiliated with this company, et al ad nauseum).


Siuru, William: Illustrated Micro and Mini Car Buyers Guide, Motorbooks International 1995, pgs 48 – 50.

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