Classic Car news

Unusual Vehicles: Rumpler Tropfenwagen


Unusual Vehicles is a segment that looks into the history of an unconventional car. From the earliest days of car manufacturing, engineers were looking for a way to make an aerodynamic vehicle. Edmund Rumpler succeeded with the Rumpler Tropfenwagen. Looking like a cross between a submarine and motor, the Tropfenwagen is one of the earliest examples of an aerodynamic car.


Rumpler had experience in the aviation industry from his time designing planes in WW1. He translated his expertise into a car that would be unlike anything that came before. He constructed a vehicle with a teardrop-shaped body, which produced a drag coefficient of 0.28. This is an incredible feat, especially when you compare it to modern cars. The top ten most aerodynamic cars in 2015 worked down from 0.26.

The Tropfenwagen came with a curved windscreen and windows, adding to the aerodynamic design. A Siemens and Halske-built 2580 cc overhead valve W6 engine produced 36 hp. The car could reach a top speed of 70 mph.

Rumpler debuted his creation at the 1921 Berlin Car Show, where it caught the public’s attention. People were awestruck by its unusual shape.


The Tropfenwagen gained interest from Benz & Cie’s chief engineer Hans Nibel. He built Mercedes-Benz Tropfenwagen racers with a similar chassis, though poor sales lead to Benz stopping the project. This reflected the car’s overall performance.

Although very advanced for the time, the Tropfenwagen didn’t sell well. This came down to a range of issues, such as the appearance and problems with cooling and steering. Only 100 cars were built  and most we sold as taxis. The final Tropfenwagen was built in 1925.

In the modern day, car enthusiasts appreciate the Tropfenwagen for its quirky design. This was helped by the film Metropolis, in which the cars were part of a dystopian society. Only two examples have survived, with one car being displayed in Munich’s Deutsches Museum and the other at the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin.


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