The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#135 – Ernst Klodwig — Klodwig Eigenbau – BMW
Grid: 29th / Race: 12th

(Source: Private Collection)
Born: 23rd May 1903
Aschersleben, Germany
Died: 15th April 1973
Hamburg, Germany
Appearances: 2   (1952 & 1953 German GP)


Ernst Klodwig was a mechanic from Aschersleben in East Germany (not to be mismatched with Oschersleben) and started in motorcycle races together with his brother in the 1920s. When his brother died in an accident in 1929, he had to give up his racing career to care for his father’s BMW garage, but he continued to take part in reliability trials.

In 1950, he reappeared with a home-built special at his “home” race of Dessau, which had been utilised for the Silver Arrows speed record runs before the war. For his “Eigenbau”, Klodwig had mainly used Volkswagen parts, which were easily available from Kübelwagen wrecks left over by the war, to which he added the typical BMW 328 engine. However, unlike most of the other current Formula 2 cars, he went with the pre-war Auto Union tradition of installing the engine behind the cockpit. This is the reason why the car now is usually referred to as “Heck”-BMW, which just is the German word for “rear”.

With this car, Klodwig would remain a regular participant in East German Formula 2 until 1953, with his appearances probably characterised better by consistency than by sheer speed. But with usually only a handful of cars on the grids his finishing record reads yet quite impressive, with four 2nd places, three 3rds and only three mechanical failures out of 16 East German Formula 2 races altogether between 1950 and 1953. Besides this Klodwig was also one of only few East German drivers, who was regularily allowed to travel to the “international” events in West Germany, where of course with his rather amateur material he was virtually chanceless even against all the Veritas and AFMs of his fellow countrymen from the West. Nevertheless, after three certainly disappointing retirments in 1951 (Eifelrennen, Avus and Schuinsland hillclimb) he managed to reflect on his virtues for four consecutive finishes (German Grand Prix and Avus in 1952 and 1953 as well). After that there were no opprtunities any more to use the car in racing and in 1958 Klodwig emigrated to the West to take over an Auto Union workshop at Cochem at the Mosel river.

1952 German Grand Prix, Ernst Klodwig (Source: Revs)

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