In the 1920s, the sales managers at Fulda Reifen, known at that time as Gummiwerke Fulda, were quite sure that the brand’s image should not be communicated in isolation from the end-product that stands on four tires. Consequently, they bought a bus, had it converted into a luxury coach and as of 1925, presented Fulda’s new patented Parabel tire all over Germany and the neighboring countries. The first of a long series of special models was born.
Whether advertising vehicles equipped with record players and loudspeakers, the tail section shaped like huge tires, standing in front of the Reichstag in Berlin (1931), whether as a tire test streamlined bus with special license for speeds over 140 km/h (1961), or as a show truck series (from 1985) to demonstrate the respective latest high-tech truck tire generation – in all chapters of the Fulda company history there have been Fulda special vehicles.
The most challenging technical commission to produce a special model in the first half of the company’s history with the simultaneous mysterious conclusion was awarded by Fulda in 1938. The starting point was the rapid development in automotive design in the 1930s which, due to the increasingly refined aerodynamic automobiles, permitted higher and higher speeds. In addition, the construction of the “Autobahn” provided motorists with the opportunity to travel further at higher speeds. That was a challenge to the tire industry. Bernd J. Hoffmann, Managing Director of Fulda Reifen comments: “My pragmatic predecessors did not hesitate long: At Dörr & Schreck, a renowned vehicle-maker in Frankfurt, they commissioned the construction of a vehicle for tire tests. Precondition for this order was the assurance of the manufacturer that the vehicle could regularly make high-speed tests at more than 200 km/h." Dörr & Schreck accepted the order and looked for the absolute leading cooperation partner in automobile manufacturing at that time: Maybach Motorenbau. Together and with the help of the well-known aerodynamic specialist, Freiherr Reinhard Koenig Fachsenfeld, they designed a three-seater streamlined car on the basis of a Maybach SW 38 chassis. The Fulda coupé with its two-color paint job and pontoon form had a long extended tail section sloping to the rear. From a bird’s eye-view the overall line looked like a rectangle with rounded edges. The rear wheel arches were completely panelled, as was the underbody, even the door handles were partly recessed.
To reach the speed of over 200 km/h demanded by Fulda, the technicians installed a 6-cylinder engine with 140 hp. The exceptionally low air resistance coefficient of 0.25 (a figure of 0.6 was usual at that time for series-produced vehicles), also helped guarantee this speed. The precondition was, however, that the chassis did not exceed a weight of 1,600 kg.
On 27 July 1939, Dörr & Schreck finally announced the completion of the SW 38: “The car is extremely interesting and beautiful. It lies well on the road and the streamlined shape already makes itself felt at 60 km/h. Soon afterwards the car was delivered, but as a result of the outbreak of war its use was soon to be very limited. During the chaos of war the test vehicle disappeared and was never found again – its whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.
Looking back, it seems that the Fulda managers at that time could not foresee two future developments: