The little push-me-pull-you car

This original and non-conformist solution led Zündapp to choose the name Janus, from Giano, the Roman god depicted as two-faced with one face looking forwards and the other looking behind.

The history of the Zündapp marque began in 1917 in Nuremberg and was always linked to the world of two-wheeled vehicles, but twice the company tried to break into the car world. The first attempt took place in 1931 with the help of Ferdinand Porsche and let to the birth of the model 12, powered by a five-cylinder air-cooled radial engine; a few examples were produced and it can be considered one of the first prototypes which led to the birth of the iconic VW Beetle in 1938. After that attempt the company next tried again with the little Janus in 1956, made under licence from Dornier.

The car was very small and access to the driving seat was gained via a characteristic front door, a solution also adopted by ISO for their Isetta bubble car, but the novelty in the Zündapp’s case was that access to the rear seats was via a rear opening door hence the car was completely symmetrical.

The rear seats faced in the opposite direction to the direction of travel hence its description as a push-me-pull-you car. This original and non-conformist solution led Zündapp to choose the name Janus, from Giano, the Roman god depicted as two-faced with one face looking forwards and the other looking behind. The engine used was a 248 cc single-cylinder unit.

The unique originality did not help the Janus’s sales and, after the lack of commercial success, the manufacturer decided to continue their focus on two wheels until 1984, when financial difficulties forced their failure, following which the company was absorbed by Honda.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

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