By Torben Kasimzade,  Northern Europe Chapter Member

It’s 30 years ago that history had one of its greatest and equally most surprising moments – West- and East-Germany reunited almost by chance due to a press conference held by a newly appointed government servant, who accidentally stated the opening of the border-gates “as far as I know, now, right away”. Thus, all ending in a friendly revolution. 

Being a 13 years old teenager, I was awakened by my parents to listen to the evening news that night as “history was about to happen”. When the first people walked over the borderline from East- to West-Berlin a few hours after that conference and when the very same people climbed the famous Berlin Wall, I remember that my whole family and I were simply speechless and fascinated. 

The day later we drove from our village to the next big city, my hometown Braunschweig in West-Germany, just 50 miles from the border: The first East-German cars, all of them with a considerably loud and smoky three-cylinder engine, were passing by. Everyone was cheerful, waving and simply happy. A rare and special moment of peace and happiness – if we disregard the “stinky and noisy” three-cylinder engines of course…


Today, whenever I open-up my vintage boat garage and see our 13-feet Tarz Speedster (or as we nick-named it, Smitty), I always remember that very moment in my life. Smitty was created in 1953 by a gifted man called Fritz Tars, a German boat builder from East-Berlin. Not much is known about this person, but it is said that he was a skilled foreman and craftsman at one of Berlin’s most famous boatyards, the Schneider Werft. 

It appeared that he tried to start his own business and research shows that he built less than ten boats. Only two of which were Speedsters, Smitty being the only survivor known to exist. When Fritz Tars built his boats, he used a very interesting technique – all wood is made of small strips, running completely from bow to stern. Smitty was built in exactly that way. Why Fritz Tars named his Speedster “Tarz” instead of “Tars”, we simply don’t know…

Yet, our research showed that the characteristic wings were added in 1964, together with the unusual engine. In 1964, supplies were already difficult to source and the East-German regime was focusing on small, cheap to produce, compact cars featuring three-cylinder engines only – quite a big difference to the American small and big block engines. Thus, Fritz Tars used these engines, as nothing else was available in the communist planned economy. Hence, Smitty is powered by an AWE (Automobilwerke Eisenach) engine, AWE being the automobile plant of the East-German Wartburg car. 

Though, being a gentleman racer, the builder wanted it to be fast. Hence, it features a very unusual 3-fold carburetor, producing approximately 75hp (reaching over 40 knots). This is close to double the horse power of the average East-German car of that era. It is also equipped with an unusual racing gearbox from Lunze/Gräfenhainichen, specially made for this boat. 

Smitty was found and rescued in 2002 by a boatyard headed by respected restorer and author, Carsten Klink who is the co-author of one of the most interesting books on German and international “Autoboote” (meaning “carboats”), by all accounts a must for enthusiasts of German classic boats. In all, it took about 1,800 hours to finish the restoration and I first saw this boat on its presentation day at a classic car and boat show in Southern Germany in 2008 – and fell in love. Smitty at that time was planned to be the boat for Carsten’s daughter and, thus, was “not for sale” for many years. Later, the yearly calls turned into a price discussion and in the end, he said, “it’s not about the price, you were simply the one and only person most persisting, Torben – so you can have her”. Though, I have to admit, I am unsure if I was “just persisting” or simply speaking “annoying” for all these years… Anyway, today, Smitty is hauled by my 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE (W111) Coupé, thus, reuniting East-and West-German engineering and craftsmanship in the very best way. 

My family and I cruise with this beautiful combo to local classic car gatherings located at lakes and by the sea here in Germany, but we also visit the beautiful lakes of Sweden to meet our classic boating friends. It is not known in how many races Smitty participated over the course of its life (although we found some old East-German race boat listings from the mid-sixties), but the latest race we participated in was the FriFart (meaning “free speed”) event in Linkoping, Sweden, in 2017. Unfortunately, in that race Smittys high-performance engine had cooling problems due to an old rope affecting the propeller shaft, so I was not only the captain of the stinkiest engine, but I also had to paddle back all to the start – at least the crowd loved it. So yes, despite all the trouble, it was a great event to show the unique, East-German design of Fritz Tars.

With best wishes from Germany.


  1. Great story about a very attractive and unusual, little gentlemnans racer. I am sure that Smitty is a lot of fun to show and play with/use/cruise, and is probably a real crowd pleaser. It shows that persistance pays off.

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