One of the greatest things about racing in Europe is that if you can name a car, someone has probably caned it around a racetrack or a rally stage. For this enterprising driver, that means taking a column-shifted Wartburg 353. “What is a Wartburg,” you ask? It was an East German automaker that built Cold War-era basic transportation. The 353 was a four-door sedan powered by a two-stroke 1.0-liter three-banger and, as alluded to, a few enterprising souls took them rallying. While it’s not exactly Group B insanity, this onboard demonstrates what makes this unique: a column-shifted five-speed transmission.
Yep, that’s the driver grabbing gears by the steering wheel as he navigates a tarmac rally stage…somewhere. I wish I knew exactly where it was, but this takes some serious cojones. The stock Wartburg gearbox was a four-speed so the fifth gear appears to be a modification of some sort. You can see the shift to fifth gear around 1:45 and 3:50 in the video; it’s strange one, almost looking like fifth is a dogleg back toward the driver. However that’s arranged, we have mad respect for a driver who is not only using the heel-and-toe on the floor but also smashing that column shifter around like a boxing match.