Family Story

The Jewish Botond of Győr: Dezső Winkler

Legendary vehicle designer at the Rába factory

Who was Dezső Winkler?

He was born in Tét near Győr on 11 July 1901 and died in Budapest on 7 October 1985. He was a mechanical engineer.

His butcher father died early, leaving his mother alone with their three children. At the age of ten, he was already working in the machine factory in Győr to supplement the family budget. It was then that he decided to become an engineer. However, because of the numerus clausus, he went to the technical university in Brno, where he studied in German. After his studies, he returned to Győr and made a name for himself in the 1930s as a designer of several excellent commercial vehicles. He was involved in the design of the Rába tractor under licence from Krupp and the Austro Super bus, which was of Fiat origin, and later helped to launch MAN diesel engine production.

The handover of Rába LHo buses destined for the capital in Győr, on Szent István út; Dunántúli Hírlap, 11 February 1928; Source: (1)

His most famous creation was the four-wheel drive off-road vehicle Botond, which proved to be more reliable than other German vehicles of similar function. It was powered by two rear axles, and thousands were produced in both right- and left-hand drive series.

Dezső Winkler, 1901-1985

He was lucky to be able to create something like that, because it made him indispensable. Imre Pattantyús-Ábrahám, director of the Rába wagon and machine factory in Győr, tried to save the factory’s technical intellectuals of Jewish origin, including many of his closest colleagues, after the German occupation.

Winkler and his wife as well as their infant son were already being herded into the wagons when the partial escape came. Dezső Winkler continued to work at the factory until February 1945, during which time he was deported by the Arrow Cross in 1944 to Sopronkőhida, where he escaped and was later arrested again. He managed to escape again in the vicinity of Munich.

The Botond all-terrain vehicle

Winkler designed the most successful Hungarian all-terrain vehicle ever built, the Botond, designed for the Royal Hungarian Army, which also took an active part in war action.

Dezső Winkler behind the wheel of Botond, Source: (3)

The three-axle off-roader had independent double wishbone suspension on all wheels, a pair of wheel-rollers mounted on the front bumper and a winch, and spare wheels with bearings on both sides to aid off-road driving.

Botond in action; Source: (2)

Dezső Winkler recalled the development: ‘I myself took part in the test drive of the prototypes. The car worked flawlessly in all respects… After the Berlin Motor Show, looking over my notes and sketches I had made so far, it seemed that the pending issues could be clarified. Thus, in order to increase traction power, a high ratio rear axle drive should be designed and the vehicle should be configured for a low unladen weight. And to increase off-road capabilities, it is necessary to maximise the deflection of the driven wheels with independent suspension and, if necessary, to provide a short-term rolling support for the front of the carriage or on the chassis between the axles. …”

His life after the war

After the war he played a major role in the re-launch of the Hungarian Wagon and Machine Works. He headed its automotive department until 1948, and then was in charge of the Central Vehicle Design Office of the Heavy Industry Centre (NIK) until 1950.

Tableau at the Dreamers of Dreams Exhibition, Millenáris, Budapest, July 2022; © Péter Krausz

In 1951 he received the Kossuth Prize for the development of buses, trucks, tractors and engines. He became head of department at the Vehicle Development Institute (JÁFI), which he founded, and finally, before his retirement in 1968, director and CEO of the successor, the Automotive Research Institute (AUTÓKUT).

He represented the Hungarian automotive industry as a member of the respective UN Group of Experts.

The Byzantine myth of Botond in the Képes Krónika (1358); Source: (6)

So, who was Botond?

According to a Hungarian legend, Botond fell with Lehel in 955 at the battle of Augsburg against the German king Otto I. Another Hungarian legend, reminiscent of the biblical story of David, tells of Botond breaking down the gates of Byzantium with his mace and defeating the Greek giant with his bare hands in 958. The name of the military vehicle built in Győr certainly refers not to the loser, but to the victorious Botond.


On the initiative of Dezső Winkler’s son, István, a memorial plaque in honour of his father was placed on 14 September 2022 on the wall of the house at 26c Városmajor Street in Buda, where the family spent many happy years.

István Winkler delivering his inaugural speech
© P. Krausz
The plaque © P. Krausz
Family photo beneath the memorial plaque © Krausz P.


  2.; 21st March 2013, szerző: pera