(Continued from Newsletter No 258)
The machine was used by the military as a messenger-machine and even occasionally as a fighting vehicle with a side car.
NSU was also active and successful building automobiles until 1933. After WW-1 NSU built traditional motorcycles according to the 4-stroke principal never deviating from this.
They excelled at medium heavy machines with their Consul, a single cylinder 500-cc machine which had as much torque as a tractor (so they say) and was as reliable as the proverbial German Hausfrau. Aside from that, they built an entire array of machines from 125-cc upward.
In the early 1930s, they concluded an agreement under which they produced Italian Fiat automobiles with the trade name ‘NSU-Fiat’. This agreement also gave them the right to design some of their own cars, using the Fiat chassis as the basis. The result was a lovely two-seat roadster called ‘’Weinsberg’’. This tradition they continued after WW2 for some time. During WW2 NSU built diverse items for the German defense industry, including the incredible ‘’Kettenkrad’’, a motorcycle front steering a lighly armored track-equipped open body. This was a hybrid between a motorcycle and a miniture tank. It was used particularly on the Russian front as a small personell carrier, a tractor to pull artillery pieces or as a rapid evacuation vehicle for casualties. This machine, of which thousands were built, used the 4-cylinder 37 hp 1.5 liter displacement Opel Olympia engine and was also built in license by Stoewer starting in 1944. It proved its mettle under the most trying conditions. The factory, like all German factories, was almost totally destroyed during the war, which did not deter them from rebuilding as soon as they were permitted to do so.
In the very early 1950s they designed an entirely new line of motorcycles, ranging from 125-cc to 250-cc. With these machines in racing trim they managed to dominate international Formula One racing in these classes. The civilian 250-cc machine was called the Max and its engine-transmission unit represented the ultimate in technical (4-stroke) progress at the time.
The Honda ‘’Dream’’ (the first Honda) was a carbon copy of the Max. The Japanese tried to hide the theft with clumsy attempts at ‘’body-styling’’.
In addition, NSU built a large variety of different motorcycles, a cute little moped and a scooter, all top notch in terms of design and quality. The scooter was actually the Italian Lambretta, built in license but using a NSU two-stroke single cylinder engine of various displacements. This is the only instance in which NSU deviated from the 4-stroke principal.
NSU owned the patents to the Wankel (Rotary) engine and conducted intensive development work on it. They also sold the rights to the engine to such diverse companies as Mercedes, Mazda of Japan and Fichtel & Sachs, the venerable old German engine manufacturer. As the 1950s drew to a close, NSU sadly abandoned the motorcycle business and concentrated on the Wankel engine and on small cars.
They developed a line of cars called ‘’Prinz’’ with a rear-mounted air cooled engine of 500 -cc. This engine was made up of two Max engines coupled together. This was a micro-car designed in such a way as to be easily enlarged, which is what NSU did as time progressed. The final Prinz had an engine of 1-liter, still based on the Max design.
With these cars NSU garnered many rally and sporting successes, particularly in Italy where the cars enjoyed astounding popularity. The Italians being sports car drivers par excellence knew a good thing when they saw (drove) it. This car excelled on all levels and out-performed such outstanding Italian machines as the Abarth 750 or the lovely Innocenti.
During the very late 1950s one of the prettiest small sports cars ever made its appearance, the NSU Sport Prinz. The body was designed by Bertone of Italy and was being built with a rotary engine as well as with the twin cylinder Max engine of 500-cc. Today, there are enthusiasts clubs all over the world enjoying their Sport Prinz automobiles as coupes or convertibles.
In the middle 1960s NSU came out with a revolutionary mid-size car, the RO 80. This may sound like a cliché, but it isn’t – the RO 80 was decades ahead of its time in all areas using front-wheel drive, a rotary engine and a semi-automatic transmission by Fichtel & Sachs. It had a great looking, stylish wind-cheating shape which was to influence body designers for several decades to come.
Alas, this car suffered from rotary engine problems, which not only doomed it, but the company as well, since the warranty expenses were astronomical. NSU was finally swallowed by VW and made to disappear unceremoniously down the historical memory hole. No effort was made by VW to keep this time-honored, innovative company alive.
As an aside, VW’s role in the apparently planned destruction of German heavy industry is almost as murky as that of Mercedes, even if less obvious.
They have poured untold millions into England by buying ancient, out-dated, nearly bankrupt Rolls-Royce, giving this company a new lease on life by introducing German quality controls and installing a 12 cylinder BMW engine. They have bought bankrupt, ancient-age Skoda in the Czech republic, designing for them an entirely new hyper-modern line of automobiles as well as building a new factory and training their workers!
This despite the ugly fact that the Czechs delight in pissing on Germany and are hate filled enemies of the German nation of the absolute worst sort. Next to the Poles, there’s never been a ‘nation’ (euphemistically called such), which has made it a national obsession to hate Germany as much as the Czech Republic. Their unbounded hatred is possibly only equaled by the Jews.
VW produces cars in Brazil, while there are millions of German unemployed and there are dozens of old German companies which deserve to be revived. And that’s only what I know. Who knows what else there might be. There’s something very wrong with this picture.
This like the others, is a venerable old German industrial enterprise which was started in the year 1886 as a bicycle manufacturer, something Victoria did successfully throughout its long history. Around the turn of the 20th. century they began to produce motorcycles.
At first they used a variety of engines, including those of FN (Belgium) and Columbus (later to join with Horex) as well as a host of others. During the very early part of the 20th. century they even produced automobiles, even though without success. During WW-1 they produced mostly small bikes and bicycles, to develop into a real force in the 1920s. In 1925 a Victoria twin cylinder 500-cc machine achieved the world speed record in its class at 165 km per hour. Victorias were well presented in MotoCross, Rally and Reliability Trials earning a reputation for ruggedness and reliability.
In the early 1930s they presented a unique heavy bike which was one the most advanced motorbikes anywhere at the time, featuring a totally enclosed body which afforded unheard of protection to the rider in inclement weather and protected the mechanicals of the bike from damage from road debris, a common problem in those days. It may seem almost absurd, but it appears to me this bike was the forerunner for the 1950 Achilles motorscooter. It was powered by a 500-cc 4-stroke twin. The chain was totally enclosed – in short, the machine was uncommonly advanced.
This motorcycle was entered in a competition for a military contract. The main reason it lost to the competition (BMW and Zündapp were co-winners) was its small gas tank which caused it to have a very limited range.
It appears, this bike took its inspiration from another old German motorcycle manufacturer – Mars (founded in 1873), which had introduced a futuristic motorbike ‘’The White Mars’’, a monster with a 1000-cc Maybach engine using boxer configuration and a highly advanced frame design built of pressed steel, all of that in 1921! Mars built bikes and scooters in the 1950’s of uncommon grace using Fichtel & Sachs engines. The highly comfortable Mars Stella ‘150’ was deservedly one of the most successful bikes sold in Germany at that time and the Stella ‘175’ was undoubtedly one of the aesthetically most pleasing bikes of the times anyplace as well as being an extraordinarily comfortable touring machine. Today in 2004, Honda builds a machine which appears to be a carbon copy of the Mars Stella 175!
In April 1945 the Victoria works were almost totally destroyed. In 1947 work was started by rebuilding the bombed out factory and soon the production lines were again humming. The initial production consisted of up-graded pre-war models.
In 1953 they introduced the ‘’Bergmeister’’ (Hill Climb Champion), a bike with a 350-cc V-twin and shaft drive. This machine was exceptionally massive and macho, despite its comparatively small engine (by macho-bike standards) and registered huge successes in hill-climb trials (hence its name) as well as a side-car machine.
The Bergmeister in many ways represents the pinnacle of after-war Victoria success, even though they had a lot more up their sleeve. They produced the futuristic Riedel designed 200-cc Swing as well as the lovely scooter ‘’Peggy’’, with electric start and an electric push button transmission, both firsts in those days.
Their bread & butter model, the KR 250, a single cylinder 2-stroke bike of traditional design was very successful on the marketplace due to its ruggedness and zero-defects construction, guaranteeing its rock-solid reliability even during the most inclement weather.
Back then, those were very important considerations, since these bikes were used for daily transportation throughout the year. Furthermore, Germany in those years was truly cold in winter with icy streets and heavy snow fall the norm across the entire country.
Looking at these technical and stylistic marvels today, one wonders how it is possible, that such genius very literally disappeared. These machines could easily be built today and they would outshine everything from the far east, 50 years after their inception! All of these products sold well, even though some of them were more costly than many of their competitors. In 1955 they came out with a lovely line of Mopeds, the ‘’Vicky’’, whose elegance (beautiful styling) and advanced engineering - enclosed chain drive, weather protection extraordinaire, superb suspension systems front and rear, Mercedes-quality throughout etc.- astound to this day.
Being equally at home using 2-or 4-stroke technology, they even designed an advanced 50-cc 4-stroke engine for the Vicky moped, an engine which however was mysteriously never used. An engineer found one intact in an old Victoria warehouse in Nürnberg recently, disassembled and cleaned it and VOILA, it ran like new.
A motorized bike was produced by Victoria consisting of a bicycle (Victoria had been building first rate bicycles for decades) with a 38-cc 2-stroke engine affixed at the right side of the rear wheel. This little machine was actually elegant (no exaggeration!), lovely to look at, reliable and cheap to operate. Its gas tank was situated underneath the luggage carrier, all of it perfectly, beautifully coordinated.
Motorcycle racer Georg Dotterweich achieved a world speed record of almost 50 miles per hour on a streamlined version of this little beauty. Victoria saw the motorcycle market shrink and acquired the rights to designer Egon Brütsch’s ‘’Spatz’’ micro car, an uncommonly attractive tiny 3-seat roadster. This design, initially flawed, had been successfully re-designed by former Tatra chief engineer Ledwinka.
Financial problems which apparently had no solution (a sad, seemingly never-ending story in the German two-wheel industry after WW2) stopped production of this promising lovely little roadster before it really got started. Victoria even developed a proto-type with a removable hard top and gull-wing doors!
Victoria ceased to exist in 1958, the city of Nürnberg not lifting a finger to help and the German government looking the other way, as another one of Germany’s premier manufacturers, an important employer of a highly trained, motivated and well paid work force disappeared down history’s memory hole. Thankfully, today there are several Victoria clubs in existence which keep the memory of this great German company alive.
This firm was established in 1917 as a producer of electric ignition systems. (Zündung = Ignition, Apparat = machine) hence the strange name.
A visit to a British motor show by Zündapps chief Fritz Neumeyer in the very early 1920s, awoke in him a love for motorcycles and convinced him to try his luck building one. He bought a small 200-cc British bike, which inspired Zündapp designs for the next 6 years. By the middle 1920s, Zündapp had produced some 25.000 motorbikes. At this time Zündapp, thanks to its insistence on quality and reliability, had developed into one of the powerhouses in German motorcycle production, the other really big ones being DKW and Triumph-Nürnberg.
Toward the end of the 1920s, Zündapp commissioned designer Ferdinand Porsche to develop a car cheap to built and easy to maintain and drive. The result was the original VW (even if not named thusly at the time).
This project however collided with Zündapp desire to built ultra-modern factory facilities and was therefore cancelled.
The new factory was the finest motorcycle production facility in Germany (possibly in the world at that time), capable of producing upward of 60.000 units per year. In typically socially conscious German manner it included, amongst other things, sports facilities for its employees!
In 1932 they started building a new, large 4-stroke engine, the famed 600-cc Boxer, an advanced design by Kuechen, which included shaft drive and a pressed-steel frame. It was this design which formed the basis of Zündapp fame henceforth. There were only a few manufacturers in Germany which built large, heavy bikes, NSU, BMW and Horex with their macho 800-cc side-car machine come to mind. Throughout the 1930’s heavy Zündapp machines competed successfully in local races, Rallies and Reliability Trials, either winning outright or being amongst the top three.
When the Wehrmacht decided to follow Fieldmarshall Guderians advice and to establish a motorcycle corps, it was Zündapp along with BMW who delivered the machines for the task. This was a wise choice, since they proved themselves to be veritable war heroes on all fronts, from the searing Sahara to the arctic Russian winters, loaded down with an incredible amount of equipment, men, ammunition and oftentimes serving as tractors to pull artillery pieces as well. It is claimed the heavy Zündapp machines were superior to those by BMW (hard to believe). Knowing BMW's, I'd say, it as a toss-up. It was indeed Zündapp who modified the military versions.
One of the benefits Zündapp enjoyed was the Reichs government policy of ‘’Money Is No Object’’ which resulted in truly superior designs and quality control non pareil. Zündapp, like Victoria survived the war years relatively unscathed until that fateful April 1945 in Nürnberg.
The city which personified western civilizations middle ages, was bombed into the stone age by allied ‘’heroic’’ airmen who not only enjoyed absolute air superiority but also an undefended city in a country bleeding to death out of a million wounds.
In 1936 Zündapp designed a huge 1-liter 4-cylinder boxer with supercharger which however never saw production. After the war, the British forever on the lookout for something German to steal, showed uncommon interest in this design, arresting Zündapp's chief engineer and grilling him on the project.
Throughout the 1930s they also maintained their presence in the smaller classes, building 125-cc and 200-cc 2-stroke machines successfully. During the war years Zündapp designed the rarely used micro-tank ‘’Goliath’’ amongst other things.
The total destruction suffered during the last month of the war did not discourage Zündapp from re-starting after 1948 with determination, by building pre-war models until 1950, at which time they introduced up-dated models, including a 200-cc two-stroke bike, based on the reliable pre-war model. It was essentially that bike which formed the financial basis for further development, such as the hyper-modern 250-cc 4-stroke boxer introduced in 1953. This marvelous bike never saw production due to financial constraints.
It was at this time that Zündapp developed a KS 601 especially for North America. They established a distribution network with an American company and sold machines to several police departments which had grown tired of the unreliable, overheating, vibrating Harley Davidson disasters of those years.
It has never been satisfactorily explained as to why that business ended up in the hands of the Japanese, because Zündapp enjoyed a tremendous reputation in those police departments which had been equipped with their machines. On the one hand it is claimed the German manufacturers disappeared because of a shrinking market, on the other hand the market which was opening up, the one in North America, was handed over to the Japanese.
This despite German companies (and the British even more so) having a decided head start there. British machines disappeared, because of poor quality, unreliability, incurable oil leaks and serious electrical problems.
These reasons however do in no way whatsoever apply to any of the German makes. Consequently, this development simply doesn’t make any sense, particularly in view of the fact, that Zündapp had a very clever marketing department.
On the home market they didn’t stand still either, designing a myriad of different bikes, many of them sports models, such as the ‘’Elastic DB 205’’ which enjoyed success as a Moto Cross machine in the early 1960’s. The Bella motor scooter was another success story. It was powered by a thoroughly modern 200-cc 2-stroke engine centrally located and had the handling of a motorcycle, to some degree due to its large wheels and excellent suspension. Protection from inclement weather was superb. Aesthetically it was very pleasing as well. All this coupled with Zündapp quality and reputation made for a best seller for many years. Strangely today there are almost no Bellas in existence.
In 1958 Zündapp decided to abandon its time honored place of production and moved to Munich into much smaller production facilities, leaving behind a bewildered, abandoned work force.
One of the reasons for this was the financially disastrous micro-car experiment, the ‘’Janus’’. This car was one of the most individualistic designs in automotive history. Originally it was designed by Claude Dornier of aircraft fame. However Dornier lacked the wherewithal to built it. Zündapp, re-designed it, improved it, cleaned up the rough edges and made the machine into a perfectly viable micro-car. It had one front opening door and one rear opening door (hence the name Janus). The engine, a 250-cc Zündapp single cylinder two-stroke was situated exactly between the seats – making this machine the first truly mid-engined car in the world. It offered comfortable seating for 4 adults plus luggage. The only drawback was the howling sound of its force-air cooled engine. All in all, it was truly revolutionary, good looking, efficient and of typical Zündapp quality. Alas it was a strange design, entirely too weird for most people to buy. After one year of production and tremendous development expenses, production was stopped. Even though about 7000 were built and delivered, I am not aware of a single example remaining, a real shame.
From this moment on, Zündapp was merely a shadow of its former self, specializing in small Moped-type machines, lawnmowers, outboard engines and the like.
Whatever happened for the next 20 years was a microcosm of what’s happening to the German nation as a whole – a seemingly unstoppable deterioration and an ever increasing level of mediocrity on all levels.
Zündapp's last design was an 80-cc two-stroke sports bike of uncommon beauty and incredible performance, but that was the last ‘’hurrah’’ of the once mighty company. The entire factory, including all plans for future development were sold to a Chinese conglomerate without the German government or the city of München, forever gripped in Holocaust hysteria and writing obscene, totally unjustified checks to German-haters, lifting a finger to help.
The Messerschmitt Kabinenroller (meaning: motorscooter within a cabin) KR 200 (the 200 referred to the piston displacement of the engine and the KR referred to the aforementioned KabinenRoller) was one of the weirdest, wildest and most outrageous designs ever.
It captured the imagination of thousands. This strange cockpit on three wheels was produced from around 1950 to 1962 and started as a bicycle with a cabin in 1947! The designer of the machine was Herr Fritz Fend who, during the war had been an engineer working for the Messerschmitt aircraft factory. That was the company which designed the legendary Me-109 fighter and subsequently led the world in jet aircraft research, producing the first fully operational jet fighter, the Me-262.
It was this jet-engine technology which was stolen by the US and Britain after the war (50 - that’s FIFTY - tons of documentation) and formed the basis for all development in that area henceforward. The British built a jet-liner based on these stolen German patents but made grave errors in the design of the windows, causing them to implode at 20000 feet which resulted in the airliner disintegrating, to the understandable chagrin of the British passengers aboard. Unfortunately neither Winston ‘The Blood-Soaked’ Churchill nor his cabinet was aboard when the last airliner imploded, spreading British debris over a large area. However, the disastrous result of their shameless theft of German technology resulted in the eventual ‘’disintegration’’ of their aircraft industry – poetic justice indeed!
After the military collapse of Germany, her great aircraft designers were prohibited from building aircraft (a convenient way to eliminate superior competition) and world famous men like Messerschmitt, Heinkel, Dornier and many more were reduced to repairing stationary motors, pumps, lawnmowers, bicycles, sewing machines and the like.
Herr Fend had been released from prison (his crime had been having been German), but was out of work and decided to design a simple manner of weather-proof transport, something which anyone could afford. For starters he took an old bicycle. He redesigned it with three wheels and a weather-proof canopy and voila – a new means of getting about while staying dry in rainy weather had been borne. After a few had been sold, he added a tiny engine to help the peddler along.
He continued his design efforts until he had a weird, strange, heretofore never seen before machine powered by a small 175-cc Fichtel and Sachs single cylinder two stroke motorcycle engine. Despite the diminutive size of the power plant his little car (for lack of a better word) carried two adults and one child or a large suitcase in tandem at the respectable speed of 75 kmh, all in completely weather-proof, heatable comfort. This little scooter-with-a-roof represented a giant leap forward in all areas of engineering.
We must not forget that these design efforts took place under the most trying conditions – no materials (everything had to be, as the German soldier used to call it, ‘’organized’’), no gasoline to speak of, tiny, cramped, leaking unheated garages as work rooms, raw material shortages of every imaginable sort, lack of food and total lack of freedom of movement since German cities, or what was left of them, served as giant prison camps. Availability of electric power or cooking gas was restricted to two or three hours per day at between 4 and 6 o’clock in the mornings. I frankly do not believe anyone can actually imagine the difficulties under which men like Fend labored. It’s truly beyond comprehension – and it was under those conditions that German industry re-developed, relentlessly driven forward by the indomitable spirit of men and women like Fritz Fend.
Fend labored mightily and in 1953 along came his old employer, Willie Messerschmitt. He liked what he saw and before long the little machine really took off. It began to be marketed as the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller.
The initial vehicle was a bit underpowered and had several design features which were quite frankly primitive. This didn’t last long and soon (1955) a vastly improved version was introduced. This vehicle was equipped with a 200-cc single cylinder air cooled two-stroke Fichtel & Sachs 10 hp engine, electric starting, a reverse gear and the front track had been considerably increased giving the machine rock-solid stability. This version achieved, fully loaded an easy 90 kmph (57 mph) which was more than sufficient for the times and road conditions prevailing. It can be said, that this model was the quintessential Kabinenroller.
It was soon offered as a convertible as well and sold very well. Aside from a plethora of technical improvements, this scooter came in a large variety of highly attractive colors and color combinations, with some rather exotic interior designs to round out the picture.
Accessories included chromed little hoods over the headlights, chromed fenders, a large chromed lugagge carrier and attractive chromed finishing touches all over. When fully equipped this machine was highly attractive, in a macho way, what with its aircraft-style cockpit look, its fine dimensions, a real gem. To obtain access to the engine compartment, one merely lifted the rear body panel upward.
People however wanted something faster, more spacious, a ‘real’ car and the motor scooter boom which had spawned so many memorable vehicles began to stagnate. It was at this time that Prof. Willie Messerschmitt received a contract from the Federal Government in Bonn to again built aircraft. He used the combination of these events (sales stagnation and other interests) to sell his part in the venture in 1957. Fritz Fend managed to take over Messerschmitts interests and formed his own company in Regensburg called the FMR Corporation.
Since he and Messerschmitt were good friends, he was permitted to keep on using the trade name for his Kabinenroller, except the logo had to go, since a court had decided it resembled the Mercedes star. This was patent nonsense, but-----.
As far as the contract Messerschmitt had been offered was concerned, it appears (I don’t know this for a fact), that he was fooled. None of the questions I have asked different people who ought to know have been answered. The fact is, he never again built aircraft of any kind, but rather was reduced to altering, improving if you will, the American fighter jet F-16 which Germany had bought at astronomical prices from the US. That seems to be part of the New World Order – to secure the international military aircraft market for the United States at the expense of everyone else. In addition, his company ended up no more than a maintenance center for those F-16’s, a far cry from the times that he stood in front of a drawing board designing some of the most revolutionary flying machines of his times. This demotion from ‘Chairman of the Board’ to ‘Maintenance Chief’, was made a bit sweeter by high-flying titles and a princely salary. He died in the early 1980’s. Too bad I never got to speak with him to find out what he really thought.
Fritz Fend went to work without Messerschmitt building and selling Karo-200’s at a decent clip. It was at this time, that he decided to bring out a new, more powerful model. Research had proven, that to make the Karo-200 more powerful would result in an unstable vehicle. In order not to lose the original character of his machine, Fend decided to leave his machine as was, but to add a fourth wheel. This created engineering problems with the result, that the entire chassis was reworked from the ground up.
Larger wheels were fitted, the suspension system was up-graded, steering geometry was changed, brake surface was increased and all sorts of nifty design changes took place which made the machine a real ‘tiger’ in terms of speed and looks. The engine was a Fichtel & Sachs two stroke 500-cc twin which had been gracing the shelves at F&S unused.
Fend re-worked and re-engineered it extensively, making it a really civilized powerplant. This machine could be driven at top speed (125 kph, or 75-plus mph) fully loaded uphill during the hottest summer months for hours without the air-cooled powerplant ever breaking a sweat. This new ‘large’ Messerschmitt was stunning and ranks amongst the most exciting, original means of personal transport ever put on the road anyplace, by anyone and must assure Fend a place in the Hall of Fame of technical designers.
Fend decided to call it what it was – Tiger. The industrial giant Krupp was lurking around and decided that wouldn’t do, since they had registered all exotic animal names for their products. In addition, they didn’t like Fends new logo, since they claimed it infringed on theirs. They went to court and Fend settled of course knowing fully well he didn’t stand a chance against a giant like Krupp. So he changed his logo a bit and changed the name of his magnificent (and I mean Magnificent) creation to ‘FMR Tg. 500’. The public had seen his car already, the name ‘Tiger’ had stuck and henceforth no one ever referred to it by any other name – court order or not.
It’s really depressing how German industry attacked each other over trivialities like names or logos.
At the same time they stood idly by watching Japan and other countries plundering every patent, every idea, every product from Germany and subsequently totally destroying the world-leading motorcycle, optical, electronic and many other industries using unfair labor and trade practices.
It’s something unbelievable, surreally Kafkaesque, explainable only by believing in a conspiracy to destroy Germany and as they say; ‘’He who doesn’t believe in conspiracies, isn’t paying any attention.’’
The problem with the Tiger was that the people who fell in love with it were all young and couldn’t afford to buy one. The result was a sales-flop, which spelled the stop of construction after only about 300 had been built. Some of the Tigers were entered in sports car races and rallies by private owners in the class under one litre (MG Midget, Austin Healy Sprite, Fiat 750, Fiat 850 Sports, Fiat-Abarth, Panhard etc.) with respectable results. A record car was built, but strangely achieved nothing and no data exist on it. The original Karo-200 continued to be built for another 3 years, when Fend decided to pull the plug and to devote himself to other interests and projects.
Today in 2004, there are enthusiastic Messerschmitt Clubs on almost every continent, the one in Bavaria apparently having the finest examples of Tigers, including a ‘modern’ version which looks like it came straight off the set of Star Wars. There’s also a fabulous Micro-Car museum in the USA with a fine collection of Messerschmitts.
Heinkel was another Messerschmitt. World famous aircraft designer, inventor of the ejection seat, builder of some of the most formidable fighter aircraft in WW2 and instrumental in the development of the jet engine. Also, banned from ever building aircraft again, a convenient, if rotten way ro eliminate competition. After the war he kept his head above water doing what other great German engineers had to do, repairing water pumps, old engines, making do with whatever was at hand.
There were some who were more lucky, such as Anton Flettner, the designer of the first fully operative helicopter the ‘Kolibri’, or Wernher von Braun and his entire team of rocket scientists. Those guys were kidnapped (Ooops! excuse me, they were ‘escorted’) to the United States and put American aeronautics on the map, Flettner working for the Navy and von Braun forming the nucleus of NASA and American rocket science.
• As an aside, it was Wernher von Braun and his team who were invited to a gala state dinner by President and Mrs. Kennedy to the White House. Thank you President and Mrs. Kennedy for the honor you showed my nation.
• President Kennedy was one of the very few American Presidents who can be said to have been pro-German, at least not anti German. Was that part of his downfall? Considering it is the Jew who controls America, this is a legitimate question!
Heinkel started designing a new scooter as early as 1949 but took his time, determined to get it right the first time around. He had designed a small 150-cc 4-stroke power plant, a rarity for the times when such small machines usually used the 2-stroke principal. His first scooter left his little factory in 1954, even though two years earlier road testers had already approved of his concept.
In order to start production Heinkel had to raise enough money to built a manufacturing facility. Since he was a former ‘Nazi’-aircraft designer, this was no easy task but he succeeded. Soon an improved version of the original followed with electric start, 4-speed transmission and a 12 Volt system. There again it must be remembered that in the pre-war years 6 Volt systems had been de rigeur not only for motorcycles but for cars as well.
The improved version was a hit on the market. It was not only extraordinarily smooth, quiet and fast, but also an attractive, manly example of a thoroughly modern scooter. Heinkel called it ‘The Tourist’. It was strong enough for the addition of a side car, absolutely reliable, handsome as can be and qualitatively hard to beat. Another thing that set it apart was its macho character. This scooter appealed more to men than to women, because it was manly without that characteristic being overpowering in the least. Riding it was no different from riding a motorcycle.
The changes made throughout the production run consisted of a plethora of detail, technical and styling improvements. Looking at the latest models of the Tourist, I can’t imagine a finer looking machine than it, especially when it came in black with a red bench seat.
Even though the Tourist was a definite sales hit and a milestone in scooter design, Heinkel was not one to rest on his laurels. Beginning in 1960 when most other scooter and motorcycle manufacturers in Germany had ceased to exist, he came out with a lovely, feminine version, the Heinkel Typ 150. What the Tourist did to the heart of a man, the Typ 150 did to that of the ladies.
It was smooth, ultra-feminine, came in designer colors and was powered by a 150-cc two-stroke engine putting out a respectable 9 hp, powering the machine to 85 kmph. The only feature it shared with the Tourist was the standard equipment spare wheel and the high quality. Alas, even though this model was built until 1965 when Heinkel ceased operations, it never achieved the success of the Tourist. Before than in 1957, Heinkel had designed another model, the ‘112’, yet another scooter unrelated to the original Tourist. That one however was built only as a prototype and was never marketed even though it appears to have been quite excellent, according to the specifications and the photographs extant.
It was in 1956 that Heinkel, inspired by the ISO Bubble Car, the Italian failure transformed into a smashing success by BMW (Isetta), decided to built his own Bubble Car. Heinkel thought the original ISO design to be a great idea, but entirely too massive and heavy and embarked on an completely new design strategy.
He took the mechanicals of the Tourist scooter, added a second wheel in front and covered the whole creation in a weird looking cabin. Of course, this is a simplification, but it is essentially what he did and demonstrates how this vehicle was designed. Due to the usage of the original Tourist mechanical components and his expertise as an aircraft designer, the weight of this Bubble Car was a modest 243 kg, making this little car rather speedy, despite its diminutive engine size. It seated two adults and was essentially the ideal, thrifty city car.
The only draw back was the interior noise at full throttle, since the interior unfortunately functioned as a sound chamber. Maybe it was that which doomed the marketing success of this otherwise exceptional machine.
An interesting aside here is, that the body of the Kabine was built by Vidal & Sons in Hamburg, the company that had produced the 3-wheel Tempo delivery vehicles since the late 1920’s. This company was sold to the Indian company Bajaj in the late 1960s. Thusly it came to be that the German ‘Tempo’ 3-wheeler delivery vehicle put India on wheels at that time – hence the many 3-wheeled vehicles in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh today.
The Indian company honors Tempo to this day by having incorporated the name into its own, even using the original script. Thank you gentlemen at Bajaj for being honorable – but that is another story.
The English firm Trojan obtained the patent rights to the Heinkel Kabine and built it successfully in Britain for many years. I think Trojan even developed a 4-wheeled version. An Argentine company produced about 2000 Heinkel Bubble Cars as well.
Unfortunately, only very few of Heinkel’s creations, Bubble Car or scooters, have survived. Heinkel died in 1958 and was therefore thankfully spared the pain of witnessing the demise of his company in 1965. Today, there is a small number of Heinkel Clubs in different parts of the world honoring this make.
12. Triumph (TWN) Triumph Werke Nürnberg
The German immigrant to England Siegfried Bettmann, started a company in Coventry manufacturing sewing machines, bicycles and other small machinery. That was 1889, a time when Germany and England (not yet Jew-corrupted) were good friends. Had they remained this, Western Civilisation would be alive and well today. Alas.... Herr Bettmann named his company ‘Triumph’. During the very early part of the 20th century, he decided to built a sister-company in his country of origin, travelled to Germany and formed a manufacturing company in the city of Nürnberg, calling it TWN (Triumph Werke Nürnberg). This company maintained its relationship with its English parent until 1929 when it split from Triumph Coventry and became fully independent. The reason for this ‘divorce’ was that Triumph Nürnberg started to use a more reliable Swiss engine rather than the English ones. This didn’t sit well with Coventry.
Henceforth the company was known in Germany as either Triumph or TWN. English Triumphs were not imported, so there was no problem in confusing the two. For export purposes however the company used only the trade name TWN.
They were successfully exported to all parts of the globe, particularly to South America, where TWN’s were a fairly common sight during the 1930’s and even later on in the 1950’s. In Germany however, they were for all intents and purposes simply known as ‘Triumph’ and that was that.
During the 1920’s they built decent bikes, assuring them a good position in the emerging German motorcycle market, even during the economically impossible climate of the Weimar Republic. Triumphs were head-on competition with DKW, Zündapp, NSU, Mars and other German makes. Initially, Triumphs bore purely English characteristics and even fielded a successful (British Triumph powered) 500-cc 4-stroke racing machine during the 1920s.
English motorcycle engines however even then were not as reliable as the German ones (with the apparent exception of the various JAP twins), causing Triumph some problems with customer complaints. Starting in the 1930s, now independent of Coventry, Triumph started developing its own engines, particularly two-stroke models of 200-ccs and more.
Otto Reitz was an adventurous engineer from NSU who switched to Triumph and developed a single-cylinder multi-piston two-stroke engine which became Triumphs trade-mark. The design incorporated all sorts of nifty changes to the normal two-stroke system such as enclosing the carburator in the engine housing. While this was going on, they built bicycles and typewriters in huge quantities, the motorcycle production being only a part of the whole. During the 1930’s Triumph succeeded in becoming one of Germany’s premier manufacturers competing with giants like DKW or NSU. The first ‘Reitz’- model put on the market was a 250-cc machine which was an immediate sales hit. Alas, the war broke out and henceforth Triumphs were built for the Wehrmacht, which obtained over 12.000 such bikes.
They proved their mettle under the most trying circumstances on all fronts.
Triumph Nürnberg sustained heavy damage during the war and a rebuilding process was started early in 1945 under the auspices of the American occupying forces. The idea was the same as with all German industry – let them rebuilt on a minor scale and use their talent and work force to repair and maintain American military vehicles while paying the work force in the form of left-over combat rations from the US Army. This is what essentially happened until about 1948 when Germany became ‘independent’ (well, so they claim). Never heard of these horrendous abuses in your history books? Well, believe me, that’s how it was!
Starting in 1948, Triumph began building up-dated pre-war models as much as the availability of raw materials permitted. Models built were a 125-cc, a 200-cc and a 250-cc machine. Starting in the early 1950s, Triumph came out with a revolutionary noise-reduction system – a dual muffler in a dual exhaust. This is to say, there was a muffler immediately at the cyclinder head and another one toward the rear of the exhaust pipe. The result was a massive looking machine which was a quiet as a church mouse. One could literally put one into ones living room and barely hear it run. I don’t believe a more civilized motorcycle ever existed.
In addition, this machine had the latest refinements in terms of suspension putting it amongst those in the forefront of all motorcycle development at the time. This bike came in single cylinder twin-piston 200-cc, 250-cc and 350-cc form. As the latter, it was called ‘Boss’ and a boss it was! Absolutely magnificent to look at, to ride and to enjoy.
Another feature was the fully enclosed chain drive, reducing noise and wear and tear to a minimum. This was de rigeur with many German motorcycles of the time. An incredibly complex twin cylinder version was abandoned due to technical and financial problems in 1954. The ‘big’ Boss was driven in numerous Rallies and Moto Cross events and proved its mettle particularly as a side-car machine. The engine wasn’t particularly powerful, but it achieved its power at a very low RPM, making it (unlike other two-strokes) an ideal side car machine. This two-stroke had the torque of a four-stroke, making it the side-car equal to even the Horex Regina or the Victoria Bergmeister. Sadly, Triumph never achieved its stride after the war. They were never again competitive with the likes of DKW or NSU and when the crisis in Germany’s motorcycle industry hit, they were unable to survive. Toward the end, in ’57 or so, they came out with a great motorscooter (a joint venture with competitor Hercules) which however came too late to market.
The end of Triumph Nürnberg is a dramatic, maddening example of Germans ‘killing’ Germans, something endemic in our history and as things stand today in 2004, it is this awful fratricidal attitude which might spell the end of our once great nation. While Mercedes (as a corporation) bought up financially weak companies and liquidated them without a thought, so did the stereo giant Grundig (as an individual). Max Grundig was a man of many facets, some outstanding, some less so (to be charitable).
It appears he actually was the kind of man who is forever portrayed in Jew-movies as the unbearably arrogant German, an ugly characteristic wholly un-German, but there are the exceptions and he apparently was one of those!
He had built, within a short period of time, a massive electronics empire with stereo, tape recorder, turntable and loud-speaker products which were essentially the envy of the entire world. It is true – Grundig radios etc. were absolutely fabulous. I happen to own a Grundig table-top-radio, 42 years old in outstanding condition and playing like a champion. The quality, technical refinement and styling of Grundig products was practically unbeatable. In my study where I am writing this, sits a 30-some years old Grundig Stereo (Compact Center 430) which has unrivalled radio reception, a fine turntable (needle weight = a miniscule 0.75 grams) and a cassette tape deck with a frequency response of 50 to 15000 Herz (practically the very outside of the human ear’s capacity to hear), recording marvelously with its Grundig microphone. This Grundig set is practically the equal of my modern Bang & Olufsen Stereo with its superb Yamo speakers. However, Grundig was so arrogantly sure of himself that he disdainfully dismissed well meant advice from knowledgeable people (the American distributor e.g.) as a general rule. His once magnificent empire is today but a memory since he simply refused to even consider that Japanese competition could be serious. In the 1950s however he was a big man, a real Captain of Industry and the banks loved him.
Dresdner Bank, which owned many shares of Triumph (and other motorcycle manufacturers as well) talked Max Grundig who hated and disdained motorcycles, into buying the company with the argument he could thereby break into the office machine market since Triumph type writers were well known and successful on the market. He bought the company, and stopped all production at once. Whatever happened afterward I don’t know and don’t care.
All I know is, the wrong person bought the company for the wrong reasons, advised by bankers whose only interest it was to unload unwanted shares and to recoup their losses. As an aside, Max Grundig also bought the Adler company in Frankfurt, merely to throw it onto the scrap heap of history at about the same time.
Some of the other outstanding German 2-wheel producers where those who built motorscooters exclusively and certainly should never be forgotten. We Germans developed our very own version of the scooter and pointed the way for later developments in Asia by crossing the Italian concept of the motor scooter with that of the motorcycle creating a wholly new form of two-wheeled transport.
Some of these were manufactured in only small quantities, but all of them were important representatives of the incredible diversity German industry is capable of when left alone to create.
The following long forgotten makes will be treated:
8. Schweppe-Pirol, and last but not least,
9. Kleinschnittger City Scooter and – the incredible Porsche-For-The-Poor-Man, the Kleinschnittger F-125 Micro-Minicar.
No one should call his creation Achilles, or Titan. Every company or thing named thusly has had bad luck, just like their antique namesakes. And so it happened to Weikert & Company in Wilhelmshaven with their astounding motorscooter. The Achilles was possibly the first totally individualistic motor scooter which borrowed nothing from any other design, unless one would like to consider the possibility of the military version of the 1931 Victoria 500-cc Twin having influenced the designers.
The Achilles was, to put it simply, a motor cycle with a body and 8-inch wheels. The wheels were the only thing which connected the machine to the world of the scooter. Since the Achilles was threoretically a motorcycle with small wheels, it attracted the male public more so than the ladies. The tank was situated between the knees of the rider, the chassis had an uncommonly low center of gravity and the machine was very well suspended, long travelling telescopic shocks in front and a swing-arm suspension in the rear well balanced and attuned to each other. Driving this machine hard was a given, the Achilles ‘asked’ for it and we Germans race everything that has wheels! Therefore, the Achilles was extraordinarily successful in local races, usually coming out on top, even if pitted against more powerful machines.
It came so fully equipped, that a luggage carrier was the only option. Accessibility to the engine was a snap, what with large body panels being easily removable. The axles were removable by a one-step process enabling one to change a tire quasi instantly. The machine was powered by the well-proven Fichtel & Sachs 175-cc single cylinder 2-stroke engine.
This was the same engine which powered a myriad of German bikes, including such gorgeous and highly advanced ones as the Mars Stella motorcycle. Power was transmitted via a four-speed box, operated by a motorcycle-type foot operated lever augmented by a hand-shifted ‘neutral’ switch at the handlebars for emergencies.
In short, it was a fine machine, being built between 1953 and 1957, when the company sadly went out of business. Despite its popularity with the sporting driver, almost none of these unique machines exist and represent a considerable financial value these days for collectors. What is even more incredible is, that no photographs or copies of brochures seem to exist, showing the Achilles in its beautiful gold-metallic paint job, the only color available. I remember how gorgeous-macho this thing was, being a mere boy, staring with longing eyes at the only Achilles registered in my home town, dreaming of one day owning one. Alas...
Never mind the (in English) unfortunate name. It wasn’t pronounced anywhere near as in English and has no relation to the English meaning. Having said that, only 1200 were built, so it couldn’t have been such a big deal, right? Wrong! I hate using clichés, but in this case I must, not having been given an alternative...
This motorscooter was the ‘Rolls Royce’ of all scooters. It may appear strange, but under examination, one finds the Bastert ''Einspurauto'' to have been one of the highlights of the international 2-wheeled industry – Period.
The Bastert Company was an old, well established (but small) bicycle and motorcycle manufacturer in the lovely city of Bielefeld. Its products were rarely sold outside the Bielefeld area. Therefore, fame had eluded this company. Helmut Bastert had high hopes for his creation since he righfully thought if he builds the best of the best, it must become a sales success. Alas, fortune did not smile on his venture. He was going head-to-head with some stiff, usually better financed competition and he insisted that no cost cutting measures be taken.
Only the best of the best and all of it put together by highly trained workmen, who took the expression ‘German workmanship’ very seriously indeed. The result was a remarkably stunning machine manufactured mostly by hand of the finest materials available.
Bastert was the only motor scooter manufacturer who used only light metal aluminium construction laid up over an aircraft-style frame. This type of construction was pioneered by BMW and made famous by Maserati with their ‘Birdcage’ Maserati racing car. It made the machine not only very light (despite its size) but also impervious to rust. This latter characteristic alone was a real boon in Germany at the time, since salt on the roads during wintertime regularly destroyed things made of lesser metals.
From the first in 1951 it was realized that they had a truly unique, extraordinarily handsome and qualitatively unsurpassed machine on their hands. Consequently the Bastert company decided to call it ‘Das Einspurauto’ and had this name registered as a TradeMark. Henceforth, advertising spoke of ‘Einspurauto’, rather than motor scooter, setting it further apart from the crowd. Einspurauto means approximately the same as ‘Single-track car’.
From the start, some degree of bad luck followed the development of this machine, the fully functioning protoype being stolen in 1951, this despite elaborate security measures. That the machine was never recovered, despite intensive efforts of the police and a prize of DM 500 for information (a considerable sum in those days) seems to suggest foul play, an inside job as it were. This is given further credence by the vehemence of the competition in those days, when so many manufacturers were fighting for market shares. Furthermore, in those days to clandestinely remove a vehicle from Germany was a virtual impossibility. Helmut Bastert was not one to give up and despite the tremendous costs and effort required, started from scratch, finally bringing his vehicle to market.
Aside from being constructed of mostly aluminum, everything was harmoniously integrated into a wind tunnel tested slippery body shape, that could only be called gorgeous.
The machine had extremely comfortable, almost flat handlebars over a regular dashboard containing a plethora of instruments, including an electronic gear indicator. Each different gear had its own little lamp in varying colors, making it easy for the rider to determine which gear the machine was in, a real boon when riding in noisy city traffic. The seat was an automotive type covered in leather, which when folded forward gave access to a second seat which could be folded backward, giving the drivers partner a comfy way to go in tandem with the pilot.
Very broad access doors on the side of the body enabled the driver to view the electrically well lit engine compartment. These doors could be opened with a one handed simple movement making the whole thing extremely user friendly. The Einspurauto was powered by a single cylinder 200-cc Ilo two-stroke engine, transmitting its energy through a four-speed transmission. Even the wheels were solid aluminum, the axles of the wheels were removable a la Achilles with one movement, making the changing of a flat tire a snap. To round up this pleasant picture, the machine had a regular, lockable trunk. It was available in two colors, black or a metallic silver-gold with a bright red seat, making it truly a stunning looking machine. When viewing the ‘Einspurauto’ from the birds-eye perspective, one sees how massive and broad this machine was. Needless to say, it was strong and solid enough for a regular size side car. The windscreen was so perfectly well integrated, that it in no manner disturbed the aesthetics of this outstanding two-wheeled transportation system.
Helmut Bastert realized in early 1956 that the costs of having developed and marketed this machine had drained his little companies coffers and sales were not making up the losses. This was in part due to the understandably very high retail prize of the Einspurauto, a consideration which kept many customers away. Everyone who had seen one or had read the rave reviews of the road testers wanted one, but only a few could actually afford it.
Helmuth Bastert explored other possibilities, settling on the new wonder material – plastics, a field in which he achieved considerable success, keeping his company alive and his workforce working, even after he regretfully ceased producing his two-wheeled luxury vehicle.
Another ‘unknown’ make, but still in my view important for one reason, namely Binz designed the quintessential city-scooter, so all pervasive these days in South American and Asian cities.
Binz was a well known designer and producer of truck bodies, particularly for the drivers cabins of long-distance haulers. As such they were well established in Germany and the European markets at large. When the motor scooter boom was in full swing, management decided that what was needed was a city-scooter, since long distance-, motorsport-, side-car capable- and even luxury motorscooters were all being built already.
They decided on a small, maneuverable machine with a 50-cc Fichtel & Sacks single cylinder two-stroke engine coupled to a simple two-speed transmission. The Fichtel & Sachs power plant was well known for its reliability but just in case, every mechanic everywhere was able to work on it quasi blind folded. The little machine achieved a top-end of 30 mph, just right for city traffic and was so easy to operate, that even grandma could do it with ease.
The body design was simple and uncommonly graceful. One could even refer to it as beautiful without fear of contradiction. Not only was it lovely to look at, but the entire driveline, including the chain drive to the rear wheel, could be easily accessed by merely tilting the whole rear end of the scooter upward without the bother of having to loosen screws, or such. The design afforded the rider maximum protection from the elements and looking at this machine today and comparing it with today’s crop of city scooters from Asia reveals that it would be a hands-down winner on today's market. There isn’t a machine built anywhere today that could compare in terms of styling, weather protection or ease of handling and maintenance. As far as styling goes, a prettier small scooter is hard to fathom.
Binz produced their little scooter for only two years when it became apparent that people were essentially more interested in motor scooters which could be used for longer, or long distance riding than in something useful only for short commutes. Little did they know, that 40-50 years later they could have sold a trillion of their machines far from home. Today Binz is a highly regarded designer and builder of ambulances for the Paramedics or other such life-saving services.
- cont. Newsletter No 260.
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