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Classic Velocity Blog

Discovering Mars

Classic Velocity

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On a recent visit to the Solvang Motorcycle Museum, the machine that was the most impressive, in a field of very impressive motorcycles, was a replica of a 1921 Mars 1000. It was striking in white with bodywork and attention to detail that was certainly museum quality. I resolved then and there to find out more about this German manufacturer. MARS was founded in Nurnburg, Germany in 1873 where it initially produced bicycles. Like many such organizations, it began producing cars and motorcycles around the turn of the century (1903). It continued producing machines until 1957 with several interruptions along the way including both world wars.

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The most famous design was the White Mars of 1920, which the Solvang replica is based upon. It was designed by Claus Franzburger, and featured a two cylinder boxer engine produced for MARS by Maybach (yes, that Maybach). The air-cooled engine was 956cc and was mounted longitudinally. Just by appearance, this machine might have been considered the Maybach of motorcycles. Even the way the spare is mounted, and the running board mounted tool compartments are reminiscent of a Maybach or a Horsch from that era. The bodywork is much like coachwork, and it exudes an air of opulence. MARS motorcycles also enjoyed some competitive success, finishing 1-2 in the 1921 Bavarian championship. They were also used to pace cyclists on the track during the heyday of that sport. Shortly thereafter in the mid 1920s, hard times struck Germany, and the Mueller brothers took over operations, but kept the name. 600cc, 500cc, and 200cc bikes were produced responding to the economic climate and to challenges sourcing engines.

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MARS motorcycles came with a variety of engines including the aforementioned Maybach, but also Sachs, Sturmey-Archer, and JAP. Approaching WWII and after the war, MARS produced a variety of smaller displacement twin and single cyclinder machines in 50cc, 150cc, 175cc, and 200cc sizes. Despite having engine sizes more suited to mopeds, they continued to look and feel like motorcycles. The company ceased production in 1957, but many motorcycles remain MARS motorcycles came with a variety of engines including the aforementioned Maybach, but also Sachs, Sturmey-Archer, and JAP. Approaching WWII and after the war, MARS produced a variety of smaller displacement twin and single cyclinder machines in 50cc, 150cc, 175cc, and 200cc sizes. Despite having engine sizes more suited to mopeds, they continued to look and feel like motorcycles. The company ceased production in 1957, but many motorcycles remain on the road today and clubs exist in Germany and the UK.