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Classic Velocity Blog

Teutonic 2 Strokes

Classic Velocity

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Motorraderwerke Zschopau (MZ) came into being following the war based on the remnants of the old DKW factory (see Muzings) in East Germany . The first products were branded IFA. When European motorcycle production resumed after WWII, four strokes were the way to go. They proved themselves into the 1950s for most manufacturers, and sold well. However in racing, the quest for the competitive edge, kept simple light weight configurations alive. After achieving good success off road and in trials, MZ wanted to make an impression on the track as well. an IFA racer was campaigned in 1950. That design was modified by privateer Daniel Zimmerman in 1951 to create a square (54X54) bore and stroke, and to use a rotary disc valve on their 2 stroke machine. A pair of these machines finished 4th and 5th in the 125cc German Grand Prix in 1951. The results impressed MZ, and they patented the design.

In 1952 and 1953, progress was made in increasing power output under the direction of engineer Walter Kaarden. In 1955 the German Grand Prix was held at the Nurburgring, and riders Petruschke and Krumpolz finished 5th and 6th behind the dominant MV Agustas. The machines now had doubled output to 15HP, and had a four speed gearbox. However, this was still down on the more powerful competition which was now showing up with 5 gears. In 1956 a new young rider by the name of Ernst Degner joined MZ, and in the 1957 German GP, the three MZs finished 4th, 6th, and 8th. This was enough to convince MZ to venture beyond Germany to compete. They also decided to launch a new twin 250cc machine which had been in development for several years. In 1958 at the Nurburgring, the four entries in the 125cc race finished 3rd through 7th as if in procession. The new 250cc machine enjoyed an impressive initial outing by finishing 2nd. Victory finally came in the Swedish round where Horst Fugner won the 250cc event.

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Changes to shocks (they adopted Norton front forks!), and the addition of a couple of foreign riders generated more success in 1959. Swiss rider Luigi Taveri finished 2nd in the 125cc class at the TT, and Rhodesian Gary Hocking won the Ulster Grand Prix. Degner won at Monza in the final race, and finished a good year for MZ.  Although power was again improved in 1960, and the machines were equipped with lighter fiberglass fairings, reliability took a plunge. It was not until 1961 that wins began to happen again with Werner Musiol, and then with the veteran Degner and Hempleman finishing 1 - 2 at the Belgian Grand Prix. Then came a turning point event that impacted MZ and the industry as a whole. Following the Swedish Grand Prix, and while leading the 125cc world championship, Walter Degner defected with the help of the Suzuki Team. This cost MZ the championship, but also put critical knowledge into the hands of a previously ineffective competitor. 

MZ concentrated more on the 250cc machines after that, and enjoyed some continued success with wins by Lazlo Szabo, and an epic battle between the legendary Hailwood on an MZ and Brian Redman on a Honda. MZ swept the podium in the 1963 250cc Austrian Grand Prix, and Hailwood went on to score a victory for MZ at the Sachsenring in front of a wildly passionate crowd. Englishman Alan Shepherd won the US Grand Prix at Daytona, and went on to finish 3rd overall for MZ in the 1964 championship. Woodman and Grassetti continued with wins for the MZ two strokes into the early 1970s, when the Japanese four strokes clearly established domination. MZ carried the mantle of the two stroke long after others abandoned it, and helped get that technology to its zenith.