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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Category: Classic Vehicles

Zundapp Citation

Classic Velocity

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IThe Zundapp Citation was clearly a derivative of the Horex Imperator, and was reportedly only branded a Zundapp in order to work around the legal restrictions of the US importer Berliner Motors. The Imperator was a 400cc twin produced in the waning days of Horex before it was purchased by Mercedes (see Horex Motorcycles). The Zundapp version created an oversquare bore and stroke, and overhead cam to reach 452cc and to produce 40 hp. This was enough to market the it as a 500, and claim 100+ mph speeds. Not bad in 1958.  It was named the Citation after the triple-crown winning horse.

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Despite good quality, performance, and design, timing could not have been worse. The bike was introduced into the teeth of a worldwide recession. On top of that, a series of marketing and legal issues impacted sales in the important US market. The Citation was limited to a 2 year life span from 1958 to 1960.

Platform As Canvas

Classic Velocity

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Somehow, the cars of mid-20th-century Germany lend themselves more than the products of any other nation, to become platforms for Art. Why? I do not know, but there are few production cars from France or Italy, or England, or Japan, or America, that have found themselves used so much as a conceptual or a literal canvas. Contrast this with the Janis Joplin Porsche 356, the Andy Warhol BMW M1, or the political-environmental-philosophical platform (wanted or not) that is the VW Bus. This is an ongoing tradition with Porsche RSR Pink Pig, with Audi commissioning an RS4 art car back in 2007, Opel Adam art cars, and even a Mercedes Benz Metris van!. While BMW deserves credit for the long-running official commissioning of art cars, all other German manufacturers seem to have embraced the concept. And long before the manufacturers, people were doing the same as an expression of their individuality, or as experimentation with a new mobile medium, the car. For a country so well known for its engineering prowess, it is an interesting contrast.

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Few would argue, though that as a platform for art, the VW Beetle is king. Perhaps because it is ubiquitous with over 21 million sold. The Toyota Corolla has sold twice as many, but it is not known as a platform for art.. Perhaps it is because the Beetle is universally understood and transcends languages and continents. Perhaps because it makes everyone smile. Perhaps because they are as cheap and available as actual canvas. Perhaps because from the beginning, they were the basis for many different manifestations.

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Almost all of the VW air-cooled vehicles came from the Beetle. The Bus is famously a lengthened and reinforced Beetle chassis. The Thing, the Fastback, the Notch, the Ghia, the Fridolin, etc were really all modified re-bodied Beetles. Then there are the variations made by VW and other manufacturers. The Amelia Island Concours recently had a class just for this category. It featured versions by Rometsch, Dannenhauer and Stauss, and Hebmuller. What was not featured, was a Porsche 356, which is perhaps the most obvious variant, owing to their common designer, Ferdinand Porsche. Then there are the later variations on the platform like the Puma and the Beach Buggy, and inumerable kit cars. The list goes on.

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But back to art. Commercial art has long taken notice of the Beetle as well. It is often turned into a mouse or a Bug or spider by exterminators, or into a taxi, or a unique delivery vehicle of some kind. It gets used positively and negatively to depict a slower pace, or hippies, or simplicity, or a bygone era. The headlights get eyelashes, the bumper becomes an accentuated smile, or the whole thing becomes a Transformer. I won’t even delve into the many applications of the Beetle that Hollywood has found, except for one word. Herbie.

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For the more commonly used canvas, you need go no further than your regional VW show. You will still see variations you have not seen before. In a field of dozens or hundreds of cars, few if any will have an identical twin. Structure, drivetrain, paint, interior, and wheels, seem to create an infinite number of permutations. You laugh and grimmace and admire and stare slack-jawed at the pieces in this outdoor gallery. It is truly an art show with the VW as the canvas. The people’s choice award is as much about artistry as it is about anything else.

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The Beetle is a universal canvas in the way that a BMW 3.0CS could never be. You can probably find a disintegrating one to use as sculpture somewhere near you. You can use just the shape, or a rear decklid, or a fender, or a hubcap, and everyone will know what you mean. It works as a stick cartoon, and as a fine art oil painting. It can evoke an era, or it can evoke a whole drag-racing class. Usually in art, you want to stay away from an icon, but in this case, a new VW Beetle based car could be driving around your town, or screaming down your local drag strip tomorrow. And a new VW Beetle art car could easily be in the world’s finest museums that same day.

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Bitter SC

Classic Velocity

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The Bitter SC was the successor to the Bitter CD chronicled here before (see Sweet Bitter). It entered the market in 1979, even as CDs were still available. Although it was based on the largest of the Opel platforms, the styling was very Italian, and it could almost be mistaken for the Ferrari 412. This was not a bad thing, as it is clearly a handsome coupe. Much of the car was built in Italy, first at OCRA, and then at Maggiore, but eventually by Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Austria. All cars then came back to Schwein, Germany for final assembly or for inspection. The car was powered by a 3.0 or a 3.9 liter inline 6 cylinder., and produced 180hp. or 210hp respectively. It used Bosch fuel injection. Weighing 3500lbs, they used that power to propel the car to an 8.3 second 0-60 time.

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Bitter went to great effort to create a premium car, with a luxurious interior including leather and woodgrain. A sedan, and a cabriolet were added in 1981. Just 488 were built, and only a handful came to the US, where they were carried by a few Buick dealers due to a deal with GM. That placement did not help, and US sales were tepid. However, demand was outstripping supply elsewhere, hence the move to Austria for much of the manufacturing. In an interesting twist, Bitter had difficulties with US emissions despite using a US vendor to handle that area. They eventually used a Porsche catalytic converter to solve their issues! They were also up against the rise of the BMW sedan, and other premium offerings. Lastly, the idea of a rebodied car was now primarily the domain of the supercar. No matter how nice it looked, and no matter how well executed, a rebodied Opel was going to be a challenge. Today, the SC from this period remains popular, and the wedge styling has stood the test of time.

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BMW 700RS

Classic Velocity

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If this seems like a good model name for a motorcycle, you are partially right. The BMW 700 was a very important vehicle for the company and we have previously covered it (see BMW 700). In that article, we pointed out that it was a successful combination of a car’s body wrapped around a motorcycle engine. We also mentioned that it enjoyed some racing success with the GT and RS models.

The 700RS was built specifically for hillclimbs, and featured an aluminum space frame chassis bearing little resemblance to the production 700 that shared part of its name. In true testament to the racing ethos of the time, it retained the 697cc motorcycle engine but managed to produce 70 hp from that unit. With a curb weight of just 1213 lbs, it had 100 hp per liter of displacement, and 127 hp per ton. Amazing numbers at the time, and very much aligned with racers like Lotus. It also handled very well given that it was mid-engined, and low and sleek.

The 700RS went on to numerous victories in the early 1960s, piloted by such racing luminaries as Alex Von Falkenhausen, and Hans Stuck. 

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Zweirad Union Type 115/155

Classic Velocity

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Regular readers will know that Zweirad Union was the parent company for several brands, most notably Victoria, Express and DKW, and has been featured several times in these pages. The late 1950s saw the death of many German motorcycle producers, and Zweirad had acquired an ailing Victoria in 1957, a dying Express in 1958, and a castoff DKW in 1959. The idea of the new Director Dr Odilo Burkart, was to leverage models and tooling in Nuremburg to produce models for all three brands.

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One result of this approach was the avant-garde Zweirad Union Type 115/155, produced from 1960 to 1963. The 115 was a Victoria model, and the 155 was the almost identical DKW. They were aimed at younger buyers in an attempt to keep them on a sportier looking two-wheeler rather than going to one of the many affordable small cars that were on the market. The first thing that jumps out at you is the futuristic styling, evoking images of jets and space-age conveyances. The body lines suggest forward motion even standing still, and the chrome finned engine cover contribute a sense of speed. All of this is ironic, given that this is a 50cc 4.2 hp machine. Styling was polarizing at the time, but sales were fairly solid with 13,551 Victorias to 13,345 DKWs over the production span.

The machines became affectionately known as “Blechbanane” or Tin Banana.

January Janus

Classic Velocity

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The late 1940s and the early 1950s represent one of those periods where the automobile and the motorcycle world were experimenting with hybrids. In this case, a hybrid is referring to a machine which was in part motorcycle, and in part car. A car was a relatively expensive item to purchase, and motorcycles were still mainstream reliable transportation in Europe. Manufacturers understandably wanted to find a combination of these two that would produce an inexpensive reliable machine which would protect the driver and occupants from the weather. One manifestation of that combination was the micro car, and we have covered a few variations of that in this blog such as the Messerschmidt (see The Other Microcar) and the BMW 700 (see Heart of a Bike, Body of a Car).

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One particularly interesting variation was The Zundapp Janus. It was produced in 1957 and 1958, and was the only car ever produced by Zundapp which of course specialized in motorcycles (see Volksmotorrader and The Green Elephant). The Janus got its name from the Roman god who also gave us the month of January. The distinguishing feature of Janus was that he was two-faced and could look backwards and forwards at the same time. The Zundapp Janus was similarly almost symmetrical front to back, and were it not for brake lights and turn signals in the back versus the headlights up front, you might have trouble distinguishing which way the vehicle was going from a side profile. This extended to the seating in the car with one bench seat facing forward and the other bench seat facing backwards. Both seats folded down to form a flat head when needed. A clamshell door opened either end of the vehicle further adding to the symmetry.

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The car was powered by a single cylinder two-stroke motorcycle engine of only 245 cc. It was positioned in the center of the vehicle between the two seats, and would only propel the vehicle to a maximum speed of 50 mph. Zundapp did also produce more powerful versions with 400 cc 2 cylinder two-stroke motors and eventually 500 and 600 cc versions. Some 6900 examples of the Janus were built in all. The short life of the Janus was due to three main factors. First, it was rust prone primarily due to water leaking around the symmetrical quarter windows on the car. Second, it was expensive compared to the BMW Isetta, and other competitors in the Microcar space. Lastly, it was slow compared to competitors and it was probably a terrifying view out the back window as vehicles rapidly approached ! Production ended in 1958 and Zundapp returned to its motorcycle roots. Of course, the Janus has returned for a curtain call with the character Professor Zundapp in the movie Cars...

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Zundapp Sport Combinette

Classic Velocity

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The Zundapp Sport Combinette was produced from 1962 to 1966, and fit into a special new class of Vehicle at the time in Germany. It was based on the prior Combinette which was a single seat step-through model. Starting in 1960, a Moped without pedals but with kickstart was introduced as a new category. It blurred the lines between motorcycle and moped, although displacement limitations kept it closer to the latter. Zundapp took advantage of this by introducing the Sport Combinette. It had two seats, a tubular frame, telescopic fork, 21” front wheel, atraditional tank layout, and even a clutch (of sorts), all consistent with motorcycles. However, the single cylinder 2 stroke engine was only 50cc and top speed matched the new category limit of 40kph. 

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Sebring Historics 2018

Classic Velocity

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The local BMW club, FSCBMWCCA, organized an outing to the Sebring Historics, and we tagged along. Sebring is a historic track with a rich legacy. The Historics event is an opportunity for historic and vintage sports cars to enjoy a race weekend in the central Florida “fall” weather. This translated into foggy mornings with sunny days with highs in the low 80s. The event also features a vintage aircraft fly-in with most from the WWII era.  The display area for these machines was interesting by itself. Radial aircraft engines in particular are fascinating for their simplicity and reliability. And that brings us back to endurance racing where both of those virtues can help you to emerge victorious. 

The racing portion of this event is organized by Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR).  In the sprint races, a couple of Porsche 914/6 cars dominated group 2 and 3 with  a BMW E36 sandwiched in between. A Porsche 911 RSR was on the podium in group 5 and 7, and there was a Classic RS race. A couple of 2002s were sprinkled among the field, but none managed to run at the front. The highlight is the Classic 12 hour, and a pair of Lola’s finished 1-2. The entire field was interesting with Ginettas and GT40s and Elans and longhood 911s and Cobras battling it out. 

Like all historic events, the pits provide an opportunity to get up close and personal with some very cool machinery. Owners, drivers, and mechanics are all very tolerant of onlookers and questions. We had a great conversation around a BMW M Coupe, and got to climb inside an RSR. Very cool. Back at the club corral, there were some interesting machines as well. Not one, but two Z8s graced us with their presence, along with a couple of nice original M5s and an M2. Cool people, cool cars, cool competition. Not a bad way to bring in December. 

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Puch 250 SGS

Classic Velocity

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If a particular model lives for 16 years, it is pretty remarkable. It is particularly remarkable if it was launched in 1953, at a time when “new and exciting” caused manufacturers to replace or upgrade models every few years. But from the launch of the 250 SGS (Schwing Gabel Sport), Puch found a formula that worked, and stuck with it. Puch was formed in 1890 by Johann Puch in Graz, Austria, and began like so many others producing bicycles before moving on to motorcycles in 1903. Fast forward to 1923 when they first introduced the innovative split single. Essentially, it was two pistons in a shared combustion chamber. The idea would later be reborn or licensed in other marques, as Puch supplied engines as well. The twingle did not take long to achieve success success, as a supercharged version won the German Grand Prix in 1931 with Alvetio Toricelli aboard. By this time they had become part of the larger Steyr-Daimler-Puch corporation.

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Fast forward again to 1947 when Puch resumed production of the 250. Then in 1953, they launched new 125cc, 175cc, and 250cc motorcycles including the 250 SGS. Exports soon followed, and in the USA, Puch was rebranded as an Allstate motorcycle sold by Sears with the moniker of “Twingle” to describe the piston/cylinder arrangement. It was famously sold through the Sears Roebuck catalogs. Pricing and catalog sales resulted in this being the first motorcycle for a lot of riders in America. The engine of the 250 SGS was a 248cc 2 stroke unit mated to a four speed gearbox. It produced 16.5hp and 12.5 ft/lbs of torque combined with a weight of 309lbs, for a top speed of 68mph. Brakes were drum front and rear. Suspension was twin shock swingarm in the rear, and telescopic forks up front. A respectable set of features in the beginning, but Puch made few changes and by the 1960s it had fallen behind competitive 4 stroke offerings.

The SGS retained its appeal to new and younger riders, and soldiered on until production ceased in 1969. During its lengthy tenure, 38,584 units were sold worldwide, making it a success for a firm like Puch.

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Check out this period article on a strip down of the 250 engine….

https://berniesbikeshed.wordpress.com/puch-250-sgs-engine-strip-down/

Tornax Motorrader

Classic Velocity

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Tornax was a motorcycle manufacturer from Wuppertal, Germany that was founded in 1922 by Ernst Wewer, but began motorcycle production in 1926. Wewer was a racer, and recruited other racers to help quickly build a name for Tornax (a play on the word for Tornado). Like many manufacturers at the time, they did not produce their own engines, instead using British JAP (J. A. Prestwich) engines of various capacities. Their first machine was a 600cc single called the I-26. In the beginning, Tornax used the year of production in their model names rather than displacement or catchy names. Also unlike other manufacturers, Tornax started with large machines and later went to smaller displacement models. peaking with the 1,000 cc four stroke III-31 SS, which produced a claimed 76hp, and was claimed to be the fastest machine in the world. It was a large impressive machine, but an expensive one with bad timing in the market given the depression. Tornax survived the 1930s by first producing smaller machines, and then reducing its output to a single 600cc model using an engine from German supplier, Columbus. It also moved away from alphanumeric model names and adopted catchy names like Tornado, and Rex (which interestingly utilized a DKW engine), and Schwarze Josephine. 

The factory was destroyed in WWII, but Tornax resumed production in 1948. Ironically, they resumed with a 125cc two-stroke single cylinder model. This was followed by a  175cc, a 250cc and then a twin cylinder 250cc Earles Fork model producing 15hp. A far cry from their 1,000cc 76hp peak! Then in 1954, Tornax purchased the rights to german engine-builder Opti’s four stroke machines to eliminate contracts with ILO, Columbus, and others. Effectively moving engine building in-house. This transition was problematic, and proved to be financially debilitating. At the same time, small enclosed vehicles like the Isetta, Messerschmidt, Heinkel, and Lloyd were emerging to challenge the motorcycle market in general. These factors proved to be overwhelming, and within a year, Tornax ceased production in 1955. A thriving club of enthusiasts remains today in Germany. 

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Dakar Rally Record Setter

Classic Velocity

One of our favorite cars of all time is the Porsche 959 Rally Car (see Porsche 959 Paris Dakar). Partly because it is so far from the intent of the production car, partly because it is a rally car, and partly because it looks great in Rothmans livery. Even the replicas are cool and expensive. Porsche was always pretty good at keeping track of its race cars, so we guess it just waited for a special occasion to let one of these machines change hands. And this is why the Porsche 70th Anniversary auction included one of the 1985  Paris Dakar cars, and then it sold for $5,945,000 ! And this was not a winning car, just one of 3 that all retired with issues. There are four more of the seven produced in the Porsche Museum. We were narrowly outbid, but maybe next time ;-)

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Cuban Cars

Classic Velocity

Friend of the blog Ed Solomon snapped a bunch of great pictures while on a tour of Cuba. A few of the German ones are pictured here along with others. All had great exteriors and interiors, but had surprising engine bays equipped with small transplants, displaying the ingenuity (or is that enginuity) needed to keep these cars on the road...

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Brought to you by MOTOCRON : Record, Monitor, Analyze, Report, on activities for all of your vehicles.

Rabeneick Rules Rebranding

Classic Velocity

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August Rabeneick started a manufacturing company near Bielefeld (which was the origin for multiple bicycle and motorcycling manufacturers) in 1930. Initially he produced grinding machines, and then went on to producing bicycles. It did not take very long for him to transition to motorcycles in 1933. Like many others, he transitioned the ability to make steel frames into a motorcycle business using engines from other companies such as Fictel&Sachs and Ilo. 

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The first machines were small displacement at 75cc and 98cc. Post war, that transitioned to 125, 175, and eventually to 250cc two stroke machines. Rabeneick further developed the relationship with Ilo to one that allowed him to brand their engines as his own. As the 1950s began, Rabeneick also went to smaller 50cc mopeds to make sure that the segment of the market needing very basic and efficient machines wa covered. They also produced a line of scooters which they rebranded as Binetta in the UK (sounds very Italian, si?).

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Keeping with the theme of rebranding, Rabeneick struck a deal to produce the shaft driven 500cc boxer twin from a company called....wait for it.....Universal, out of Switzerland, as his own. This gave him a complete range of machines from sub 50cc moped to the largest popular displacement at the time. Diversification was an attempt to stave off a declining market. The strategy was good enough to attract the attention of Fichtel&Sachs who then purchased Rabeneick in the late 1950s. However, the factory eventually closed, and was sold to Hercules, although the brand lived on into the 1960s on a few mopeds. 

The Cult Turns 50

Classic Velocity

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In the course of the average human life, you don't get to celebrate too many 50 year anniversaries that happened entirely on your watch. Even fewer for products that you still use and enjoy! A few years back, the Porsche 911 celebrated 50 years, and since the model is still in production, it allowed for a grand time-lapse of evolution, memories, and memorabilia.  In 2018, the BMW 2002 celebrates 50 years of production. Two German icons, two vehicles that have fortunately inhabited the garage, and two vey different automobiles. The 02 is a very different celebration, as the last ones left the factory in 1976! They justifiably get labeled as a "cult car", and there is a famous book on the car with that title. Inevitably the factory and a variety of organizations throw grand birthday parties, and this year was no different. The best way to celebrate a big birthday is with a group of passionate fans of this single model. As David E Davis famously said in his 1968 review, "Now turn your hymnals to Number 2002 and we'll sing two choruses of Whispering Bomb . .."

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So where to find a group of passionate fans ? Hhhhmmmm.....Well there are probably a few hiding in your general region, but it just happens that a group of said fans have been heading to North Carolina, USA every year for over a decade. Scott Sturdy has given us rabid fans a great excuse to drive first to his vineyard when the group was small, and then to Winston-Salem which the group also outgrew, and now to Asheville. It is no longer just an 02 event, but it started that way, and the 2002 remains the core of the event. This gathering and the cars have been featured on these pages many times (see Proper Procrastination and Of Propellers And Cobblestones), but this time is a bit special. 

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At the front end of the event, the BMW CCA Foundation hosted a special sold out open house at their facility in Greer, SC near the US manufacturing facility. It was a celebration of the 2002 with cars, memorabilia, speakers, and merchandise. Effectively, the facility became a BMW 2002 museum for the day. Among the many special cars including a Bauer and a Cabriolet, was a better-than-factory Ceylon car. They should have put it on a rotisserie so that you could marvel at the underside as much as the top side. An immersive sensory overdose for the 02 addict, complete with music from 1968 into the early 1970s. I hate to keep using the drug analogy, but we are talking 1968.....The written word (at least our written words) simply cannot do justice to such an event. It is like writing about Woodstock. Imagine getting to attend a private Jimi Hendriks concert for about 200 people. Then imagine that the attendees included rabid fan friends of yours going back a decade or two. Now imagine that you are perfectly sober for the whole thing and can remember it!  

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But wait, there's more. That evening, the entire host hotel parking lot was turned into a BMW pre-show that went on well into the night. I think the only non-BMW in the parking lot was the hotel shuttle. On behalf of the entire BMW 2002 community, I apologize to any guests that were not part of this event. On the other hand, you will have stories for your grand children! 

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But wait, there's much more. The official show is always the next day, Saturday, now at a picturesque park in Hot Springs, NC. As always, 02s have a field unto themselves, this year including a few lovely Neue Klasse cars, and several of the immediate precursor to the 2002, the 1600. It is in this setting that you could readily appreciate the many individualized creations that make up the community. It is nothing if not diverse. The foundation event was the curated version, but the park was a canvas for everybody. The album will do the talking here, but suffice it to say that just about every color and variation was present in treatments from mild to wild. And almost all driven to the event from far away. Oh yeah, there were other cool BMWs there as always, but this one was about the icon. The cult car. 

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As a true driver's sedan, you can pay no greater tribute than to drive these cars., and after a great long weekend, they were driven back home hundreds of miles away. A fitting 50th birthday party if ever there was one. 

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Cross Continental MZ

Classic Velocity

For those of us that believe we need to have a well-equipped electronically-assisted modern touring machine in order to contemplate a cross country trip, Kim Scholer begs to differ. He is taking a 1970 East German 250cc MZ pulling a Czech trailer ! And this is an upgrade compared to his last such trip !!

 Kim's Blog  MC Classics Article  Classic Velocity MZ Blog Posts

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Framo 2-3-4 Wheels

Classic Velocity

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Innovation in frames and platforms was the norm in the early days of the internal combustion engine, and many companies were simply trying to find the most efficient means to accomplish a task. One such company was Framo, founded in 1923, the same year as BMW. Although founded in Saxony, Germany, it was started by Dane Jorgen Rasmussen, who also founded DKW. The main idea was to use Framo to produce components for DKW motorcycles. After 3 years, that lead to the production of a commercial motorcycle-based vehicle, Basically, it was a trike with a cargo platform. This TV300 model emerged as a Framo vehicle in 1927. Variations for Framo included a single wheel at the front driven by an engine directly above it, a single wheel at the rear, enclosed cockpits, and open trikes with a covered rear. In other words, many permutations and configurations were tried.  Three-wheeled experiments in turn lead to the 4-wheeled Piccolo and Stromer models in the 1930s. All models were powered by 200cc-600cc 2 stroke motorcycle engines. Sales were simply ok in many instances, and weak in others, with no real sales successes.

Postwar, the factory was dismantled and shipped to Russia. Production resumed however in 1949 with what was essentially a pre-war model. Although there were further attempts at passenger vehicles, commercial applications were the only consistent sales. Even this was not to last very long, as the company became VEB Barkas and then concentrated on compact passenger vans. But that is a story for another time....

Goliath GP700 Sport

Classic Velocity

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Goliath was founded by Carl Borgward in Bremen, and has been mentioned in these pages before (see The Many Faces of Borgward and Maintaining Tempo). They are perhaps most well known for their three-wheeled vehicles with commercial applications.  After the war, three wheeled production restarted first. Their first postwar four-wheeled vehicle was introduced at the Geneva show in 1950, and it was a small 2 door coupe called the GP700.  It sported a 688cc two-stroke engine producing 25hp in carburetor form, and 29hp in fuel injected form. 

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At the Berlin show in 1951, Goliath introduced the GP 700 sport. The sport was front-engined, and front wheel drive! It featured an enlarged 845cc engine, capable of 32 hp and 44 ft/lbs of torque, but it only weighed 1753 lbs. It was equipped with Bosch fuel injection prior to the Mercedes which is often thought to be the first. Top speed was 78mph, and you did not get there quickly, but this was adequate performance at the time. The GP700 also featured a 4 speed synchromesh gearbox, which was again advanced for the time. The swoopy body was from Karosserie Rometsch, and had similarities with the Porsche 356 and the Borgward Hansa. In particular, the cabin profile, the wheel arches, the hood, and the sloping rear with a small trunklid, could easily lead you to believe that this was a Porsche product. The interior was elegant, with a painted dash and luxurious VDO gauges. 

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The Sport was a true hand built car, and was very expensive. offered from 1951 to 1953 in model years, but was really only in production from Mid 1951 to mid 1952. It's low production numbers (only 27-30 were believed to be produced) and unique features make it rare, and few survived. However, it introduced a number of features which went on to become standard in automobiles for the latter half of 20th century.

NSU Supermax

Classic Velocity

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Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union (NSU) emerged from producing knitting machines and bicycles to motorcycles and cars. By the  mid 1950s, NSU had grown to become one of the largest motorcycle producers in the world. It directly translated great success on the racetrack with the Rennfox and Sportmax machines into showroom sales, as they amassed victories in sidecar, 125cc and 250cc world championships (see Of silver dolphins and blue whales). One of the best translations was the NSU Supermax.

The Supermax was introduced in 1953, and was designed by Albert Roder who had worked on the supercharged racing motors. It was a 250cc 4 stroke single, producing about 18hp at 6500rpm, and weighing just 384lbs. The innovative features introduced included a new "calm" air filtration system, and a chain driven overhead camshaft. At the time, these were somewhat ground-breaking on a production motorcycle. It also featured a four speed gearbox which propelled the machine to 78mph. Very respectable for a 250cc thumper. Brakes were drum front and rear, on 19 inch wheels. Other innovations included the monocoque pressed steel frame, and a short rocker front suspension.

The Supermax enjoyed very good sales, helping to propel NSU to become the world's largest motorcycle producer in 1955. They also held world speed records in 1951, 1953, 1954, and 1955, including breaking the 200mph mark for motorcycles at Bonneville. The Supermax model continued until it was replaced in 1961. 

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The Variant

Classic Velocity

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As covered here before, (see the rise of the type 3), Volkswagen was among the first automakers to really leverage a single chassis for multiple variations on a large scale. This was certainly true for the Type 3, where the Notchback, the Fastback, and the Squareback, were all manifestations of the same base. And that base, was the beetle chassis. The Variant (Squareback) was the Estate model, or the Station Wagon model in the USA. It answered the basic need for more room to carry people and/or goods. Just like the VW bus, variety was provided by two variations of the variant (ok, I promise to end this now). There was a two door passenger version, and a two door panel van version, which only had front seats with a large cargo area behind them. While the Type 3 was launched in 1961 with the 1500 Notchback, the Variant first saw production in early 1962, but did not make it to the US until 1966.

Of course, the key to the Type 3 cars was the flattened version of the 4 cylinder air-cooled engine. That engine weighed under 300 lbs, and was only 18 inches tall. The cooling fan was lowered and relocated, the gerator was relocated, and the oil cooler was repositioned. In total, it was a brilliant repackaging of the standard beetle engine. In fact, it came to be called the pancake. Power was not the forte of this engine, as it produced a mere 50hp, and was good for a top speed of 77mph. In later years, it gained the dual carburetor setup and then got the landmark Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection. Back to packaging, the engine fit below the floor in the rear allowing for a usable trunk. Coupled with a front trunk compartment, storage capacity was very good. With the additional vertical room provided by the "Squareback" body, it was excellent. The interior was relatively luxurious by VW standards. Pleated vinyl, headrests, full carpeting, an attractive gauge pod, more than spartan door panels, the option of an automatic, etc. 

Although sales were small in comparison to the mighty beetle, more than 1.2 million Variants were sold between 1962 and 1973, and that number climbs to 1.45 million if you include Brazilian production as well. This is well over half of the entire Type 3 production. The Variant remains popular today among air-cooled VW enthusiasts and is well represented on sites like www.thesamba.com and www.type3.org

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