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 !!
Classic Velocity Blog
This year, for the first time in many, we missed the Martin Moto Classics show. It always coaxes local, and now with growth, regional owners to bring their classic treasures out to share with the public. There is always an assortment of German machines on hand with BMW featuring prominently, but accompanied by things less common.
This year, there were nice examples of machines featured in these pages or formerly inhabiting the garage, including MZ, Kreidler, DKW, Condor, and Victoria. I have picked a few machines consistent with the theme of this blog, but thanks to Todd Trumbore and Images from Walter Barlow, you can still enjoy a larger variety of impressive machines via the album link below.
Even from the official launch, the E36/8 has produced polarizing reactions. Love it or hate it. It is hard to believe that these cars are now 20 years old and already considered a classic, but there it is. At the time, the swoopy styling quickly gave rise to knicknames like the bread van, and then the clown shoe. Not flattering. However, just like the BMW GS, 2000 CS, and many other BMWs over time, this was an example of the engineers winning over the accountants and the sales people. The legend maintains (with plenty of evidence to back it up), that a group of engineers led by Burkhard Göschel, worked after hours an on weekends to turn the Z3 platform into a vehicle which would realize its full potential. They toiled away into the night, and developed a car with more than 3 times the torsional rigidity of the roadster, and with the M3 engine shoe-horned into the engine bay. They then asked BMW for permission to produce it. The answer was yes, with two big caveats: First, in order to control costs, it would have to share as much as possible with existing cars. Second, it could not outperform the mighty M3.
The engineers were thankful, and with a wink and a nod, went off to figure out production. The result is a true driver's car worthy of the purist M label. The wink was that it did in fact outperform the M3 due to a superior power to weight ratio, and so gearing was altered to slow it down a bit. The nod was that from the nose to the A pillar, it shared sheet metal with the Z3, so costs were saved. Mission accomplished. The result is patently unique, and for some people, beautiful in its own way. Rear wheel drive, 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, top speed electronically limited to 155 mph, and a beast not easily tamed. Three engines were used over the short 4 year production life, eventually producing 321 hp and 253 ft/lbs of torque from a 3,130 lb car. The design of tokyo-born Joji Nagashima is officially designated a "shooting-brake", although it can also be considered a hatchback. Almost immediately upon production, the M Coupe began to rack up both design and performance awards and accolades. Road & Track, Automobile, Car & Driver, Top Gear, etc. All placed it in the top 5 or top 10 M cars of all time. All acknowledged a future icon.
As is often the case however, sales were not as kind. While the regular Z3 enjoyed robust sales, the M Coupe struggled. It was already aimed at a narrow slice of the market, and the styling was enough to further limit appeal. 6,318 M coupes were produced over the 4 year production span from 1998 to 2002, with 2,870 of those being the US market version. It was replaced by a much less polarizing, and less insane, Z4 M Coupe. Regardless of how you view these cars, they represent perhaps the last time in modern times that the engineers at BMW were left in charge. As a driving enthusiast, however that happened, I am very glad it did.
- ECE S50 (LHD): 2,178 built from 04/98 thru 06/2000
- ECE S50 (RHD): 821 built from 08/98 thru 06/2000
- NA S52 (LHD): 2,180 built from 07/98 thru 06/2000
- ECE S54 (LHD): 281 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
- ECE S54 (RHD): 168 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
- NA S54 (LHD): 690 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
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....
In visiting museums and collections, I would always be intrigued and amazed by those who were very focused in their acquisitions. Just one marque, or just one model of one marque, or all of the models of one marque for a single year, or all of the yellow Ferraris. These curators have a specific theme or quest, and set out to achieve a focused goal. I always thought of these as rather eccentric collectors. I imagined that they were bored with gathering the usual suspects like Gullwings and Vincents. Perhaps they just wanted to outdo a fellow collector by saying "I have every shade of green BMW 2002 ever offered" or "I have every model of the Norton Commando ever offered for sale". This is the "Inch wide and mile deep" approach to contrast the mile wide and inch deep collectors.
In a recent conversation, I realized that I am not immune to this tendency. I was speaking with an inch-wide enthusiast friend about the new Goldwing. This is relevant because he has 12 Goldwings (13 if you count the Silverwing). This is impressive just based on the space required, but also based on the dollars. He can spout chapter and verse about the nuances between model years. Three of them are yellow. He even has a model that is widely regarded as bad. It is the mark of a true inch-wide enthusiast, that they even have the bad version of the vehicle. He also has models that the ordinary motorcycle enthusiast would consider to be the same. He has special editions, and first-version-to-have-X models. He knows his Goldwings. And then, he pointed to a couple of my airheads and we had the following conversation.
"Those look identical to me. Those are your Goldwings." He was pointing to an R75/6 and an R75/7.
"They are not, see the tank on this one and the instrument cluster....." I fell right into the trap and was explaining nuances between the models that only airheads would appreciate, and probably just a subset of them at that.
"They are both the same blue." Hhhmmmm, he did have a point there as they were the identical blue. Although, one was far more faded than the other.
"Yes, but see the spoke wheels versus the cast wheels, and the switchgear is totally different......." He was smiling now, and I was digging a deep hole.
"Was there a big performance jump between these, or some big functional improvement?" He was honestly asking this question, fully expecting to find the rationale for having both.
"Well......not really." I did not want to tell him about the few horsepower difference, or the infamous $2000 o-ring. That could easily be considered the bad version. I quickly ran through the years of knowledge and the memorized contents of the Ian Falloon book on Airheads. There was nothing of substance to offer a motorcycle enthusiast not pierced by one of cupid's horizontally opposed arrows. Nothing.
"Is one more of a touring model that goes with that fairing?" He was pointing to the color-matched blue Vetter fairing that I had removed, and had no intention of reinstalling on the /6.
"Well......not really." He was now fawning bewilderment.
"Is either one super rare or collectible then?" His knowledge of BMW Airheads was like my knowledge of Goldwings; an inch wide and a half inch deep. I could easily have lied.
"Well this one has fairly low miles, but.........no" He was now implying that I was even worse than him, since I had no redeeming special editions or rarity cachet.
"This one says R75 as well. Why would you have multiple versions of the same bike?" It was the /5 toaster tank. Beautiful and so different, but he had scored a knock down blow. Yes, I had gathered all three versions of the R75 over time, quite intentionally. This was a great motor for BMW, and I appreciated the subtle nuances between iterations of this platform from early 1970s to late. It goes even further if you include the R80RT. Yes, I was an inch-wide enthusiast. But when you have no substantive retort in a debate, when you have no defense, you must turn to offense. You must attack a flank where you at least have some advantage.
"Oh yeah, well I can park all three of these in the space taken up by one of your behemoth Goldwings!".
With the Dakar underway, long distance endurance rallies are on the mind. Going back in time, these rallies were really extended reliability trials. If you finished on Sunday (winning was even better), it went right onto a poster for the sales department to use on Monday. Even today, I wonder how many manufacturers would send a bone stock production sedan vehicle off to race across sub Saharan Africa, wth just a couple of tires and a gas can strapped on the back. But I digress.....
The East African Coronation Safari was first run in 1953 crossing Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika. It was initially held to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, since She was in Kenya and became Queen, when King George died. It became widely regarded as the toughest Rally on the circuit, if not in the world. 3000 miles, punishing terrain, and unpredictable weather, all combined to cement the reputation of this Rally. However the first two instances of this Rally really set the stage. The initial rally had three starting points, although the majority started in Nairobi. It wound its way around Lake Victoria. Performance on the cars was required to be showroom, meaning no mods. Four classes were determined based on vehicle price. There were only 57 entrants for the first Rally, including DKW, Ford, Mercedes, Peugeot, Tatar, and Volkswagen. There were only 27 finishers, with the top spot (least penalties) going to the split-window Volkswagen Beetle of Alan Dix and Johnny Larsen. In 1954, Volkswagen triumphed again but this time at the famous hands of Vic Preston and D P Marwaha. Average speed decreased due to the increase in mandatory rest stops and control points. The following year, the Rally adopted FIA rules and an RAC permit was required, effectively ending the initial minimal regulations approach.
A bit of recycling here from 2012, but it became relevant once again due to this quote we stumbled across this holiday season in Santa Fe, NM. "Always give without remembering and always receive without forgetting.”
The car sat under a tree, wedged in between a rusted out Plymouth Valiant and a tractor-trailer that was being used as storage. It was covered in that grayish greenish brown mix of pollen and dirt that renders all of the glass opaque. It also made it hard to tell exactly what color the car was. The final top had split in several places due to the ravages of sun and rain and tree sap. The engine compartment had more acorns and leaves than the tree under which it rested. The tires were remarkably round and still held some amount of air, but were dry and cracked on the side walls. The driver's seat was shot, and someone had cut the dash for a more modern stereo. The chrome was mysteriously pitted in random places as if to emulate some strange rash. It was a mess, and I had to have it. I mean, who would let such an icon just sit outside and deteriorate? This was a not inexpensive sportscar that was desired, acquired, and pampered at some point. Now it was just another case where eminent domain should apply (see The Theory of Eminent Domain)
I had stopped by a few weeks earlier and left a note, but no call. This time, I caught the shop owner, Steve. It was a typical case of a customer who had brought the car in for some repairs, and found that those repairs were going to be more expensive and extensive than he bargained for. The car sat. Steve vowed to contact the owner that night, and I left once again. Two days later I got a call. Yes it was for sale, but for more than it was worth. Today it would sound ridiculously cheap, but at that time, things were different. We haggled a bit, but the owner was sticking to his guns. I wondered if he had seen the car recently. No deal.
A few days later, I was about to call and up the offer, such was my craving. Before I had a chance, the owner called and accepted my initial slightly low offer. He had been to see the car and was surprised at the condition. He told me that Steve had promised to keep it inside, finish the work, etc, etc. I was at his place with the money the next day, even though it would take a few weeks to pick up the car. Then, with title in hand, I returned to the shop and took a more complete inventory. A lot of work, but doable. It even turned over with the battery from the shop, although it did not fire. I hauled my gift home and began the discovery process.
Three weeks and an awful lot of work, diagnostics, and a few parts were required in order to get the car running. That first time it fired and ran was a gift worthy of a sacred garage celebration. Too bad nobody was around to see it. It became a rolling restoration, although I hesitate to use the word restoration as the intent was to make it a driver. The body and interior cleaned up remarkably well, and over the years, the ailments have been mostly addressed, while delivering the gifts of wrenching and the parts hunt, and the community of like-minded madmen. The stock 2.2 litre flat six engine has been solidly reliable and has taken the car on many trips and many hundreds of miles with nothing but oil changes and tuneups along the way. It has gone around the track at LimeRock and Watkins Glen. It has toured New England in the fall with a rebuilt targa top stowed in the trunk. It has attended many a club event with two small children in the back. It has given the gift of joy and laughter.
And more than a decade later, on the way to a breakfast one weekend, the car delivered more gifts. While I was getting gas, a woman smiled and said "That's a lovely car" as she walked inside to get coffee. On the way out she asked what year it was and we chatted for a minute. She never stopped smiling. A few minutes later, the car flew down a lonely section of interstate at 120mph. The speedo wavered back and forth between 120 and 125 as I kept going. The car always begins to feel good above 80mph, and it sees triple digits on occasion, but it is not usually up in the 120mph area. We were only there for about a minute, but the car did not feel strained, and I had more tach to go. I was not far away from the top speed of the car when new, and this car is 43 years old. Stock points and ignition, stock Zenith carbs, stock motor, stock wheels, stock steering wheel. I never stopped smiling, and I am pleased in this Holiday season to once again receive a gift from a vehicle which keeps on giving.
As seen through the eyes of a vintage enthusiast, this annual pilgrimage is a chance to see what is new and trendy, and to lay eyes on what has heretofore been the stuff of articles. This year, there was an impressive number of “standard” motorcycles. This means relatively upright seating position, handlebars rather than clipons, very little bodywork, no winshield. Among them were the Yamaha MT09 and 07, the MV Agusta Rivale, Kawasaki Z900, BMW RNineT, etc. Nice looking machines that can be versatile as well. Everybody now has an “Adventure” bike, including Royal Enfield with their new Himalayan. Honda and BMW now offer “Baggers”! There is plenty of coverage of the event on major magazine sites, so here is a select sampling of images through the Classic Velocity lens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was searching for items for a swap meet which was only a day away. As usual, this had turned into a last minute need to rummage through plastic crates in storage. As mentioned in Hoarding for Gearheads, this should be pretty straightforward, but over time the organization system gets corrupted. So there I was, searching for a particular item that I knew I had new in a box, but which so far had eluded my grasp. However, the search had given rise to a number of sudden utterances ( to no one in particular since I was alone) like "Oh, so that's where this was", or "Why would this be in this crate", or "I forgot I had one of these". And then I was easily diverted and took long trips down memory lane as I came across parts for vehicles I had not owned in years, vehicles I had no intention of ever owning again, and in some cases, vehicles I am pretty sure I never owned at all. I was struck by how many times I must have purchased items just because I could not find them, or because I forgot I had one. But that was not the most interesting discovery on this journey. and in some cases, vehicles I had no intention of ever owning again.
If you really want insight into the diseased mind of a vintage gear head, then you need to examine the used parts. There should be a full advanced academic degree devoted to the understanding of this sub culture by way of the stuff in their garages and basements and storage units. I call it Anthropologic Vehicular Archeology. If we can discern the workings of ancient civilizations by way of a few fragments of a clay pot and some cave paintings, imagine what we can reconstruct from the 40 year old vintage parts stored by a modern human. There are already esteemed faculty who can determine your right foot reflexes just from reading a fouled spark plug! Imagine what could be done with a used oil filter, a crank journal bearing, and exhaust pipe discoloration. It is a rich field of exploration. Oh, the secrets that would be revealed, the new buildings on academic campuses, and the passionate doctoral candidates, not to mention the insights gained for all of humanity. But I digress.
The parts and supplies of interest fell into several categories. The rationalization is followed in parentheses by (the more realistic translation) :
- I may return the vehicle to 100% stock one day, so I need to keep this. (this will never get back on the vehicle during my ownership, but will be good for the online posting and for the new owner)
- I have an extra one of these because they will be hard to find soon and I may need it one day. (they will not be that hard to find in my lifetime, so it will probably be in this crate when they sell it all at the estate sale)
- I got this in a box of parts at a swap meet. (I will forget how I got this and be periodically perplexed as to what this fits)
- I replaced this with a new one, but I keep this as a spare. (I will never use this and will always buy another new one because I will forget why I relegated this to a spare)
- I don't need this, but I hear they go for good money online. (If I ever got around to finding this again, cleaning it up, and putting it online, I would make $7)
- I have a good one of these, so I can modify this one. (The modification went horribly wrong, and now it is worth nothing so I keep it)
Ignition coils are one of my favorites. There were several among the crates with masking tape and words like "reportedly tested good", or "suspect", or "R50/2??". I have no idea under what circumstances I would ever put one of these into a vehicle, and it would be unethical to even offer them to someone needing a coil, so why keep them? Answer; There is something about the weight and substance of a coil, along with the fact that they can look brand new even when bad, that makes me reluctant to throw them out. I left them right where I found them. But the jewel in the crown, the icing on the cake, the capstone of this outing, was a pair of brake pads, lightly used, on which was written in big permanent marker, the words "WRONG PADS". They were in a crate of mixed items, so there was no telling what vehicle, what year, front or rear, etc. I actually sat down and laughed out loud, which startled a blackbird on a nearby fence. There was no clue as to whether I inherited these in a box of parts, purchased them myself some time ago, or removed them from a vehicle. Were they wrong for a particular vehicle, the wrong type of pads for the correct vehicle? I had no idea other than I had obviously decided to keep them. In the end, I put them right back where I found them, still chuckling to myself. I know I should just throw them out along with the coils and other suspect items, but perhaps I will wait for a better time to go through all of this...yeah, that's it....another time soon. And if not, it will at least confound the vehicular archeologists.
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 .
In 1963 at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, NSU introduced the world's first production car with a Wankel engine. The Wankel Spider was designed by Bertone, but up front it had a passing resemblance to the Pinninfarina-designed Alfa Giulietta Spider. The car was basically an NSU Sport Prinz Coupe with the roof cut off, and a rotary engine mounted over the rear axle. This allowed for two trunks while maintaining the sporty shape and appearance, but the front trunk was small in order to make room for the radiator and gas tank. The rear sheet metal was modified from the coupe to allow for storage of the folding top, and the rear engine compartment. The two-seater interior was elegantly trimmed in two color leather.
The 500cc engine made just under 50hp, which was adequate at the time, given the 1500lb weight, but the high revving engine sounded like nothing else on the road. It was good for a top speed of 98mph. However, the materials used in building these first generation engines caused more rapid wear than anticipated, and problems began to surface once the cars were in the field. Engine rebuilds were common at 30,000 miles, although it took a while for most cars to get there. Handling, however, was superior. according to Autocar at the time, "The Spider is really most enjoyable on minor roads with lots of twists and turns, where its exceptional stability and cornering powers, together with the quick reactions of its rack-and-pinion steering, allow very fast averages to be maintained."
Only 2375 were built, and only a paltry 215 made it to the US. Ironically, one of those 215 became the first Wankel race car, competing in SCCA H Modified. It is believed that the relatively high price, and low production numbers were evidence that NSU introduced the car more as a test bed for the rotary engine. An improved version was introduced in the NSU R080 sedan in 1968 (see NSU R080).
It is hard to imagine, but the original BMW R100RS was launched in the fall of 1976 as a 1977 model, and is now 40 years old. There have been many variations and iterrations since then, but the original production vehicle still defines the model. At the time of its launch, the RS was a radical departure from other machines of the time. It was a fully faired machine compared to naked machines, it offered bold futuristic styling, and relatively luxurious accommodations to envelope the pilot as he consumed miles by the hundreds each day. A top speed of 108 mph, and 70 hp in a 535 pound machine was a very good performance package at the time. It was a true "Gentleman's Express".
The RS started with a recognition by BMW Motorrad that their bikes were sort of....well...dated, and were in danger of appealing only to an older demographic. Their solution was to employ stylist Hans Muth to spruce up the line, and get younger customers excited. He used the wind tunnel to design and then test a multi piece fairing that would look modern if not futuristic. The result was a 5.4% reduction in drag, and a 17.4% reduction in front wheel lift. To put this in perspective, lots of riders of all marques were buying and attaching Windjammer fairings to their machines for touring at the time. However, the R100RS was considered the first production model to come fully faired off the showroom floor. At the time, Motorcyclist's Bob Greene said "In one bold move the Germans have advanced motorcycle styling several years". More than that, the bike offered great protection from the elements. Many consider this motorcycle to be the birth of the Sport Tourer. A special Motorsport edition was later launched with a signature red nose on the fairing, and many RS machines including K bikes and R bikes to the present time, occupy BMW showrooms and enthusiast garages.
Which brings us to Todd Trumbore, and the 40 year celebration of the RS. Todd has been a guest author for Classic Velocity, a great motorcycle enthusiast in general, and is well known for his annual rides. He is also known for his R90S 40 year celebration a few years ago. Once again, he has gone above and beyond in bringing Hans Muth to anchor a celebration of his design. The lineup of silver blue 1977 RS machines was spectacular, including serial number 001. The collection of attendee machines was impressive as well, including a million mile R100S. Camping and tech workshops and lectures, and the Airhead Store, and food and drink, made this a true Rally worthy of the BMWMOA organization. But it was essentially the work of one man. Great guy, great machine, great event.
The Limerock Vintage Weekend has long been a great destination for a motorcycle ride. It is set in bucolic north western Connecticut, and is surrounded by upstate NY and western MA. When the Berkshires and the Catskills are neighbors, you are in great riding country. At the track, a motorcycle parking area on a hill above the swap/paddock area has emerged over time that is always interesting, and the infield camping area often has a smattering of motorcycles. It always delivers a surprise, such as the year when a Vincent was casually parked among the commuter and touring machines on the mound. There was also a Crocker one year inside a vendor tent!
This year, all of that was enhanced by a display of BMW machines from Philip Richter and his Turtle Garage. In addition to a few of Bruce Meyer's hot rods on display, there was an elegant line of BMWs from pre-war to the 1990s. A most welcome surprise to us, and a delight for the crowd of attendees who appreciated vintage machinery in general. It was particularly amusing to listen in on some of the conversations of others admiring the collection. There were comments such as "They all look the same", or "Black must be his favorite color, since he has so many of them".
However, a few folks who knew their BMWs would also stop to spend time looking at the subtleties between models. They would comment on handlebar controls or frame gusseting. They were always pleasantly surprised to find someone who wanted to share in the conversation. There is a particularly strong bond that is formed between geeks who discover each other at an event not intended for them as a primary audience. You now instantly have 2 things in common. But I digress...
The machines included a Dover white R60/2, an R69S with a Hoske tank, a superb ISDT bike, and a pristine K1. All in superb restored condition. However, the favorite bike of the collection's owner is a 1938 R51 which is cosmetically unrestored. It has been mechanically restored, but the paint and bodywork has not been touched. It is in remarkably good condition, and has a patina that you simply cannot purchase. Sharing the same year, 1938, was an R71. Judging by the interest in German cars and motorcycles, it is easy to see why Limerock voted Philip collector of the year. The Turtle Garage is on our list st of places to visit soon....
For us, Labor Day weekend is synonymous with the Limerock Vintage Motorsports Weekend. The event has graced these pages many times before (see Lapping Limerock or Limerock 2014), and always delights. This year represented an abbreviated visit, as we were going to miss Monday racing (the circuit has a long time noise ordinance which effectively bans racing on Sundays), and the remnants of hurricane Harvey drowned out the Sunday car show. The auction that has now become part of the weekend took place under tent as the rain came down on all sides.
However, Friday and Saturday were perfect, with temps in the seventies and a mix of sun and clouds. We have been to this event when the sun was blisteringly hot, and we have been to this event when everyone was huddled up in winter clothing. Saturday's blend was great for walking around the paddock, and for watching the racing from multiple vantage points around the track. Indicative of the variety that you find at Limerock was one of their last run groups, which was an eclectic mix of machines together on track. It included a Ford GT, a few MGBs, a Lotus Elan, a few Porsche 911s, and a Tatra!
Of course like any great event, the parking lot can be almost as interesting as what is inside. No disappointment here. Something about New England brings out the anglophiles, so the early Jags, and Healeys, and Land Rovers were abundant. Even a nice Rover TC graced the grassy parking area. Clubs also showed up in force, so Porsches and BMWs were everywhere. A few interesting Italian cars were there, in addition to the Ferraris and Maserati ( is the plural of Maserati, Maserati?), including a rare Fiat 130. The Fiat was large and wide, and could have easily been a product of Detroit Rather than Italy.
The paddock continues to expand, with the two areas now consuming most of what was the swap meet area. Sadly, there is less of a swap meet these days, but it is due to increasing numbers of on-track competitors. This makes the paddock more interesting, and the chance to see your favorite marque and model, greater. Limerock's mix of elevation changes, esses, and a long straight, ensure that you need a well sorted machine to dominate, and that the racing stays interesting each lap.
Want to browse through our photos from the event? View the Full Limerock Vintage Weekend Album
Green on green
A classic beauty in Motorsport livery
Ford Angelia with a Cosworth inside..
Mercedes Benz has always been a premier luxury marque, but they have also been a producer of basic workhorse transportation. Pick a movie from the sixties and seventies set in Europe, the Middle East, or the third world in general, and you will note their legendary role as the taxi cabs of the world. That legend started with the W110 in the early 1960s, and in particular with the Diesel variant. Mercedes was never the cheapest sedan, but in the case of the 190D and 200D, they quickly built a reputation for running millions of kilometers, tolerating heavy loads, and being generally indestructible. Those are the key attributes of a commercial vehicle, but in this case, they were embodied in a sedan.
The W110 series began in 1961 with the introduction of the 190 cars., replacing the W111 series and confounding the once logical Mercedes nomenclature. They were part of the Heckflosse (Fintail) series covered here before (see The Heckflosse Champion), and had the signature appendages in the rear. In the front, they looked like the preceding Ponton cars (see Ponton Production) with the round headlights and the snub nose. Inside, wood was replaced with Bakelite, and luxury seats were replaced with fixed back items. But the key gamble that Mercedes continued to take was in promoting the Diesel engine. At the time, diesel engines were noisy and visibly produced soot out of the tailpipe. They also had extremely sluggish performance. The press was not kind to these machines, and the traditional Mercedes customer did not view them positively either.
However, the taxi cab industry had quite the opposite view. These were robust, relatively fuel efficient vehicles with enough comfort to be the ideal conveyance. If it was good for taxicabs, then it was good for others desiring rock solid transportation, and sales grew along with the reputation. Between 1961 and 1965, the diesel variant outsold the gasoline version by over 95,000 units. In 1966, a second series of the W110 was introduced. The inline 4 diesel in the 200D now had a 5 bearing main crankshaft, twin carburetors, and increased bore to yield 1988cc. This produced a whopping 60hp, and a top speed of 130kph in a vehicle weighing 2794 lbs. This was not a performance sedan! However, it also went on to outsell the gasoline variant by over 51,000 units between 1966 and 1968.
Overall, over 387,000 of the W110 diesels were produced by the time they were replaced by the W115 series in 1968. They cemented the legendary status of the Mercedes Benz Diesel engine, which also became popular in marine applications. It also provided a reputation for reliable, durable vehicles to complement the image of premier luxury automobiles. Remember the 600 Pullman was produced in the same timeframe, as were trucks and vans. No other manufacturer at the time had such an effective grasp of both ends of the spectrum.
Ernst Neumann Neander of Duren, Germany was a man of many talents. He was known as an artist, with works in sculpture, painting, and poetry. However, he reportedly built one of the earliest motorcycles in 1886. He later returned to motorcycles in 1926 when he designed the machine seen here. It had many signature features, the most prominent of which was the box section frame made or Duralumin. But for the headlight, you would be excused for thinking this was a machine from 30 years later. The frame looks like a modern twin spar, the tank could be postwar, etc. The frame went on to be licensed by Opel, which used it with some success in racing. It also featured a unique articulating fork. Neander used several different engines in his machines including JAP, Villiers, and MAG. Although some small displacement machines were created, the majority were either 500cc or 1000cc machines. Overall, the look was very modern for the time, and it was thought to be both artistic and innovative. However, they were not to everyone's taste. Only about 2,000 Neanders were produced over almost a ten year period, and they went out of production in the 1930s. They also produced tricycles and quadricycles, which never appealed to the public and were short-lived. Neander also produced several very interesting cars during this time, but that is a story for another post. The name has been resurrected in recent times to be used on a turbo diesel motorcycle.
I grew up driving on the left. In fact, I'm not even sure at what point I learned that there was an alternative. I also grew up on very narrow roads that were pockmarked with potholes and peppered with patches. And they were all twisty roads. My father used to joke that the road builders must have been paid by the corner. I am not sure at what point I came to know that these were not normal roads. I can remember being surprised and delighted at a long smooth stretch of road, and then promptly using it to pass everything that I could. So did everyone else, leading to a kind of crazy no man's land in the middle of an already narrow road. Exciting times ensued, but as I recall, there was rarely an accident from this scenario. Accidents came from top speed trials and misjudging the limits around mountain roads with no guardrail, and from a general excess of testosterone over wisdom.
Fortunately for me, I had no access to speed, although I wanted it very badly. The 10 year old clapped out 175cc Honda trail bike, and the even older Land Rover that I learned to ride and drive on, were both philosophically and physically opposed to speed. Several of us tried to make them go fast, but all we could do was paint a racing stripe on the Honda's tank, and get a running start downhill on the Land Rover. The Land Rover in particular was hilarious, as it was geared in a way that the top speed could only be reached downhill coasting with the clutch in! The Honda was just done at about 47mph. By experimentation, we discovered that both could "feel" fast by going across a bumpy field at anything over 40mph. Fast forward some decades, and the billiard smooth highways of the USA make speed a mundane necessity. Driving on the right is the norm, and speeds over 80mph are routine and uneventful. Of course, countries and cultures have changed, but there is still a desire for some excitement getting from A to B. Exceeding the limits of the roads and the machines in this environment is relatively hard to do. Little or no challenge, little or no fun.
A recent visit back to a place that drives on the left recently shook up the norms again however briefly. There were warnings for visitors who might normally drive on the right, but I was instantaneously back in my natural habitat and needed no signs. There were roundabouts again, and shifting with the left hand, and overtaking on narrow roads, and no guard rails on mountain roads, and no time (nor need) to glance at the dashboard, much less a mobile device. It rekindled that original need to pay full attention to the act of driving, and to be challenged to do it well in a somewhat unpredictable environment. And it rekindled that original fascination with probing the limits and trying to go fast. It was not about the absolute speed, it was all relative. Blind corners, and using your horn, and 1st gear hairpins, and maintaining momentum, all returned to center stage. Driving was brilliant fun, even in a small economical non-descript compact car, on the way to nowhere in particular. BMW often used the term Freude Am Fahren in marketing campaigns to invoke The Joy of Driving. Man and machine in perfect choreography. We have explored it here before (see One and Moonbathing), but it bears repeating....
Whatever it looks like for you, go drive on the left.
Victoria as a marque has been covered before (see The Victoria Ventures). The word Bergmeister dates back some time, and refers to the Foreman of a mine in Germany and Austria. However, in the context of Victoria, it is intended to translate to Mountain Master. The model was introduced in 1951, and was quite remarkable at the time. It featured a 4 stroke ransversely mounted 80 degree V-twin reminiscent of a Moto Guzzi. It was air-cooled, and had pushrods activated overhead valves. A single Bing carburetor served the 350cc motor, which produced 21hp, The engine is also noted for its streamlined Art Deco appearance. The cases are smooth, and enclose the aforementioned carburetor, giving an appearance common to today's no-visible-cables custom bikes. Elegant body panels and frame paint added to the blend of old and new.
The transmission used chains rather than gears which reportedly produced a quieter ride. The 4 speed fed a shaft drive system. Total weight of the bike was 398 lbs, and it was often used in combination with a sidecar. Suspension was telescopic forks up front, and a plunger rear end. It took until 1954 for the Bergmeister to make it into production. It was very expensive to produce into a market with good competition from NSU and BMW. However, it did well in hill-climbs and other trials at the time to become well regarded. Reportedly, only about 5,000 Bergmeisters were produced until Victoria merged with DKW in 1958 to form Zwierad Union.