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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Tag: Hoffmann

A Grand Goodbye

Classic Velocity

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Although we have covered Hoffmann in general here before, the flagship Hoffmann Governeur S300 had very bad timing. to say the least. It was the larger displacement successor to the S250, and was part of the continued march of Hoffmann toward larger motorcycles. However, it came at the tail end of the company’s short life in a declining market. Hoffmann was sustained largely by a license to produce Vespa scooters. This funded the small motorcycles it went on to produce. However, they were expensive and often suffered from overheating due to enclosed carbs and intake tracks.

The S300 was introduced in 1953. It produced 17 hp and was good for a top speed of 70mph. It was a flat twin housed in a pressed steel frame, and featured telescopic suspension and shaft drive. It was produced in green rather than the routine black of the prior models. It was a handsome machine but the engine development costs were significant. Unfortunately, Hoffmann also lost the Vespa license in 1953, and were battling a patent infringement suit from BMW. The combination forced the company into bankruptcy, making the S300 a grand finale.

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Hoffmann

Classic Velocity

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Readers of the blog will know that the number of manufacturers and individual motorcycle models that looked like, were influenced by, copied, or that influenced the BMW flat twin, are many. Hoffmann is one of those manufacturers that was tied to BMW in product with multiple points of  imitation, but possibly in other business-related ways as well. Unlike most of the motorcycle manufacturers discussed within these pages, Hoffman did not come into existence until after World War II. Jakob Oswald Hoffmann was a controversial figure as he was considered to be a profiteer from the war. He moved his bicycle factory to Lintorf in 1949 and was soon granted the contract to produce Vespa scooters under license.

The success of the scooter business allowed him to develop his own 125cc and 175cc 2 stroke motorcycles. They were powered by ILO engines, and sold fairly well. As the 1950s began, Hoffman increased the displacement to produce 200cc and then 250cc machines capable of 100 kph. Then, wanting to produce his own engines, he designed and developed at 250cc four stroke flat twin motor that looked just like a smaller version of the BMW engine. It had smooth engine covers and an elegant body style. The new model was called the Gouverneur, and was followed later by an even more powerful S300 model. The S300 raised power output to 17hp, and top speed to 118 kph.

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However, a familiar mix of financial woes and technical problems conspired to produce a significant negative impact on Hoffman. First, the significant cost of developing their own engine had placed the firm in a precarious financial position. Second, they lost the license to produce the Vespa scooter which was something of a cash cow for them. As a result, they would need great sales of the new models in order to survive. The problem was that they were attempting to do this into the teeth of the postwar recession and sales were in fact declining. In addition, the sleek engine covers on the new machines caused overheating and technical and performance problems ensued. Even the nearby Düsseldorf police force which  purchased some S300s, abandoned them after short time due to the overheating issues.

Hoffman also developed the Auto-Kabine 250, a Microcar, to respond to the growing need for transportation which protected the operator from the weather. This is where controversy is introduced once again to this story, as some believe the similarity to the BMW Isetta, and political/banking desires to save Messerschmidt, hastened the demise of Hoffmann. They went bankrupt in 1954.