We covered the Konig marque previously in these pages (see Konig Watercraft to Motorcraft and A Cancelled Combination), but Iron and Air just published a nice piece on New Zealand Kim Newcombe and the Konig 500cc racer. It is worth a read....
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The Konig 500 was a competitive racing machine in the 1960s. As mentioned in Konig: From Watercraft to Motorcraft, the origin of the Konig 500 was a 494cc two stroke flat four engine that powered a racing outboard boat. Packaging problems to overcome, particularly when the boxer engine was placed in the chassis lengthwise like an early Douglas, rather than across the chassis like the BMW boxer. Clever packaging, innovative valve configurations, and enhanced cooling, helped to make the bike a strong performer. But this is only partially about the Konig.
As the 1970s began, Konig translated its' success into race-ready lists, but they also attracted a surprising potential partner. BMW expressed an interest in building production road machines based on placing the Konig motor in a BMW chassis. Discussions progressed, and two prototypes were built in 1972. One was a 350cc sport model, while the other was a 500cc tourer. The motor was rotated 90 degrees into the familiar BMW layout, and it was placed into a modified R90 chassis where it was mated to a BMW gearbox. Unfortunately, it never progressed beyond the prototype stage, as BMW ultimately rejected the idea of a two-stroke.
Both prototypes still exist. The 350cc in the Konig museum, and the 500cc has been privately restored.
In the 1960s Dieter Konig established a good reputation and a successful business in west Berlin based on building two-stroke engines for racing boats. The engine was a horizontally opposed water-cooled four cylinder two stroke. In 1969 Dieter decided to build a race bike, and spent most of that year ironing out initial teething problems. The motorcycle used German BVF carburetors to improve performance, but the main problem was cooling. It needed a bigger radiator. The team pressed on in 1970 and 1971, but continued to struggle with balancing a narrow profile, adequate cooling, and better performance.
The potential of the engine was the continuing source of optimism. The engine was already being used in the USA to power midget racers getting as much as 120 hp on alcohol. New Zealander Kim Newcombe joined the team, and major revisions were introduced prior to the 1972 season. Bore and stroke were changed, a four bearing crank, a change to Solex Carbs, and a new frame. The results were an impressive third (behind world champion Agostini and team mate Pagani) at the West German GP at the Nurburgring. They went on to claim 2 more third place finishes at the Sachsenring and the Yugoslav GP. The bike was also proving to be well-suited for sidecar use, with top five finishes in France, Austria, and at the Isle of Man. The Konigs went on to press the dominant BMWs hard, but development funding and a few mechanical failures kept them from challenging for the championship.
1973 was a good year for Konig. There was sidecar victory (dominance really, with 3 of the top six places being Konigs) in the opening round in France. There were consistent top finishes throughout the year, and the team of Schwarzel and Kleis finished second overall in the championship. The Konigs were often the fastest through the speed traps. On the solo GP circuits, Kim Newcombe was a consistent top five finisher, and finally captured victory for the marque at the Yugoslav GP. Tragically, Newcombe was killed at Silverstone with just one round to go. Despite this, he finished second in the championship, and clearly established the pinnacle of Konig's solo efforts. Konig seemed to decline from this point in terms of it's solo efforts and eventually ended works racing in 1975.
Sidecar success, however, continued with a strong season in 1974 where they finally lost to BMW in the very last round. BMW withdrew their team for 1975, and the combination of Steinhausen and Huber resulted in the elusive world championships for Konig. Steinhausen repeated his championship in 1976 establishing supremacy for the Konig outfits. However these championships were always overshadowed by the fact that BMW, their main rival for years, was not present with works efforts. Yamaha and Fath quickly rose to dominance the following year, and Konig's era faded in 1977.