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
Filtering by Tag: MZ
Although the basics of MZ as a motorcycle manufacturer in the former East Germany have been covered here before (see MuZings) , it is time now to focus on their exploits off-road. Their greatest success was at the International Six Day Trials (ISDT), a race that had been run since 1913 and which featured nations competing in teams for a trophy. The event is a 1200+ mile test of rider and equipment in which the rider must carry out all of his or her own repairs. Today it is called the Six Days Enduro and is more of a multi-day rally. In the early 1960s, MZ (like all of the eastern block manufacturers) wanted to show that it could produce world class machines, and assigned engineer Walter Kaaden the task of building a factory racing effort for the track and for Gelandesport (off-road racing).
One of the premiere events for building such credibility for a motorcycle was the ISDT. The team used breakthrough 2-stroke technology to create lightweight high performance enduro machines which dominated the competition. The East German team riding MZ machines earned gold medals from 1963 to 1967, usually beating arch rivals West Germany. They lost in 1968 to the West Germans who were on Zundapp machines, but returned to victory in 1969. MZ won again decades later in 1987.
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.
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.
It is gloss black, it is German, it is single cylinder, produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and it has an enclosed drivetrain. It is a BMW right, and only the model designation is a mystery? Wrong, it is a product of VEB Motorraderwerke Zschopau, branded MZ for short. MZ arose from the rubble of the former DKW plant in Zschopau following WWII. After the war. DKW relocated to Ingolstadt in the western zone, and the remains of the Zschopau plant were cobbled together into MZ. Their first products were produced under the IFA brand, and that lasted until 1955 when they switched.
Despite producing near copies of DKWs, BMWs, and some industrial looking fare common to the eastern bloc, MZ kept the signature fully enclosed chain and sold fairly well into the 1950s. Things changed significantly in 1953 when engineer Walter Kaaden joined to head up the sporting division. His 2-stroke motors were very competitive with the emerging four strokes, particularly in the hands of star rider Ernst Degner. The combination won several Grand Prix races and were in line to win a world championship when Degner defected and then joined Suzuki. Meanwhile, in trials and off-road events, the MZ name was even more successful. They were competitive in what was the biggest international race of that time in the ISDT (International 6 Day Trial) where they were victorious from 1963 to 1967, and then again in 1969. The TS Model 125/G and 250/G in particular which were based on the Trials bikes, won innumerable races within the eastern bloc and were known as sturdy and reliable if not super fast. They are great looking classic enduro bikes that never officially came to the west.
Meanwhile on the streetbikes, MZ continued to produce basic machines with cost-saving measures such as painted silver side panels rather than chrome. Despite this, they produced their one millionth bike in 1970 and kept going strong. An interesting fact is that they were among the last to give up on the glory years of sidecars, selling bikes with them (Stoye) up untill 1972. MZ sold their two millionth motorcycle in 1983. However, a few years later, the reunification of Germany destroyed business, and they went bankrupt in 1991. In 1992, they tried again as MuZ, only to go bankrupt again in 1996. The rights to the name were then purchased by Malaysian company Hong Leong Group, and with a large capital infusion, the company continued through the 1990s, even gaining a one-make series in the Scorpion Cup. But business was never profitable, and in 2008 it closed again. Never say die with MZ. In 2009, the name was purchased by two former Moto GP stars and is having another go at it. This company is very familiar with rising from the rubble of past destruction and failures, so hope springs eternal....