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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Tag: Mars

Gritzner

Classic Velocity

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Gritzner can trace its beginnings to 1872, when they joined a large number of manufacturers jumping into the production of sewing machines. They followed a common progression of expanding into other industrial equipment such as pumps and steam engines while surviving a fire which destroyed the factory in 1881. In the waning years of the 19th century they added bicycles and then eventually motorcycles in 1903. The initial motorcycles were 4 stroke machines powered by Fafnir engines.

Sales were steady, but WWI halted development. production resumed after the war, and in 1931 Gritzner merged with another bicycle and sewing machine manufacturer to become Gritzner-Kayser AG. War again halted civilian development, and Gritzner emerged producing small machines and mopeds during the rebuilding period. These new machines now used Fichtel &Sachs engines. 

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In 1955, fire again destroyed the sewing machine plant, and this blow allowed sewing machine rival Pfaff to acquire Gritzner. However, this was not the end of motorcycle production. Gritzner-Pfaff continued to produce small machines for the home market. In 1958, they took over the Mars designs (see Discovering Mars) as that company went out of business. Using these elegant designs, they produced Monza and Milano models, which were powered by Ilo, and Sachs engines. In particular, the Monza Supersport moped and others are sought after even today.

Discovering Mars

Classic Velocity

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On a recent visit to the Solvang Motorcycle Museum, the machine that was the most impressive, in a field of very impressive motorcycles, was a replica of a 1921 Mars 1000. It was striking in white with bodywork and attention to detail that was certainly museum quality. I resolved then and there to find out more about this German manufacturer. MARS was founded in Nurnburg, Germany in 1873 where it initially produced bicycles. Like many such organizations, it began producing cars and motorcycles around the turn of the century (1903). It continued producing machines until 1957 with several interruptions along the way including both world wars.

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The most famous design was the White Mars of 1920, which the Solvang replica is based upon. It was designed by Claus Franzburger, and featured a two cylinder boxer engine produced for MARS by Maybach (yes, that Maybach). The air-cooled engine was 956cc and was mounted longitudinally. Just by appearance, this machine might have been considered the Maybach of motorcycles. Even the way the spare is mounted, and the running board mounted tool compartments are reminiscent of a Maybach or a Horsch from that era. The bodywork is much like coachwork, and it exudes an air of opulence. MARS motorcycles also enjoyed some competitive success, finishing 1-2 in the 1921 Bavarian championship. They were also used to pace cyclists on the track during the heyday of that sport. Shortly thereafter in the mid 1920s, hard times struck Germany, and the Mueller brothers took over operations, but kept the name. 600cc, 500cc, and 200cc bikes were produced responding to the economic climate and to challenges sourcing engines.

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MARS motorcycles came with a variety of engines including the aforementioned Maybach, but also Sachs, Sturmey-Archer, and JAP. Approaching WWII and after the war, MARS produced a variety of smaller displacement twin and single cyclinder machines in 50cc, 150cc, 175cc, and 200cc sizes. Despite having engine sizes more suited to mopeds, they continued to look and feel like motorcycles. The company ceased production in 1957, but many motorcycles remain MARS motorcycles came with a variety of engines including the aforementioned Maybach, but also Sachs, Sturmey-Archer, and JAP. Approaching WWII and after the war, MARS produced a variety of smaller displacement twin and single cyclinder machines in 50cc, 150cc, 175cc, and 200cc sizes. Despite having engine sizes more suited to mopeds, they continued to look and feel like motorcycles. The company ceased production in 1957, but many motorcycles remain on the road today and clubs exist in Germany and the UK.