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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Tag: Messerschmidt

New Hope 2014

Classic Velocity

This event continues to surprise. Year after year, there are some great new cars that come out for the event. There are also some that appear every year. This year attracted more Daimlers, for example, and far fewer Jaguars than normal. Regardless, the show is a good excuse to go and view a few hundred well-preserved and well-restored examples of vintage vehicles. Mercedes was particularly well represented this year with a large number of SL cars, and a pontoon sedan. Porsche cars included a teal 356 cabriolet, and a lovely 912 Targa. BMWs featured a nice 3.0 CS, and a rare-in-the-USA 2000 tiSA Lux. Only a couple of vintage Beetles made an appearance to represent VW, and there were no Audis or Auto Unions or DKWs. As a small (pun intended) consolation, there was an excellent fully restored Mescherschmidt, and an R60 motorcycle. But this is not a German show....

Most of the non-Asian auto-producing nations were present. Sweden had a nice Volvo P1800 wagon, and a 1965 Saab 96. Italy had a few Alfa spiders, and a GTV. There was also a superb 695 Abarth. As usual, Italy was well represented (read dominant) among the exotica with Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, and a De Tomaso Pantera. The Italian sports car show was only broken up by a Ford GT and a GT40 from the USA, and a McClaren from England. Speaking of the UK, they were scattered throughout the show field. I mentioned the Daimler 250s, but there were also Triumph TR3s and TR4s and Spitfires, and a small number of high quality Jaguars. MGs included TD, TF, MGA, and MGB models. There was a strong showing for Lotus, although mostly newer cars, and my friend Roy brought his lovely red over black Austin Healey to compete with several others.

The French were not absent. A Renault Dauphine which appeared to be a veteran of car shows was on hand, along with a nice Citroen DS. The US had a nice Mustang, and a Packard to add to the GT mentioned earlier. No Tatras this year, no Peugeots, but that is the nature of this show. It changes, but it is always a worthwhile day spent with vintage iron. See the link to the full album below.


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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.


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. 

The Other Microcar

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BMW was not the only German manufacturer with aircraft heritage to produce a Microcar. The Isetta is well known as the bubble car, but the Messerschmitt is almost as famous in Europe as an iconic Microcar. Following WWII, Messerschmidt was not allowed to produce aircraft, so they turned to other products like household goods and prefab houses. In 1952, Fritz Fend licensed them to build his Microcar design which was reportedly based on the cockpit of the messerschmidt fighter plane. Messerschmidt set up a separate company to do so, and agreed to lend their brand name to the effort more so than anything else.


In 1953, the first cars rolled out of the factory as model KR175. It was a three-wheeled design with two wheels up front similar to a Morgan. The passenger compartment opened using a clamshell design. The vehicle became known as the kabinenroller which translates into "scooter with cabin". It seated two people inline like the aircraft they formerly produced, and had a steering control more like an aircraft as well. The vehicle had a curb weight of under 500 lbs. This was motorcycle territory for weight, but it offered weather protection and the familiar controls and operation of a car. They were off to a good start.


In 1955, the initial model was succeeded by the KR200. Curb weight climbed to just over 500 lbs, but the canopy was redesigned, and shocks were now on all three wheels. The new Messerschmitt was powered by a 191cc two-stroke single from Fichtel and Sachs providing enough power (around 10hp) for speeds in excess of 60 mph. The model changes were well received by the public, and the KR200 sold well. In 1957 and the following years, other variants were introduced including a cabriolet, a roadster, and a four-wheeled version called the TG500 produced separately by FMR. Of course, anything produced in Europe in this era was somehow raced, regardless of suitability to the task. The Kabinenrollers diced on the track and even set a land speed record for their class!


As the 1960s began, Messerschmitt was allowed to return to aircraft production, and it quickly wound down the Microcar "sideline". By the time they ended production, some 40,000 microcars had left the factory. This was a mere fraction of the 160,000 BMW Isettas, but a respectable number overall for a one off niche vehicle. Today the Kabinenrollers have a strong cult following internationally and there a clubs on most continents.