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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Tag: Zundapp

Zundapp Citation

Classic Velocity

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IThe Zundapp Citation was clearly a derivative of the Horex Imperator, and was reportedly only branded a Zundapp in order to work around the legal restrictions of the US importer Berliner Motors. The Imperator was a 400cc twin produced in the waning days of Horex before it was purchased by Mercedes (see Horex Motorcycles). The Zundapp version created an oversquare bore and stroke, and overhead cam to reach 452cc and to produce 40 hp. This was enough to market the it as a 500, and claim 100+ mph speeds. Not bad in 1958.  It was named the Citation after the triple-crown winning horse.

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Despite good quality, performance, and design, timing could not have been worse. The bike was introduced into the teeth of a worldwide recession. On top of that, a series of marketing and legal issues impacted sales in the important US market. The Citation was limited to a 2 year life span from 1958 to 1960.

January Janus

Classic Velocity

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The late 1940s and the early 1950s represent one of those periods where the automobile and the motorcycle world were experimenting with hybrids. In this case, a hybrid is referring to a machine which was in part motorcycle, and in part car. A car was a relatively expensive item to purchase, and motorcycles were still mainstream reliable transportation in Europe. Manufacturers understandably wanted to find a combination of these two that would produce an inexpensive reliable machine which would protect the driver and occupants from the weather. One manifestation of that combination was the micro car, and we have covered a few variations of that in this blog such as the Messerschmidt (see The Other Microcar) and the BMW 700 (see Heart of a Bike, Body of a Car).

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One particularly interesting variation was The Zundapp Janus. It was produced in 1957 and 1958, and was the only car ever produced by Zundapp which of course specialized in motorcycles (see Volksmotorrader and The Green Elephant). The Janus got its name from the Roman god who also gave us the month of January. The distinguishing feature of Janus was that he was two-faced and could look backwards and forwards at the same time. The Zundapp Janus was similarly almost symmetrical front to back, and were it not for brake lights and turn signals in the back versus the headlights up front, you might have trouble distinguishing which way the vehicle was going from a side profile. This extended to the seating in the car with one bench seat facing forward and the other bench seat facing backwards. Both seats folded down to form a flat head when needed. A clamshell door opened either end of the vehicle further adding to the symmetry.

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The car was powered by a single cylinder two-stroke motorcycle engine of only 245 cc. It was positioned in the center of the vehicle between the two seats, and would only propel the vehicle to a maximum speed of 50 mph. Zundapp did also produce more powerful versions with 400 cc 2 cylinder two-stroke motors and eventually 500 and 600 cc versions. Some 6900 examples of the Janus were built in all. The short life of the Janus was due to three main factors. First, it was rust prone primarily due to water leaking around the symmetrical quarter windows on the car. Second, it was expensive compared to the BMW Isetta, and other competitors in the Microcar space. Lastly, it was slow compared to competitors and it was probably a terrifying view out the back window as vehicles rapidly approached ! Production ended in 1958 and Zundapp returned to its motorcycle roots. Of course, the Janus has returned for a curtain call with the character Professor Zundapp in the movie Cars...

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Zundapp Sport Combinette

Classic Velocity

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The Zundapp Sport Combinette was produced from 1962 to 1966, and fit into a special new class of Vehicle at the time in Germany. It was based on the prior Combinette which was a single seat step-through model. Starting in 1960, a Moped without pedals but with kickstart was introduced as a new category. It blurred the lines between motorcycle and moped, although displacement limitations kept it closer to the latter. Zundapp took advantage of this by introducing the Sport Combinette. It had two seats, a tubular frame, telescopic fork, 21” front wheel, atraditional tank layout, and even a clutch (of sorts), all consistent with motorcycles. However, the single cylinder 2 stroke engine was only 50cc and top speed matched the new category limit of 40kph. 

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Zundapp K800

Classic Velocity

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The early 1930s found Zundapp struggling at just 5% of the market share and with little in the way of exciting products. Their engineering prowess was well established however, as Zundapp collaborated with Ferdinand Porsche on some volkswagen designs that would later influence the Beetle. The answer to the product dilemma was the K series. This was an all new platform that would serve for models from 200cc up to 800cc. The K series was launched in 1933, and the K800 was the flagship model.

K stood for Kardanantrieb which basically described the drive train. It was a Cardan shaft drive, which was mated to a four speed hand-shift gearbox. The gearbox was in turn mated to a horizontally opposed four cyliner engine that generated about 27hp initially. The first K800 measured 797cc in displacement which grew to 804cc by 1938. The drive train is attributed to engineer/designer Richard Kuchen. The K series included a number of novel ideas at the time including enclosed shaft drive, a unique "strainer" oil filtration system, enclosed crankcase, etc. Front suspension was a girder fork with a single spring, while the rear was rigid without suspension.

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The bikes were beautiful in their design. Pressed steel frames were similar to the BMWs of that era, but the lines and the finishes for both frame and engine were an elegant and complementary combination. This is particularly true of the interface between the fuel tank and the frame, but it also extended to the two-tone fishtail exhaust, and the "ears" for the headlight bucket. Even the vents/intakes for the engine complemented the design. Floor boards were provided for both rider and passenger. In the end, the K series had the desired effect, boosting Zundapp's market share to 18% by 1939. The basic configuration would inspire that of Honda's Goldwing 40 years later. It was also a platform which generated some memorable machines at the time besides the K800 (see The Green Elephant) Having seen one up close at the Barber Museum, you can see why it is considered one of the great designs of the last century.

Front-Facing, Rear-Facing

Classic Velocity

jannus-dwg.jpg

The late 1940s and the early 1950s represent one of those periods where the automobile and the motorcycle world were experimenting with hybrids. In this case, a hybrid is referring to a machine which was in part motorcycle, and in part car. A car was a relatively expensive item to purchase, and motorcycles were still mainstream reliable transportation in Europe. Manufacturers understandably wanted to find a combination of these two that would produce an inexpensive reliable machine which would protect the driver and occupants from the weather. One manifestation of that combination was the micro car, and we have covered a few variations of that in this blog such as the Messerschmidt (see The Other Microcar) and the BMW 700 (see Heart of a Bike, Body of a Car).

janus-doors.jpg

One particularly interesting variation was The Zundapp Janus. It was produced in 1957 and 1958, and was the only car ever produced by Zundapp which of course specialized in motorcycles (see Volksmotorrader and The Green Elephant). The Janus got its name from the Roman god who also gave us the month of January. The distinguishing feature of Janus was that he was two-faced and could look backwards and forwards at the same time. The Zundapp Janus was similarly almost symmetrical front to back, and were it not for brake lights and turn signals in the back versus the headlights up front, you might have trouble distinguishing which way the vehicle was going from a side profile. This extended to the seating in the car with one bench seat facing forward and the other bench seat facing backwards. Both seats folded down to form a flat head when needed. A clamshell door opened either end of the vehicle further adding to the symmetry.

janus6.jpg

The car was powered by a single cylinder two-stroke motorcycle engine of only 245 cc. It was positioned in the center of the vehicle between the two seats, and would only propel the vehicle to a maximum speed of 50 mph. Zundapp did also produce more powerful versions with 400 cc 2 cylinder two-stroke motors and eventually 500 and 600 cc versions. Some 6900 examples of the Janus were built in all. The short life of the Janus was due to three main factors. First, it was rust prone primarily due to water leaking around the symmetrical quarter windows on the car. Second, it was expensive compared to the BMW Isetta, and other competitors in the Microcar space. Lastly, it was slow compared to competitors and it was probably a terrifying view out the back window as vehicles rapidly approached ! Production ended in 1958 and Zundapp returned to its motorcycle roots. Of course, the Janus has returned for a curtain call with the character Professor Zundapp in the movie Cars...

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The Green Elephant

Classic Velocity

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Quick, in postwar Germany of 1951, what was the fastest production motorcycle? Would you believe a machine referred to as the Green Elephant? Neither would I, but such is the case. It was not that unusual to have nicknames in the early 1950s as has been mentioned before (see of Silver Dolphins and Blue Whales). In this case, although Zundapp as a firm has been covered before in this blog  (see Volksmotorader), it had some significant individual machines during its long and life. One of those was the KS601. The KS stood for Kardan Sport, which was a reference to the U-joint used on the shaft drive, and the sport motor. In many ways it was the first modern machine produced after the war by Zundapp, as its predecessor the KS600 was really the continued production of a prewar model. The KS601 had a tubular steel frame rather than the pressed steel of the 600. It had telescopic forks and plunger rear suspension.

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The KS601 also had a 597cc horizontally opposed overhead valve engine, fed by two Bing carburetors. That engine was connected to a four speed gearbox with foot shifter that was in turn translated via shaft drive to the rear wheel. As you can tell by now, this gave it more than a passing resemblance to the BMW. To distinguish itself, Zundapp used color, and the most prevalent was a lime green. The appearance and the color together earned it the moniker the Green Elephant. Despite the name, the 28hp motor (more than a VW Beetle at the time) allowed the motorcycle to reach a 140kph top speed which topped everything on the road at that time. It also sported other innovative features like interchangeable front and rear wheels to balance tire wear.

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The production version of the KS601 hit the market in 1951 to enthusiastic response from the press. The public liked them for their reliability and suitability for sidecar duty. However, as solo machines they were continuously overshadowed by the more popular BMWs. They sponsored an around the world trip, introduced other colors, increased power to 34hp with the sport engine, and in 1957 introduced the elastic model, which had a rear swingarm. It was aimed primarily at the growing American market, but failed to gain any significant traction. Unfortunately all of these efforts failed to substantially change the position of the KS601 in the market. As citizens were once again able to afford automobiles and the sidecar business declined, The Green Elephant fell on hard times. Production of the KS601 ended in 1958 with just over 5000 motorcycles produced over its entire life. Zundapp survived the downturn mostly due to some interesting smaller two-stroke models and scooters, but went on to a rocky future..

Volksmotorrader

Classic Velocity

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What vintage motorcycle hails from Germany, started production in the 1920s, has a flat twin air-cooled motor, is found primarily in black, and has shaft drive? Did you just say BMW? Correct, but there is another. Zundapp. The company began in 1917 as a manufacturer of artillery fuses ( a rare departure from the more common bicycle roots). It was taken over in 1919 by Fritz Neumeyer and moved into motorcycle production in 1921, just a few years before BMW. The first product was a 211 cc two stroke machine with a British motor, but it proved popular and over 1000 units were made in the first year. It became known as the Volksmotorrader, or "everyman's motorcycle". This was many years before the Volkswagen ! At it's peak in the late 1920s, Zundapp was producing about 4200 machine per month !

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The depression hit Zundapp hard, but in 1934 it introduced another small two stroke called the Derby. This machine was also very popular, and the factory struggled to keep up with sales. WWII turned Zundapp into a military supplier just like everyone else, and civilian motorcycle production did not resume until 1947. The KS601 597cc opposed twin was the fastest German street bike of the time reaching 88mph. The factory moved to Munich in 1950, and small two strokes were again the focus with the company achieving some sporting success in the mid 1950s. These small machines along with scooters, allowed Zundapp to survive better than most into the 1960s. Chief among the sales successes was probably the wildly popular Bella scooter.

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Scooters, mopeds, and small motorcycles continued to sustain Zundapp well into the seventies, and sales were healthy. They even won the world motocross championship in the 125cc class in 1973 and 1974, and the ISDT trophy in 1975 and 1976. This contributed to sales of 110,000 units in 1977. However, in the late seventies, financial problems and a rather rapid decline set in. Larger displacements, modernization, and the decline in two strokes all contributed. The firm went bankrupt in 1984.