Once riding season begins, the posts fall behind a bit. The annual visit to Oley for the AMCA swap meet took place in April. It is always a good excuse to ride (see Oleyonics), and never fails to entertain. 2016 continued the streak. There is always something German for sale despite this being a predominantly antique American meet. This year there was an Adler and an Imme in addition to several BMWs. There are also plenty of vintage Japanese machines scattered about, which adds to the sense that they are becoming much more popular among restorers. As usual, Excelsior machines had a healthy presence, and looked cool with their inline 4 engine layout. In the "never seen one of those before" category was a 1950s Puma motorcycle manufactured in Argentina, and a some interesting Harley Davidson variants such as the cool Sport Legerro from the late 1960s. We all noticed what seemed like a dramatic reduction in British bikes and parts at the event. A few Triumphs, and a few BSAs were about the extent of it. Quite the contrast to the Gathering of the Nortons a week prior. There was nothing on the Velocity shopping list this year, just a chance to walk around and marvel at the machines and their owners....
In the fast lane of an interstate highway, very bad things were about to happen. I was helplessly drifting in what seemed like slow motion, across the single yellow line that marked the median, and I could see the rumble strips just inches away. I had ridden on rumble strips before, but at maybe 40mph tops while going down the shoulder to avoid an accident, or at the direction of the local constabulary. This was not that. It was 75mph, and I had no idea what kind of traction or control would remain once I hit the strips. The assumption was that there would be none. Even if I survived the rumble strips somehow, the concrete barrier was another 12 inches away. In that 12 inches was the collective refuse and detritus of a typical American interstate. Rubber marbles, candy and gum wrappers, pieces of retread truck tires, cigarette butts, etc. And momentarily, me and a perfectly good motorcycle.....
The last time I had been in a situation like this, I was in Wyoming. There were no clues, as the road stretched arrow-straight across the mid-western plains where there were no trees to let you know visually that the wind was picking up. In fact, the first indication was a tractor trailer which veered toward me as I passed it in the fast lane. Once I passed the nose of the truck, I felt the crosswind as well. Then it gradually increased in intensity from a mild sensation of pressure on the right side, to a force that required me to lean into it. Not good. It was buffeting my helmet from the side, and moving cars around in their lanes. Very not good. The GPS said next exit 17 miles. I slowed down hoping the reduction in gyroscopic effect from the wheels would lessen the impact. It did. A little. I am not sure what I looked like from behind, but I thought that I was leaning enough in compensation to be close to touching down the luggage.
And then it seemed to ease a bit for about a mile. There was very light rain, and I felt glad to have survived. That is when the gusts started. They came without warning and blew me right across my lane. Fortunately, there was no one in the fast lane. Everyone with sense (and a few thousand pounds of weight) had probably pulled over. I am not sure how adrenalin works throughout the body in a fraction of a second, but I am glad it does. I weighted the right peg and leaned once more to the right like a Moto GP rider about to scrape knee pucks. I wrestled the bike back into the slow lane, and rode the very right edge. And then it was gone, and the bike almost veered off the road. @@##$!!&$%! Surely this is a tornado. Just about any motorcycle training tells you to avoid a death grip on the handlebars. My grip was such that I probably deformed them. This is dangerous. The next gust hit, and I leaned hard again. Speed was down to about 40mph. The light rain blew sideways with the gusts, as if someone was alongside me turning a power washer on and off. All the while, the plains looked perfectly calm on either side of the highway. All the while, the mountains ahead in the distance promised rays of sun and warmth.
It stopped 4 miles later. It stopped, but I refused to trust the calm, bracing for the next gust that never came. In another 5 miles I took the next exit and went straight to the nearest solid building. It was among the most terrifying miles I have ridden. Until now.....
Slow motion ended. The shoulder rumble strips introduced a sudden noise and vibration that scared the stuffing out of me, even though I knew it was coming! I instinctively weighted the right peg hard, and pushed on the bar. The bike moved back into the lane, and I quickly got over to the right lane and reduced speed. This cross wind was more constant once it started, but I was in Pennsylvania this time, not Wyoming. Regardless, I was not taking any chances. Next exit 2 miles.
Friedrich Rometsch was a German coachbuilder based in the Halensee section of Berlin. The company was founded in the 1920s when classic coachbuilding was still in its heyday. The basic idea was to select a chassis (usually complete with drivetrain), and then marry it to a custom made body from your selected coachbuilder. Of course, only the well heeled client could afford this process, but the end result was a unique vehicle (or one of few).
Fast forward to the postwar period, and Rometsch joined many others in using the Volkswagen Beetle chassis and drivetrain as a platform. VW happily sold this platform to a variety of coachbuilders such as Karmann, Beutler, Porsche, Reutter, and Hebmuller. It was a simple and sturdy chassis with a great flexibility to increase overhangs and power. Rometsch was perhaps the first though, to introduce a production model rather than true one-off customs. They produced a four door sedan that was popular as a taxi, but they also produced a handsome cabriolet called the Beeskow. Romaine Beeskow was chief designer for Rometsch in the late 1940s, after making a name for himself developing cabriolets for Austro-Daimler, Maybach, and Erdmann&Rossi. The cabriolet body was mostly his own design pitched to Rometsch in 1949, so when it finally got approved for production, his name became the model designation.
Production versions of the roadster first went on sale in 1951, had many distinctive features for the time. Among those features were aluminum body panels for light weight, "eyebrow" accents over the fenders later seen on Mercedes cars, and extensive use of chrome trim (at least for a European car). The Beeskow was very well received, and went on to win the prestigious Golden Rose of Geneva at the show in 1953. This success had not escaped the attention of VW CEO Heinz Nordhoff, who promptly prohibited the sale of the chassis to Rometsch. Rometsch purchased them independently, and VW countered by prohibiting that as well. Rometsch then converted customer purchased cars, and even exported some to the sole US dealership in Hollywood, California where a few made their way into the hands of Hollywood stars. However, purchasing full cars only to strip them down to the chassis was not cost effective, and so began a decline.
The ultimate damage however, was done by the introduction of the VW Karmann Ghia. Here was a good looking coupe on a longer VW chassis with Italian styling, and all the benefits of a factory production model. And at a good price. Karmann then executed the coup de grace by hiring Beeskow away from Rometsch in 1956. He helped them design the cabriolet version of the Karmann Ghia. The Rometsch Beeskow ended production the same year. It is estimated that only 170 cars were produced in total, making them pretty rare.
This winter was not bad. Besides a few periods of super cold, we managed to slip in rides here and there. They were short, but they were rides. However, it was winter, and there is a psychology to when the riding season begins. Riding friends have points of demarcation, like the first time you don't turn on the heated grips, or the date of the Equinox, or as soon as the salt is washed away.
In these parts, an unmistakable official launch of the riding season is the Gathering of the Nortons event at Washington Crossing. Organized by the Delaware Valley Norton Riders (DVNR), it is certainly the premiere gathering of the Norton marque in the area and has been featured here before (see the Gathering of the Clans or Gathering 2015). It is always great to see multiple variations of vintage Nortons rumble in. Commandos are always most plentiful, but this is also the place to see Dominators, JPNs, ES2s, Atlases, and more.
But this event has grown to become much more than just a Norton event. It is a British bike event, to the extent that this year a regional Triumph dealer showed up with the new Thruxtons on display. This show is more about vintage iron though. Old Triumphs, Velocettes, BSAs, Matchlesses, and such formed the core of a large show field.
Surrounding the core is a crazy wonderland of hundreds of machines from all over the world. A Bultaco circled the field early in the day before the crowds gathered leaving a light mist of two stroke haze hovering above. The first sighting on the road of a Ducati 900e Desmodue, a hot rod Honda CBX, a distinctive blue BMW K1, a Super Cycle, a pristine Suzuki Water Buffalo, a Benelli Cobra, and on and on. Forget Mods vs Rockers, we had Sears vs Wards with an Interstate and a Riverside in attendance ! BMWs peppered the field with the Red Toaster, the two-tone R1150RS, the aforementioned K1, a few /2s, and an orange RT to name a few. As usual, this event exceeded expectations with the unveiling of winter projects, and the return of nice specimens from the region under their own steam. At the Moto Equinox, trailers are not welcome.
It happens every year. The calendar says April and two events immediately spring (pun intended) into focus. The first this year is the Hershey Porsche Swap Meet. It landed early in the month, which meant that we were caught off guard with preparations. Well..... actually... We are always caught off guard, but this year it sounds more plausible. The combing of the basement, and the sorting of the parts was not completed. The cleaning of the car was not completed. This was no way to begin a pilgrimage.
But it happens every year (see Hounds of the Basketweave or Hooked on Hershey). The typical pilgrimage begins with an awakening at zero dark thirty. This is followed by a hurried spate of last minute loading up and then a departure to meet fellow pilgrims, get coffee, drive a couple hours, and get to the gates of the temple before opening time. So there we were, sitting in a long line of vehicles with engines turned off, watching the sky go from black to grey to the lightest shade of blue. And then the gates opened, and in we swarmed like locusts upon a leafy crop.
Some selling, some buying, some finding their sacred place. The day is long, but the bargains go early. Best to sprint around and cover all bases, then make additional laps at an increasingly more leisurely pace. A Half hour after opening, buyers are returning to their cars to unload precious purchases. A set of 1971 Fuchs, or a 2.0 motor for a 914, or a 924 steering wheel. Others are pulling Radio Flyer wagons with a few choice items on board. 356 bee hive turn signal lenses, and triple Webers in need of a full rebuild.
As things brighten up and warm up, it becomes apparent that this is going to be a perfect spring day. You can tell because the cabriolets start to arrive in the Concours area, and the Targa tops come off. The early devout pilgrims give way to those that stopped for a decent breakfast or just slept until a decent hour. A school of 928s (they are sharks after all) roll in, and the non-show Porsche only parking lot begins to fill up and wrap around the event.
If you needed to see an example just like yours, or just like yours was, or just like yours wants to be, this is the place. If you are looking for Porsche unobtainium, this is the place. If you are looking for new old stock, or a superior modern version without the flaws, this is the place. If you want to gauge the price of almost any model of vintage Porsche this is the place. If you think you know what you are talking about and want to be tested, this is the place. If you just want to wander around looking at 900 or so of the world's most iconic and beautiful cars, this is the place.
And then somewhere around 3pm, Porsche city begins to clear just as fast as it appeared. Tents come down, trailers get packed, cars head out, and suddenly, it is a mostly empty giant parking lot again. We head off for a bite and a beer and swap stories about the deals and the rare finds, and the ones that got away. But one thing is not in doubt, we will make this pilgrimage again next year.
For a maker of farm equipment, Hans Glas GMBH has some very interesting and critical connections to the car and motorcycle industry (see BMW 2002 Touring). This particular connection revolves around their decision in 1950 to enter the motorcycle industry by producing a scooter. It was said that Andreas Glas was inspired by a trip to the Verona International Agricultural Fair in 1949. Prototypes appeared soon after, and in 1951 the first production units went on sale. They were branded Goggo, and featured a fully enclosed design similar to Italian scooters of the time. They were offered in 125cc, 150cc, and 200cc displacements, with associated increase in power and top speed. All featured telescoping font forks, spare wheel, 12 liter tanks, and 12 volt electrical systems.
The 200cc versions offered 4 speed transmissions versus the 3 speed on the lower models. There was a 200 Deluxe model which offered a slightly longer wheelbase, and load capacity. A sidecar version was added soon after, and then in 1953, a 3 wheeled utility model was introduced to tackle industrial needs. The 3 wheeler was available in a variety of configurations. Goggo never made it to the US, but there were attempts as the Ad above indicates, and a few have made their way in over time. Over 46,600 units were sold over the five year period from 1951 to 1956. Glas then ceased producing scooters in order to concentrate on the microcar and delivery vehicle markets with their Goggomobil brand. Glas eventually became part of BMW in 1966.
On the heels of the Neue Klasse sedans, BMW saw the need for a larger sedan that would comfortably seat 5, and yet would be performance oriented. They began working on the E3 series in 1965, The 2500/2800 CS machines were already available in the late 1960s, but they were coupes. The first of the sedans appeared in 1968 with an L designation for long wheelbase. In many ways, this was the first 7 series. The machines used twin Zeniths and generated 170+ HP and 185 ft/lbs of torque. They shared the look of the twin headlight front fascia, but had a more rounded rear. The competitive target was the Mercedes mid-size sedans, and the E3 compared well with luxury appointments but more of a driver's car. The US version of the E3 was given the name Bavaria. It featured options for leather, power sunroof, power windows, and wood trim.
The body was unit construction with longitudinals for greater structural support. This was in part key to the handling. In addition, it had 4 wheel independent suspension and McPherson struts up front, and semi-trailing arms in the rear. Coil springs over shocks grace all four corners. The new sedans had discs at all four corners. It had the legendary smooth straight six and handled autobahn speeds without issue except for some reported wind noise above 90mph. The trunk has copious amounts of room, and it has a generous greenhouse.
In 1971, the 3.0S was introduced, which was more of a performance variant. A 3.0Si fuel injected version continued the trend of the sedan outperforming the more stylish and celebrated coupe. In 1973 a new 3.3 liter version was introduced. The E3, and particularly the 3.0S and Si variants, combined the luxury appointments of the Mercedes and Jaguar competitors, outperformed and out handled both, and established dominance of the Uber sedan category. As Road and Track put it in 1973, "For those who might not know, what BMW did, in essence, was to combine the function of a sedan with the handling, braking, and acceleration properties of a sports car. Ironically, the end result was a luxury sedan, that performed better than most sports cars."
Size Matters. Within the bounds of your immediate family, you are probably a major player. A big fish. Any move that you make can have a material impact. Without you, the unit is destroyed or significantly diminished. At work, or at your place of worship, or in your circle of friends, you are probably not as impactful. Important, but the group probably survives without you. In your town, you may not be important or even known to very many. And so on, and so forth. Scale is important. Perspective is important.
At the dealership, I was treated like a valued customer. They processed the rental with ease, asked if I needed gear, went over the BMW F800GS as if I had never ridden one before, and generally offered VIP levels of attention. Multiple people came over to ask where I was heading, to point out the coffee station, to offer tips, and to say what a great time of year this was to ride in the region. I am sure it would have been different if I had been there during prime time, but I was still impressed. I suited up and headed back to the hotel. It was good to be on two wheels. The wind, the power, the maneuverability, the looks of envy from four-wheeled travelers. The motorcyclist is indeed someone special, whether that is because of perceived risk, freedom, individualism, or just being in a minority on the road...
Dawn is always my favorite time to be on the road. The relative quiet, the infinite possibilities of a day yet to fully begin, the awakening, the rapidly changing sky and landscape. It is magical, and the miles pass blissfully.....After you leave the town of Williams, the road becomes two lane highway. It was not heavily trafficked, so you could travel at 70+ mph. There were ample places to pass the few motorhomes, cars and minivans heading north. The F800GS easily accelerated around them. On either side of the road were open light brown plains full of scrub brush that stretched for miles toward the distant hills. Cattle or horses grazed in a few spots, and the occasional cluster of aging mobile homes broke the monotony. In many ways, a typical desert southwest landscape. An hour later, you reach the park gates. Still nothing unusual. You park and shed your gear. Nothing yet. You follow the paved path and see glimpses of an unusual sky. Then you round a corner and.....wow !!
The Grand Canyon is beyond impressive. Even the second or third time you visit. It is an inverted mountain range where nature has used the full palette of textures and colors, blended with time. And the amount of time is hard to comprehend. A visiting son asked his father if it was older than grandpa. Oh yes, his father replied, more like the dinosaurs. The child nodded the nod of someone who acknowledges, but cannot possibly comprehend. The size is also hard to comprehend. It instantly reduces you to a speck. You are a mere pixel on nature's high resolution Jumbotron. Your life, less than a measurable unit of time. You are anything but a VIP.
Geology, chemistry, and other sciences have solid explanations for everything you can see, but the whole is more than science. It is like looking out at the ocean or up at the stars. The concepts of time and scale are intellectually understood, but they seem insufficient. Perhaps we are missing the point. Native peoples have simply held this place as sacred for thousands of years, and still do.
Vultures circle on currents of air that suddenly dip and rise like a roller coaster. Hawks emerge from the perfect camouflage of the cliffs to swoop down toward an imperceptible speck of movement. The sun paints the scene in the muted tones of shadows or the bright reflections of the vibrant varied surfaces. I sit looking out across the canyon until more people start to arrive. Most stare slack-jawed at the first sight. You can see them shrink in size and importance as they take it all in. I mount up and head out along the south rim. There is no other form of motorized conveyance besides a motorcycle that would be adequate for this. You need to be exposed to the elements, to get closer to the edge, to hear what the wind is saying. There are less crowded vistas here that are no less spectacular. A few have no one around....
It is at these points that I begin to understand. There are many lessons that this place delivers to the receptive, but one stands out. The biggest canyon to be crossed is the reconciliation of your own desire to be significant in some way, with the reality of your insignificance.
Although there is a pretty famous vintage motorcycle auction held in Las Vegas each January, it is not typically a Mecca for vintage two-wheeled machines. It has plenty of motorcycles, but customs, badgers, and cruisers are more prevalent in a town known for glitz and glamour. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find a small cluster of vintage machines inside a Mega Harley Davidson dealership. It included the former race machines of luminaries such as Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts, Steve Baker, and Paul Smart. It seems fitting that Bikini fairings are a good way to depict these classic racing machines..
Back in 2011, we did a piece on the Neue Klasse machines entitled Birth of the Bavarian Sports Sedan. It was focused on the BMW 1500, which was the precursor to the car featured here. Everybody now has a sports sedan, but 50+ years later, BMW still ranks among the elite in this category. This video on the BMW Neue Klasse by Petrolicious takes us back to the beginnings..
The city of Las Vegas is not known for being understated. It is the embodiment of glitz and glamor. So when you find an auto museum in town, you would be forgiven for thinking that it would be all about the outrageous end of the spectrum and the cable TV shows. Purple 0strich seats with neon orange piping and sequins. Dollar sign hood ornaments and chrome wheels sized for a Euclid. Psychedelic Ferraris and day glow Bentleys. And in some cases you would be correct. A few places listed under museum have half a dozen novelty vehicles as decoration for one of the Casino bars. The Auto Collections did not promise much more, as it indicated that most of the cars were for sale. It sounded more like the Volo Museum that we visited a few times. Entertaining, but hardly catering to Classic Velocity core interests. To add to the pre-conceived notion, it was on the fifth floor of a casino.
However, we are pleased to say that we were wrong. There was no neon paint or novelty cars anywhere. In fact, the only thing that sparkled was a Bradley GT, which had period correct brown metal flake paint. The rest of the collection was made up of a variety of quality cars, with a surprising number of German vehicles. First, the obvious. You should have guessed that there would be Porsches, but the models were a shock. No modern cars, but a perfect 11k mile 72 911E Targa, which had a commensurate lofty asking price of $250k. There was also a factory 924 GTR race car, one of 17 made. $375k would take that one home ! That sum of money could also buy a beautiful Pebble Beach shown 1939 Horch Phaeton in grey and black with red interior. At the other end of of the spectrum was an unrestored VW Super Beetle. A new VW Rabbit Cabriolet Wolfsburg Edition with 11 (yes, eleven) miles was not for sale.
A few Mercedes SLs were among the collection including a 1971, and a 1987, both in immaculate condition. There were also a couple of SSK Replicas. If those were too mundane, you could step up to the Sauber Mercedes Group C Prototype for a mere $750k. Not to be left out, Audi (although the Horch technically qualifies as well) was represented by a Quattro Trans Am car. Very Nice. BMW was only represented in the collection by a 1936 319 Cabriolet. All told, a healthy contingent of Teutonic machines. That is not to say that other Marques and nationalities were not well represented as well. Ford, Chevy, and Dodge had cars from the 50s to the heart of the muscle car era. MG, Morgan, and British Ford upheld British honor. In particular, there were 4 Ford RS2000 cars including an Evolution model. The curator clearly likes these Group B cars. Although a Ferrari, a Lamborghini Espada, and an Alfa Sprint Speciale were included, Lancia was the prevalent Italian marque. The cars ranged from an Appia, to a Delta Integrale (there goes the Group B theme again), to a Martini prototype. I am leaving out many other cars, but since many are for sale the museum is likely to look different whenever you visit. And that visit should be well worth it.
I was pumping gas while turning sideways to shield myself against the wind and light rain. This pump was missing the convenient notches that would have allowed you to free your hands and return to the shelter of the vehicle. It was 38 degrees, but felt much colder with the wind. It was late at night, I was tired, and had 3 more hours of driving before I would be home. It was slow going with the trailer. You couldn't take the faster route because it involved parkways, and you spent most of the time just above the speed limit anyway due to the precious cargo. Why was this worth it, I contemplated? The gas pump was particularly slow, giving me a chance to review what lead up to this moment....
The ad was from Craigslist. It surfaced using one of those Apps that let you construct a saved search and alert you when there are new items matching the criteria. I have turned off the alerts since lots of people now stuff their craigslist ads with 100 keywords to get people like me to drown in false positives. However, I do periodically peruse the search results manually, and on this occasion, there was an ad which was either a scam, or a guy not too facile with grammar or a computer. There was no picture. The Ad was short, the wording was vague, and the price was excellent. The vehicle, however, was 16 hours away according to Mapquest (then the industry leader in map software). On Monday, I called the number, and got Henry.
Henry was a man of few words. He answered each question with the minimum necessary word count. He seemed rather disinterested in selling the vehicle. However, he did confirm the price, warning that it was firm, he answered questions to fill in some detail, and said he would be around anytime I wanted to come see it. Great deal, but too far away, and too costly to ship. Game over, back to work. Then 2 days later, on Wednesday, Henry calls to honor my place as first in line since he has another buyer interested. He emails me two grainy pictures that look ok, but pictures are worth a thousand lies. I pass. Game over, back to work. Thursday evening, Henry rings back. The other buyer fell through, I am the only other interested person, and he needs to get the vehicle gone before Monday. Oh, and he has a new, lower, final price, if I can get it before Monday. He is much more sociable at this point. I tell him I will call him back before noon Friday. I need to sleep on it.
The last thing I could do was sleep. How could I take advantage of this potential deal? How could I become more confident that this was not just a waste of time and money? I searched the Interwebs for transport options. Expensive, and ridiculously expensive if you wanted pickup right away. I emailed a buddy in a neighboring state. Out of town. I looked at flying in, moving it to a storage place and flying back. Expensive short notice flights and then the storage cost, plus the same need to get it back home. Then, somewhere in the part of the brain stem that has reacted for millennia to the combination of frustration and desire, the idea emerged. Why not just go get it yourself? The rational self responded immediately. Because it is 32 hours of driving stupid, and that is if you don't stop, and by the way, you can't leave until Saturday because of that appointment, remember? Not to be outdone, the insane self calmly retorted, yes you can do it, you have 44 hours between the time you can leave, and the time you have to be at work, giving you a full 12 hours of stop/sleep time. Piece of cake. Just because you are insane, doesn't mean you can't do math. The rational self torted (what is the opposite of retort anyway?) that several other plans for the weekend would need to be dashed, that you really didn't have enough info to make this a sure bet, and that the weather forecast was lousy for big chunks of the trip. The insane self reminded me that extra parts were included, and then he kicked rational self in the groin......and so it went.
In the brilliant sunny light of a new day, it all became clear. I would drive there and back with the trailer, I would secure this deal for just the few hundred in gas and food that it would cost for the marathon. I informed Henry that I would see him early Sunday morning. All I needed was a good nights sleep Friday, and a cooler full of snacks and drinks. What actually happened was a few calls to fellow Gearheads, a bunch more research online about the particular model and year, some playing with map routes, some work-related matters, and a not so good nights sleep. Then I got on the road. The fastest route was the interstate, Hours upon hours of numbing highway. Four hours, gas. Rain. Four hours, gas again. More rain...... and so it went.
After a couple hours of sleep, I met the seller, wrapped up the transaction, loaded the vehicle, and got back on the road. For some reason, an hour going home is longer than an hour getting to the destination. Fatigue has some time-altering properties if it could be properly harnessed. And weather can do the same. Rain. Interstate. Gas. Interstate.....and so it went.
The pump handle clicked, indicating that the tank was full once again. I hurriedly replaced the nozzle and got back in the truck. I shuddered and turned up the heat. It was 3 hours to home, I was tired, and I had cargo that was not running, needed much work, would never be worth a lot of money, and that I traveled a thousand miles one way to purchase. I took a swig of some lousy hot coffee and smiled. And miles to go before I sleep.....Insanely rational.
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.
It is winter here in the north. There is salt on the roads, The Philadelphia Auto Show is a great excuse to visit the city, walk around and look at cars, and eat a real soft pretzel with mustard. Nuff Said.
The Adler M200 was introduced at the Frankfurt show in 1951. It was a twin cylinder with alloy heads, helical gears connecting the primary drive to the gearbox, a wet clutch, and an innovative approach to sealing the crankcase. The M200 was well regarded by the press, but just 2 years later, Adler bumped the displacement up to 250cc, and created a real star. The perfectly square bore and stroke created a smooth engine, and a more rigid frame enhanced handling.
In 1954, sporting versions of the 250 run by privateers managed multiple top ten finishes. Those RS250 versions reached top speeds of 120mph. A few of them added water cooling to maintain full performance as the engine got hotter. By 1955, this began to change top tens into podiums and victories. However, the timing was bad. Adler was battling the rapid decline in motorcycle sales as cheap cars became available. They had also absorbed a struggling TWN in 1956, exacerbating the decline. They eventually were absorbed by Grundig, who only wanted the typewriter portion of the business and ceased motorcycle production in 1958.
But that is not the end of the story. Amazingly, tuners and privateers continued to campaign the RS250. Men such as Dieter Falk, and Willi Klee pushed performance and created more top tens in the Isle of Mann TT, and the 250cc world championship. For more on Adler see Flight of the Adler.
Nobody asked for this. Not in a Porsche. Not in 1967. Some say that this was the emerging influence of Sales and Marketing. Some say it was just being responsive to US customers who had to deal with traffic, and who were lumbering along in high gears at low revs. Some say it was preparing for an inevitable full automatic (Porsche did call it an Automatic). Regardless, it was a relatively surprising option for the Porsche 911 in 1968. The idea was pretty simple. Allow shifting without using a clutch. Eliminate that pesky third pedal. This was not born out of an avalanche of complaints about coordinating the clutch pedal. There was no such barrage, at least not from 911 owners. Porsche was not losing sales to Corvette because people did not want to change gears. Porsche was doing quite well.
From an engineering standpoint, this was interesting stuff. Developed by Fichtel and Sachs, the gear lever actuated a switch, which operated a vacuum servo, which operated the clutch. A torque converter prevented stalling (along with the choke/throttle handle between the seats) and allowed the driver to start in any gear. There were 4 forward speeds labeled L, D, D3, and D4. There was also a "Park" setting which fixed a countershaft gear in position. Operation was often described as odd or quirky. The lever was sensitive to touch, and to drive in a sporting manner, you needed to keep your hand suspended above the lever. This gearbox would be fine in a VW beetle or a Karmann Ghia, but not efficient in a pure flagship sports car. Period Porsche literature described the gears as follows :
L (Low): For ascending and descending steep grades or for slush, mud and snow.
D (Drive): Normal driving from 0-60 miles per hour. For rapid acceleration, the transmission can be shifted through all ratios like a typical manual transmission.
D3 & D4: For highway cruising. D4 is essentially overdrive, while D3 can be used for passing and downshifting under braking.
P (Park): This is necessary since due to the torque converter there is no mechanical link between the engine and transmission.
R (Reverse): Acts as it would in an automatic. It can only be selected if the car is at a complete stop. Slight increase in engine speed may be necessary to actually move the car.
The press was mixed. Car and Driver said "So we’re unhappy. And we’re unhappy because the 911 is still something of a standard for judging roadholding and ultimate cornering ability." Road and Track liked the speed of shifting, but thought the car sounded like "A GM City Bus". Sports Car Graphic said "Putting an automatic transmission in a Porsche is like artificial insemination: it's no fun anymore." Motor Trend said "We'll agree with Porsche that the Sportomatic is easier to shift......But do Porschephiles resent shifting?" Motor was more positive, stating "...it doesn't detract at all from the pleasures of fast driving on twisty roads....easy to drive for those who spend a large time motoring in particularly dull conditions.." Autosport indicated that "It has proved unexpectedly popular in Europe...Only an idiot would attempt to compare the Sportomatic with the five-speed box.."
In 1972, the Sportomatic was strengthened by using the type 925 with a case similar to the 915. In 1975 it was reduced to 3 speeds and strengthened once again. It remained an offering until 1979 when full automatics were offered. Of course today, a semi-automatic transmission is common even in economy cars. Porsche went on to develop Tiptronic, and PDK, while paddle shifting is now acknowledged as the fastest means to get from one gear to the next for any marque, and in F1 at the pinnacle of Motorsport. When looked at in that light, the answer to the question that nobody asked, is now the best answer to the question of how to shift.
The story of the split between BMW and EMW after WWII is well known, but a similar story impacted other manufacturers as well. The Simson (see The Simson Saga) factory was badly damaged during the war, and part of the rebuilding effort moved under Russian-control in the Suhl area of East Germany. They founded Awto Welo (car and motorcycle) which became abbreviated to AWO, but essentially they made Simsons. Tooling was also shipped back to Russia where more replicas were made.
The main products under the AWO brand initially were small mopeds. In 1950 at the Leipzig Spring Fair, AWO introduced the 425T model, which was a single cylinder, 250cc, 4 stroke, shaft drive machine producing 12hp. It featured a plunger rear suspension, and bore more than a passing resemblance to the BMW R26. They entered production in 1952, and were generally well-regarded. They also produced a Sport version called the 425S. This version had a rear swing arm and dual shock suspension. It also produced an upgraded 15.5hp. Variations of the machine were also produced for road racing, enduro racing, and special uses. A uniquely faired version was successful in competition in East Germany. It was modified with dual overhead cams to produce over 30hp. In total, the factory produced somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 of the 425 models over its ten year life, mostly for distribution throughout the eastern bloc.
The combined use of the Simson, AWO, and Simson Suhl brands, caused a real mixture of machines using either or both to be released, so it is common to see both AWO Simson and Simson AWO, as references. However, the East German government ended production in 1962 when it decided that all future production would be two-stroke. The Simson brand continued, but AWO was officially over.
1972 introduced a new platform for the Audi 80 dubbed the B1. It was the replacement for the F103 series covered previously in this blog (see Audi F103). The US and Canada had to wait another year for the introduction in 1973, and the marketing wizards decided that it should be renamed the Audi Fox in those markets. This was the first time that an Audi had been named, and it was reportedly quite the battle at Ingolstadt, The Fox was powered by 2 engines; a 54hp inline 4 cylinder 1.3 liter, and a 74hp 1.5 liter. Both featured a cast iron block with a single overhead cam aluminum head. Enhanced versions of both produced a good variety of power options for the platform. In late 1973, The Fox/80 was also the introduction of the water-cooled front-wheel-drive format that served Audi and Volkswagen well for decades. Audi added a sporty GT model featuring a 1.6 liter engine and putting out 99hp.
The Fox had a handsome design with a generous greenhouse due to relatively thin pillars. It had well=proportioned front and rear overhangs, and looked good in both coupe and sedan form. The combination of front-wheel drive and tall roof created a roomy car on the inside despite relatively small proportions. There was also an "Avant" or estate version with copious amounts of space. Suspension wise, it had torsion bars in the rear with McPherson struts up front. The Fox was good enough to earn European Car of the Year in 1973.
The Fox/80 was a very significant car for Audi and VW. Volkswagen was facing declining revenues as the air-cooled beetle was waning, and the type 411 was not the replacement that they had hoped. The previous Audi platform was showing its age and had roots in even older DKW technology. In addition, the exchange rate was making German exports very expensive. The Fox/80 was in many ways the vehicle that bolstered the company, and allowed it to survive the rough patch. Based on its success, VW even badged its own version called the Dasher. The restyling in 1975 was also well received with square headlights and more muscular styling. A GTE variant was introduced as the top of the line. The cars were now fuel-injected as well. The platform continued to sell well, and persisted well into the late 1970s.
Geier began operations in Lengerich Germany in the early 1900s producing bicycle frames. In the early 1930s they began producing their first motorcycles which utilized 74cc Sachs engines. However, their trikes proved to be much more popular. The motorized tricycles were used for deliveries and even as people carriers. The trikes were equipped with 125cc Ilo engines, and later with more powerful DKW engines. After the war, the company resumed production in 1948 with basic motorcycles bearing 98cc Ilo engines, and then telescopic forks in 1949. However, mopeds were their bigger seller, and they continued production until 1953 when declining sales made them no longer viable. Geier did continue to produce machines for other manufacturers into the 1960s.