Being a vintage motorcycle enthusiast has its pitfalls. First, some vintage bikes are really expensive to buy and to maintain (I’m not big into ‘restoring’, just make them rideable), second, there are way too many of them that are so appealing that the bank (wife) keeps putting limits on what you can buy…”don’t you have enough project bikes already??” and of course, can you even fit one more bike into your shop/garage? In my case…no, on all accounts. Every now and then however, you find a neat little bike that would fit nicely into your (my) collection that isn’t too expensive and really requires very little work. These are the bikes I love to find.
I do want a new Enduro bike but can I afford $7-10K for one? No. Can I ride it to its full potential? Again, No. Would I really rather have a cool vintage enduro? YES. I have had Spanish and Swedish enduro bikes in the past and loved (?) them, but never a German off-roader. Maybe it’s time.
On ebay today I found a really nice Zundapp, and in typical fashion I started doing my research, so here you go…Zundapp history 101 (the Readers Digest version). Founded in 1917, Zundapp was making gun parts, after WW1 they changed over to making motorcycles and in 1931 along with Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, developed the ‘Auto Fur Jedermann’…the car for everyone, Volkswagen. Dr. Porsche preferred the flat opposed 4 cylinder, Zundapp worked with a radial 5 cylinder, that flat four won out. In 1932 there were three prototypes running around and all were lost in the war.
In 1940 Zundapp developed the KS750 model which was used by the German military because of it’s driven 3rd wheel sidecar design. Now here is something very cool about Zundapp, the K800 model was selected as one of the 100 motorcycles of the 20th Century. Why, its mechanical layout showed up decades later from Honda, the Gold Wing. Zundapp designed the horizontally opposed four with a shaft drive in 1933. It’s a beautiful motorcycle.
After World War 2. Zundapp decided they needed to make something more weatherproof than a motorcycle and went back to designing a car. this time they went for pure simplicity. A single cylinder 250cc motor mid engine ( they really did put the motor between the front and back seats but what was really interesting was that the car had a front and back door..literally the front and the back. It was called the Janus after the two-faced Roman god. The car was only made from 1957-58 and less than 2000 of them at that.
There is a lot of great history with Zundapp and it was good way for me to waste another early morning. Zundapp finally went belly up in 1984 but has kept going building Honda motor based small bikes in China and India.
I found a really nice GS125 on ebay this morning, it reminds me a lot of my old Bultaco Matador. This little bike is in great shape for its age. The owner has a slew of extra parts for the bike and there are a lot of internet resources for parts and information. This really would be a great addition to somebody’s (my) vintage collection, it can also be street registered. The little Zundapp has a pretty high price tag but you know what, I’ll bet we have all spent more and gotten less.
Click on the pics below for a little more info and a bunch more pictures.
I love Rickman motorcycles. Don and Derrick took good motorcycles; Triumphs, Honda’s, Kawasaki’s, Montessa’s and made them better. Right now the current owners of the Metisse name are marketing a Steve McQueen Triumph Desert Replica…for some serious cash!!! I mean take out a second mortgage kind of cash….
But…years back you could get a Rickman framed Hodaka 100cc, a Zundapp 125 and a 250cc Montessa. The Rickman versions were light, handled far better than the factory originals and, would certainly give you the edge in any race. If…you had the talent and skill.
This is whole ‘nother story, but look at the Moto 2 class (formerly the 250cc Gran Prix) in roadracing and next year the Moto3 (formerly 125′s) they are all running spec engines, (Honda, quite a marketing ploy if you don’t mind my saying…)
I have done a lot of research on Rickman framed motorcycles over the years but never much about Zundapp…so while researching this particular motorcycle I learned a lot about the German company. While working at a motorcycle dealership, I asked most of the people there if they knew of Zundapp. You can imagine the blank stares I got. I have to admit here that I knew the name but nothing of the company. It’s pretty interesting.
Did you know that before motorcycles, Zundapp made bombs for the German military. They built their first motorcycle after WW1 in 1921, then later on, worked with Dr. Ferdinand Porsche to develop the Volkswagen. Zundapp built bikes ranging from 50-800cc’s and then after World War Two, like many European motorcycle builders, switched to small displacement bikes only. Easy transportation and economy were the key factors in transportation Europe at that time.
Think about this for a moment, after World War 2 we, the United States, were building and importing the biggest motorcycles we possibly could…Harley Davidson’s, Triumph’s BSA’s…and Europe was scaling everything down to be economical because of the cost of fuel. Not much has changed has it?
Ok, back to Zundapp. After WW2 Zundapp brought out the Bella Scooter, a very cool little classic European scooter. Zundapp was still building big bikes, but that market was dying rapidly. The last of the big (598 cc…the model601) was discontinued in 1951. After that time the company only built little scooters and mopeds and Zundapp finally closed up shop in 1984. They were bought up by a Chinese company, Xunda, and eventually, and still. making small bikes using Honda engines. And one more little thing about Zundapp…they are heavily involved with Enfield India. They are building small bikes for the world market.
This Rickman Zundapp I found on ebay is a pretty cool bike but there are a few questions. What color should it really be??? Some say red is the right color but some histories say light blue…quite a debate I find. Here’s the deal, it’s a really cool little bike that if you want to ride lightweight vintage enduros you can’t go wrong. You only need to acquire a few parts…headlight, tail light lens, speedo, and, if where you ride they require them.. blinkers. There might be a few other things you may want to get but all in all this a very unique motorcycle that has a great history.
To find out more, click on the pic’s below. I wish I still rode Enduro’s, this would be fun.
Not a lot of people are familiar with Zundapp motorcycles. Mostly when you hear the name, the picture that comes to mind is that of a small size, but overbuilt in the German way, two stoke motorbike. Very few of Zundapp’s bigger motorcycles made it to our shores. Zundapp was one of Europe’s major manufacturers throughout most of the 20th century. Early in Zundapps history most of the motorcycles were small then in 1933 they started producing the K models in sizes ranging from 200cc to 800cc’s. The KS 750 was popular with the German military for its strength and versatility. It was a flat twin, boxer style 7500cc with a powered sidecar…perfect for fighting a war.
After World War 2, 1951 to be exact, Zundapp brought out their most popular big bike, the KS601. Powered by a 600cc boxer twin it was a favorite among the sidecar crowd and those looking for a sturdy and comfortable road bike that was also resonabley priced. It was affectionately known as the ‘Green Elephant’ When Zundapp was bringing the KS601 to the US, Americans didn’t like the green and also wanted a more comfortable ride, so, we got a red paint job and a swingarm rear suspension in place of the plunger style found on the Euro version. Zundapp built the ‘Green Elephant’ from 1951 to 1958 when they discontinued 4 stroke development in favor of smaller size 2 stroke motorbikes.
As we are heading in fall and winter and some of you have already ended your riding season, it’s time to start thinking about winter projects and this Zundapp I found on ebay today is a perfect candidate. It’s complete, for the most part and it runs, a great place to start. Depending on deep you want to get into it, there are a couple of mechanical issues, like it jumps out of second gear, neutral is hard to find when the bike is running, and the kick start mechanism is hard to operate not insurmountable problems. While researching this bike and Zundapp in general I found a lot of good resources on the net including a good parts supply. So, get this neat old German machine, take it apart as much as you have the time, skill and money for, give it a nice paint job, put some new tires and brakes on it then when spring comes, you’re ready to ride to the nearest German Hofbrau House and have yourself some Schnitzel.
Here’s one little interesting thing about Zundapp I didn’t know until today, in 1931 Zundapp along with Ferdinand Porsche developed the first prototype of the ‘Auto fur Jedermann’…’car for everyone’. The beginnings of Volkswagen, cool huh.
Click on the pictures below to learn more about this great project bike.
What do you do when you wish your motorcycle handled better? Most of us throw on some new shocks, rework the front forks, different tires, maybe try some different handlebars. Some riders go a bit further and modify the frame, make it lighter or change the geometry. All these ideas work well, but if you’re a couple of brothers in England, not well enough.
I can see it now, the Rickman brothers sitting in the pub after a day of motocross racing complaining about how their BSA’s handled. Over a couple of pints they work out some new modifications, then over a couple more pints, new ideas come out. While delivering the fourth or fifth round of pints, the barmaid politely tells the brothers that she is sick and tired of every weekend listening to them bitch about their motorcycles, ” Why don’t you just shut up and build your own?” Everybody in the pub gave the young lady a round of applause, including the Rickmans.
In 1960 the first of the Rickman frames hit the market with immediate success, both on the track and in sales. Everyone saw how beautiful they were, the design features and…they worked!!! Here’s a few interesting things about the Rickman frames. The brothers knew it had to stand out so nickel plating the frames made sure everyone knew you had a Rickman. Next, function…Rickman frames put the engine oil in the frame. Why? For a couple of reasons; lighter overall weight and oil cooling. Your motorcycle handles better and runs longer…both good things in a scrambles race. The main benefit to having a Rickman framed bike was handling, the improvement over a stock framed motorcycle was amazing. I was lucky enough to, one time and one time only, hop off a stock framed Triumph desert sled in the middle of a race, and onto a Rickman framed Triumph ‘not a sled‘. Within one mile I started having delusions of granduer, I was transformed into Steve McQueen gliding across the Mojave as if I were in a movie.
There is a lot more to the Rickman story than I can put here. Companies that wouldn’t sell them motors so they could sell complete motorcycles, the addition of road bikes and the transition to roadracing, innovations like being the first builders to put disc brakes on a street bike (a Rickman framed Triumph Bonneville) in a joint project with Lockheed, their stunningly beautiful fibreglass work…what they did is truly timeless.
There is so much to write about the Rickman’s but, this is all about a 1972 Rickman Montessa I found on ebay today that needs your love. It’s a nice bike that has one big flaw…the Montessa 250 engine doesn’t turn over. Damn. Actually, that’s not a big deal, two stokes are easy to rebuild and don’t cost all that much to get you back on the track. This particular bike looks to me like a good vintage racer and not a museum piece. I’m not a fan of garage queens or museum pieces anyway. Buy this great bike, get the motor going, ride it in vintage events and you will have spent your money well. Click on the pics for more about this very cool vintage racer. I don’t know what the reserve price is on this bike, but if it’s anywhere in the real world, this is a good buy.
And, the last thing here..extra bonus points if you know what the word ‘metisse’ means…it’s Gallic for ‘mongrel’…I think that describes the brothers and their motorcycles quite well.