SUPERSHOW Collection

The SUPERSHOW Collection of Historic Motorcycles in Canada

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Over the coming year we will be featuring an extensive photographic presentation of bikes from the SUPERSHOW Collection assembled by country of origin as originally published in Motorcycle Mojo Magazine, author and photographer Glenn Roberts, reproduced here with kind permission. This presentation of the second in the series features the Bikes of Germany originally published in the Winter 04/05 issue of Motorcycle Mojo Magazine.


admirable characters


by Glenn Roberts



Photography by Glenn Roberts



SUPERSHOW Collection, German Bikes
Adler - BMW - Hercules - Mars - NSU - Victoria

SUPERSHOW Collection, German BikesThe fall issue of Motorcycle Mojo was the first installment of the Admirable Characters series where we had a look at the beautiful English motorcycles housed in the Canadian Motorcycle Heritage Museum. Those fine examples of mechanical ingenuity, with bad Lucas wiring and in some cases oil leaks that may or may not denote that extra hint of character always draw my attention at any bike show I attend.

In this issue we feature motorcycles and scooters from Germany. When comparing the bikes from Germany to England, I find the English bikes seemed to have more mechanical linkages than the German bikes do. The German bikes seem a little more streamlined and less cluttered. This of course is not always the case since some brands used the same parts and engines, sometimes even the same employees. There were many motorcycle manufacturers in the first half of the century and many engineers and designers would hop from one make to another leaving their mark on the design or mechanical style of the motorcycle du jour.

The German motorcycle industry played a small but very important part of reshaping the nation after the ravages of war by providing jobs and much needed transportation. I hope you enjoy Part II of Admirable Characters.

1953 Adler M200 German Motorcycle in the SUPERSHOW Collection 1953 Adler M200
200cc two-stroke twin.
Restored in Germany.
Yamaha based their first twin cylinder motorcycle upon the Adler.

Adler: Like so many of the early motorcycle companies, Adler began making bicycles in 1886 but also started to produce typewriters in 1895. The first motorcycle rolled out of the plant in 1902 but was a short lived production cycle of only a few years. The automobile was becoming the new style in transport causing Adler to delve into car production with the release of their first car in 1900. From the end of the first decade until the late forties, Adler concentrated its efforts on bicycles, typewriters and automobiles.

Forty years later Adler once again revived their motorcycle production to help meet the public's need for affordable transportation. The Adler soon had a good reputation for a comfortable ride with its front and rear suspension and solid frame. The company had some success in the area of competition as well, especially in endurance racing.

Early years in the plant's motorcycle history produced small engined singles which led to the twin cylinder M200. Later the M250 was Adler's best seller which caught the attention of other bike manufacturers and inspired motorcycles built by Ariel and Yamaha.

Adler was acquired by electrical giant Grundig in 1958 and motorcycle production ceased later that year.

Adler, 1953 German Motorcycle
1951 BMW R51/2 500cc opposed twin, part of the SUEPRSHOW Collection 1951 BMW R51/2 500cc four stroke opposed twin.

First Post-War twin utilizing their twin-cam 1938 engine.
Restored in Germany

Twin Cam BMW engine
1951 BMW R51/2 500cc 1951 BMW R51/2 500cc four stroke opposed twin.

1961 BMW R27
250cc four stroke single
Earles front fork

1961 BMW R27
1961 BMW Single R27 1961 BMW R27

1968 BMW R69/S
600cc four stroke opposed twin.
All original.

1968 BMW R69/S - rear view
1968 BMW R69/S - front view Some BMW aficionados agree the R69/S is the last machine that die-hard traditionalists accept as a true BMW. Its line was developed from the R51/2 which began development in 1951

1969 BMW R69 US
600cc four stroke opposed twin.
First 'modern' BMW with telescopic front forks.
Only sold to U.S market

1969 BMW R96 US
1969 BMW R96 US 1969 BMW R69 US

1971 BMW R75/5 750cc four stroke opposed twin.

1971 BMW R75/5 opposed twin
1971 BMW R75/5 750cc Previously owned by 5 time World Hill-Climbing Champion, Canadian John Williams.

BMW
(Bayerische Motoren Werke):

The roots of BMW are carved in history as quality manufacturers of aircraft engines which began in the early part of the 20th century. Today's logo is still a representation of a spinning propeller. Following the First World War, the Peace Treaty of Versailles banned the production of such engines so BMW, who had a reputation as a quality engine building company, began to build engines on a much smaller scale. From their aircraft engine experience, BMW were quite familiar with pistons operating opposite each other so they designed a horizontally opposed two cylinder engine with the cylinders fore and aft. BMW supplied the Victoria motorcycle company with this engine.

In 1923 BMW went on their own to build their own brand of motorcycle realizing the need for quality in the marketplace. Aircraft engineer, Max Friz, designed the more commonly known transverse horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine, an engine design that BMW still uses today more than eighty years later. Within a year of the original engine design they had almost doubled the horsepower due to the introduction of overhead valves in the flat twin.

In the late twenties, BMW broke and claimed for themselves many land speed records including the pre-war land speed record of 174mph which held for 14 years before being broken. In 1939, a BMW won the Senior TT on the Isle of Man with a supercharged BMW. Superchargers were later banned from racing when the sport resumed after the Second World War. The engine design and engineering of the BMW were also well suited to sidecar racing which BMW dominated for almost 20 years.

The start of World War II saw the company resume aircraft engine manufacture for the Luftwaffe and producing the famous R75 sidecar motorcycles to the German war effort. BMW were the pride of the Wehrmacht and soon became the largest supplier of motorcycles to the cause. Rumour has it that the American army was so impressed with the R75 that it asked Harley-Davidson to produce one. Harley-Davidson did produce the XA which was an imitation of the R75. The end of the war saw the Munich factory destroyed and the only other remaining plant behind Russian enemy lines. The manufacturing restrictions were once again imposed and BMW began producing motorcycles with single cylinder engines. Times were tough and the company almost left the motorcycle industry. After a few years the restrictions were eased and production was allowed to progress on larger bikes but all drawings and plans had been lost or destroyed during the war. By dismantling a war time bike to take measurements, new drawings were made and production resumed.

BMW began to use the Earles front fork in 1955. The Earles fork was designed by Englishman Ernie Earles and was basically a reversed swinging arm suspension. BMW was one of the few motorcycle manufacturers to use the Earles system. Some believe that the bulky front end is more comfortable and effective than traditional telescopic forks. This, I'm sure, would prompt much discussion. It is not uncommon to see an Earles type fork on a bike equipped with a sidecar and is still a favourite among many sidecar devotees.

BMW's history is long and intriguing and is the subject of many books. The general basic layout of horizontally-opposed twin cylinder engine, single plate dry clutch, auto style transmission and shaft drive have been in use since the company started to produce motorcycles and are still in use today with the exception of the 'brick' engine.

The 'brick', an in-line 4 cylinder engine, was introduced in 1983 and was to be the predecessor of the flat twin but the public would not let the flat twin die. BMW had no choice but to continue its production and development.

The motorcycles for the general public were not known as the fastest but by comparison they were by no means the slowest. In all aspects they were regarded and still are as very dependable general use motorcycles that can handle a wide variety of terrain and surface conditions. BMW motorcycles are known for the many years of use they provide, resale value and comfortable long distance travel. The BMW marque inspired loyalty throughout their history that very few other companies can lay claim to.

1975 Hercules Wankel 1975 Hercules Wankel
350cc single rotor rotary engine.
This bike is brand new with zero miles.
Previously owned by noted Post-War Canadian racer Ivan Generoux

Hercules: The Hercules company opened its doors in 1903 Nuremberg with their first motorcycle being an engine hung on a heavy-duty bicycle frame as many others were doing. Drive was direct from the engine to the rear wheel via belt. Hercules outsourced engines from many other companies and never did manufacture any of their own engines.

1975 Hercules Wankel Hercules' main focus in its early years were small motorcycle/scooter design with small capacity engines. They began to increase to larger machines in the thirties and even saw some competition and long distance endurance success.

World War II resulted in heavy damage to the Hercules factory and production did not resume until 1950. The company developed a number of new models and stuck with those models for many years which helped them survive a downturn in the German economy shortly after their release. Hercules became one of the largest motorcycle producing companies in Germany.

In 1966 the company merged with the Zweirad Union which also included DKW, Express and Victoria. In 1974 Hercules released the Wankel powered W2000 and were the first company to produce a motorcycle with a Wankel rotary engine.

Mars Stella, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection Mars Stella
150cc two stroke single.
Very rare machine.

Mars: Mars started in 1903 in Nuremberg with the production of motorcycles using Fafnir and Zedel engines as so many other companies did in that time period. The White Mars was designed and released in 1920 and was the companies best known motorcycle. The White Mars employed the 986cc flat twin engine made exclusively for Mars by Maybach. Germany went through some unsettled inflationary difficulties in the early twenties and Mars stopped producing motorcycles in 1924 but did continue production in 1926. Rudi Albert joined Mars in 1950 and designed his most notable motorcycle to date, the Mars Stella, with either a 150cc or a 250cc Sachs engine.

Mars Stella, two stroke
1950 NSU 250 OSL 250cc, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection 1950 NSU 250 OSL 250cc four stroke single.
Restored by Kurt Boeckeman

NSU (Neckarsulm Stickmachen Union): NSU started business in 1873, manufacturing and repairing knitting machines and in 1900 began experimenting with motorized bicycles. They made a crude machine from a heavy-duty bicycle frame with an attached clip-on Swiss-made Zedel engine. Power was delivered by belt to the rear wheel or by conventional pedal and chain. Shortly after their initial offerings they built their own engines and by 1905 had built their own race bikes. Racing proved to be an excellent testing ground and it was well known that the public paid attention to the marques that won races and that in turn equalled sales. The first Isle of Man race in 1907 gave NSU a 5th place finish. Before the end of the first decade one quarter of all NSU sales were in Britain.

1950 NSU 250 4-stroke single, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection Exports to Britain obviously stopped at the onset of World War I and NSU directed their production to manufacture munitions for the German army. NSU began building motorcycles again right after the war and production peaked in 1922. By 1933, NSU was one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world.

War broke out again in 1939 and production this time shifted to produce thousands of bicycles and motorcycles for the German forces. When manufacturing restrictions were loosened after the war, NSU built bikes that continued to break land speed records right up to 1956 with a 210mph ride at the Bonneville Salt Flats on a streamlined 500cc twin.

NSU grew rapidly after Albert Roder joined the company in 1947 as chief designer and was responsible for many of the top selling models NSU had to offer. NSU was considered one of the three most famous motorcycle marques in Germany along with BMW and DKW.

In the early 50’s, NSU engineers had initiated research and experimentation with rotary engines but it wasn't until the company got in contact with Felix Wankel did any progress take shape. NSU and Wankel partnered to develop a rotary engine and in 1961 they announced to the world that they had successfully developed a functional rotary engine.

Motorcycle development was all but forgotten as the company placed more concern on its new engine and their line of Prinz cars and finally in 1963 the doors closed on the motorcycle end of the company closing for good that chapter in the rich history of NSU motorcycles.

The company did release a rotary powered car but it developed serious engine problems. NSU could not sustain the heavy warranty claims and it proved to be the financial downfall of the once great marque.

NSU was absorbed into the huge Volkswagen organization and would never produce another 2 or 4 wheeled vehicle under that name again.

NSU/Lambretta Scooter, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection 1951 NSU/Lambretta Scooter.
Built by NSU under license from Lambretta.
All original.
Complete with souvenir touring badges from European mountain passes.

NSU built Lambretta scooters under contract for Lambretta from 1950 to 1956 producing almost 120,000 units in that time period.

1952 NSU Fox 100cc two-stroke single.
Restored by Kurt Boeckeman

1951 NSU/Lambretta Scooter, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection
1952 NSU Fox, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection One of NSU's most popular lightweight bikes was the Fox. Albert Roder's first design at NSU was the 98cc

Fox 4: The Fox 4 spawned a whole range of Fox models over the years including a few racing models called the Sportfox.

1952 NSU Fox, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection
1953 NSU Max, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection 1953 NSU Max
250cc four stroke single.
Eccentric rod driven overhead camshaft

1953 NSU Max, Badge Detail 1953 NSU Max, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection
The Max was an overhead cam engine designed by Albert Roder. The cam had a unique drive system, the Ultramax, and was patented by Roder who earned royalties for every unit sold.
1953 NSU Quick
90cc two-stroke single.
Restored by Kurt Boeckeman

1953 NSU Quick, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection
1953 NSU Quick, 90 cc 1953 NSU Quick, 2-stroke
1957 NSU Quick Moped, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection 1957 NSU Quick
50cc two-stroke single Moped.
Restored by Kurt Boeckeman

The best selling model for NSU was the Albert Roder designed Quick which in its various models sold over 1.1 million units in just one decade and has been dubbed the 'Father of the current moped'.

1957 NSU Quick 50cc Moped
1958 NSU Super Fox, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection 1958 NSU Super Fox
125cc four stroke single.
Eccentric rod driven overhead camshaft.
Restored by Kurt Boeckeman

1958 NSU Super Fox, 125cc 4-stroke 1958 NSU Super Fox, four stroke single
Victoria: Victoria was founded in 1886 as a bicycle manufacturer in Nuremberg. The company produced their first prototype motorcycle in 1899 and was a pioneer in the German motorcycle industry. It wasn't until 1905 did they produce any motorcycles for sale to the public, these bikes had Swiss Zedel or German Fafnir engines installed. After World War I they continued to outsource their engines as well as using a 493cc horizontally opposed fore and aft twin cylinder engine supplied by BMW. When BMW began building their own motorcycles, Victoria recruited former BMW designer Martin Stolle to further develop the engine.

1949 Victoria Aero, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection 1949 Victoria Aero
250cc two-stroke single.
Twin exhaust system

During World War II, Victoria supplied the Wehrmacht with mainly four stroke singles that they continued to produce long after the war. Heavy demand for motorcycles well into the late forties saw the company prosper and Victoria released the 250cc Aero.

1949 Victoria Aero, 250cc 2-stroke
1949 Victoria Bergmeister, 350cc 4-stroke The V35 Bergmeister was the first post-war four stroke to be developed and marketed by Victoria. The Bergmeister was announced in 1951 but was not released until 1953 along with a new Aero model. The strong V-Twin with a four speed transmission had a powerful driveline and was seen quite often hauling a sidecar. The unique crankcase was large enough to house the carburetor, dynamo, battery and ignition components making for a very tidy engine compartment. The Bergmeister was a financial burden to the company but it was a well accepted motorcycle. Unfortunately it carried a high price tag due to high development costs and when it came right down to it, it was only a 350. The Bergmeister almost bankrupted the company. In 1958 the company merged with DKW

1954 Victoria Bergmeister
350cc four stroke transverse V-twin.
Transmission uses chains and sprockets instead of gears.
Restored by Doug Teague

1949 Victoria Bergmeister, part of the SUPERSHOW Collection

Originally published in Motorcycle Mojo Magazine, by author and photographer Glenn Roberts, reproduced here with kind permission.



stay tuned... more articles over the coming year


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