Sunday, May 31, 2009


I can't say definitively that there are no 4-cylinder Zundapps in the US, but there can't be many. They were produced for a very short period, in small numbers, just before the War, as the once-great marque's flagship model. In common with BMW and DKW, pressed-steel frames were all the rage in Germany in the 1930's, although each of these manufacturers had finished their fling with the material by the end of the decade, BMW abandoning ship first. The advantage of the flat steel frame is the ability to mass-produce the components parts very cheaply, once the initial set-up is considered for the dies and bucks and special presses. It's basically automotive technology, and as these factories (especially DKW) were churning out huge numbers of motorcycles in this period, reducing the amount of specialist handwork required to assemble a motorcycle was an attractive proposition. Motorcycling is a brutal business, and the large companies which have survived all managed to reduce the amount of skilled labor necessary to make their products (see my review of 'Japan's Motorcycle Wars').

A by-product of this novel approach was a confluence of the inherent aesthetic of flat planes of steel connecting two wheels, and the dominant design movement of the day, Art Deco.

This Zundapp hasn't been consciously styled as a Deco masterpiece, but the period of its manufacture and the clean, rounded lines of the frame and engine covers, place it firmly within the boundaries of the movement; there is no mistaking exactly when this bike was made, unlike a tube-frame motorcycle, which could be from the 30's, or the 50's, with little clue barring the common use of telescopic forks by mid-century.

In its Deco-ness, Zundapp has shown great restraint, only adding curvaceous flourishes to the exhaust heat shield and the tank painting, which both stand out as the finest touches on the machine.

And what a machine, a flat-four, with 800cc sidevalve engine, and the legendary Zundapp all-chain gearbox. The cylinders are fed by a single carb, well hidden under all the smooth aluminum, and a shaft drives the rear wheel. It's not a lightweight, but is meant as a luxury tourer or sidecar tug.

The owner of the machine was in the mood for a long ride, so I followed in the Zundapp behind his Ducati Monster, doing my best to keep up! With four small pots, the bike was a doddle to kick over, and mechanically the engine was very quiet. The exhaust note was a subdued rumble as well, with a hint of sporting pretension. All controls were typical of the period, throttle in the right spot etc, but the gearchange took a bit of getting used to. As you can see in the photos, its basically a truck shifter, with a long rod and ball, and there is no 'gate' for guidance. The shift pattern is similar to a car, with 4 speeds. A big gap between second and third gear meant a bit of revving was necessary on the uphill slow bits, but the bike seemed happy to wind out; surprisingly, it has little grunt at low revs, but prefers a good spin-up before the power is strong enough to conquer the hills of Bavaria. Fourth gear seemed like an overdrive until I was truly able to stretch the machine's legs, at which point it became clear that a fast tour or autobahn cruise was entirely possible.

The handling was secure and un-dramatic, save the times I found the center-stand on corners, which didn't happen too easily; there's reasonable ground clearance, and despite the weight of the package, it was perfectly light to flick around s-bends. Somebody at the factory knew their geometry, and the very low center of the engine mass plus generally narrow profile (no heavy cylinder heads sticking out) makes for a lithe machine.

The downside? Well, the brakes were pretty poor, the front almost nonexistent, which might be endemic, or might be a lining issue. I'm used to riding 20's machines with no stopping power, but they are generally 100lbs lighter than this Teutonic bruiser, and I found myself sailing right past my host, anchors fully out, as he stopped for photos or to inquire as to my happiness.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to ride this and the other two 'Bavarian Road Test' subjects; many thanks!

Meyers Lynx, McQueen's Mini Bike

The mini bike shown in the last post is a Meyers Lynx. Here's a page from the Meyers Lynx brochure. If they look like Taco Mini Bikes it's because they were actually made by John Steen.

The Lynx logo is actually the cooler of the two.

Just in case you forgot who Bruce Meyer was, here's an ad from 1969. He was the originator of the fiberglass dune buggy body kits for VW's. He still sells kits today. You might also remember seeing McQueen driving a Manx in the Thomas Crown Affair.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Motorcycle Pictures of the Week - Georgjean and Jared

Here are my Pictures of the Week as displayed on the Motorcycle Views Website. These are taken from the Moto Pic Gallery. See Georgjean with her 1968 BMW R50/2 US. Also see Jared with his 1978 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing. For details, see Motorcycle Pictures of the Week.

If you'd like to see your bike as Picture of the Week, submit a picture of you and your bike along with a description of the bike.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What Sort of Man Reads MCart?

A man of action. A man who lives in the fast lane. The kind of guy who knows where to find MotorCycle entertainment that keeps pace with his lifestyle.

Moto Morini Scrambler now in Red and White

Moto Morini have now released their 1200cc Scrambler in a new red and white colour scheme, together with new accessories.

The factory accessories available are black steel grills to protect the front headlight (£138.00) and alloy skid plate that covers the exhaust down pipe (£287.50), both of which reinforce the bike’s purposeful appearance. Completing the period competition image is a plastic race number holder (in white or black), supplied with steel fitting kit for £86.25.

Ride safe.

Jon Booth

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Isle of Man TT Special 50p Coin

Honda (UK) and the Isle of Man Treasury have officially launched a special 50 pence circulatory coin to commemorate Honda’s 50th anniversary of world championship racing - with the first coin struck by Honda road racer and 14-times TT winner, John McGuinness.

This new coin - available on the Isle of Man from the start of this year’s TT on 1 June - depicts Honda’s multi winning TT rider John McGuinness on a CBR1000RR Fireblade from his record breaking lap in 2007, above the dates 1959 – 2009. The design also contains the 2009 Isle of Man TT logo as well as the Honda Wing logo, highlighting the close association between the two organisations.

Ride safe.

Jon Booth

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

LBSM 5/24/09

Usually the meet is smaller when it's on Memorial Day weekend. As a matter of fact, I thought about not going because of it. Well, not this year. Is it the economy? Were more folks staying in town looking for some cheap entertainment?

This simple form of a chop has made a big come back

My brother's favorite of the day

At LB you can count on seeing a few older bikes

This '29 J model was ridden in too.

This character insisted on posing with this tight shovel, not his. By the looks of the fender, those shocks can't have any travel.

Movie Land Wax museum Dragon Bike replica

While not a perfect replica, it's still very nice.

Nice set up but, I'm getting real tired of bare/unfinished looking bikes. To be fair, maybe it's not done. Primer's OK. You don't need perfect paint or chrome, just no bare metal.

This 47 knuckle's been showing up off and on for probably the last 10 years.

Like it or not, there's always something different rolling in.

A blending of new and old. Evo's are still new to me.

Color coordinated

Here's an interesting bike.

I'll bet it fools a lot of people. The little peeps standing on the backseat didn't like their picture taken.

I don't usually shoot the newer machines but, this one caught my lens. Interesting color.

While not my style, it's fun to look at

Narrow bars and

... knotty pipes

Fixing a cracked pipe mount with tie-wraps.

Lately, I've been just shooting bikes of interest. Maybe next time I'll shoot a few of the seller's spaces plus some that relay the feel and scope of this event.


As regular readers of the Vintagent know, I have a 'thing' for unusual bikes, and a special place in my Pantheon for the Majestic motorcycle from France. I've already given several expository posts on the subject, which you can read here, but here in Bavaria, where all motorcycles seem possible to ride, a freshly restored 1929 Majestic with a 500cc ohv Chaise engine was proffered. My visit marked the premier startign event for this bike, and as the film below shows, the mechanicién knew his stuff:

The Majestic is the physical embodiment of the Art Deco aesthetic, a streamlined torpedo which suggests Speed and Modernity, and although it fails to deliver in the former case, it was certainly and extremely forward-thinking design, an attempt at an 'ideal' motorcycle, whose formula has been echoed through the decades by modern factories such as Yamaha and Bimota.

Structurally, the 'New Motorcycle' (as it was called in prototype form) is built similar to an automobile of the era, with 'C' section steel channels forming the chassis in twin, low rails along either side of the power train, atop which is a shapely light-guage steel body of attractive and curvaceous line. Classic Deco stuff. The engine compartment is covered in a mesh, and the body is louvered along the sides to dispense with heat.

The true innovation comes with the hub-center steering, not unique, nor was Majestic the first two-wheeler to use such, but the execution is modern and works well. Suspension, as on a Morgan car, is via sliding pillars along either side of the front wheel - the rear is rigid. Conventional controls operate the machine, including a hand-shifter, which is a simple rotary device with a knob - no 'gate' for holding the lever in place, just a round boss with Roman numerals indicating the gear (there are III). Steering is via normal handlebar with a push-pull rod connected to the front hub.

So, the important question; what is it like to ride? Sitting astride the machine there is no sense of anything unusual, that one is atop a totally enclosed vehicle with hub-center steering, only the handlebars and extensive (smart too) instrument panel can be seen from the perch. Starting the Chaise engine is a doddle, and a typical 20's bonk emerges from the fishtail muffler. There is valve clatter below the perforated engine covering. So far, so normal.

Moving out, the steering is very light, and has no inertial sluggishness for such a long machine. As the speed rises, one notices a certain pendulum effect at the front wheel, and a light hand is required on the 'bars to prevent a weave. Even with a delicate touch, the front wheel seems, not hunting exactly, but not rail-like in steering - constant minor correction is necessary to keep the plot moving in exactly the right direction. I imagine that a little work perfecting the trail of the steering geometry would cure this minor effect; it's a very small matter for such a radical design, and the road-holding and steering feel true at all times and perfectly stable and safe. As the engine warmed up, I felt completely confident in swift cornering, and was rewarded with a very nice ride with zero drama.

What I wanted, though, was a different engine. The Chaise unit is, I'm sure, perfectly serviceable and totally conventional for the time, but such an innovative motorcycle cries out for a smooth and modern engine, with significant power output. A prototype of a 'New Motorcycle' with a Cleveland four-cylinder engine was shown at the 1928 Paris Motorcycle Show; this would have been a perfect combination of power and engine noise. Unfortunately, the prototype seems to have disappeared, so we'll have to settle for the 'what if'.

Sons of Anarchy Pictures

For those of you here in the UK that are following the great new US biker gang series "Sons of Anarchy" here are some great cast photos:-