Saturday, February 11, 2012


Recently new motorcycles made to look vintage have become all the rage. This trend covers everything from cruisers to cafe racers to dirt bikes. While many of these bikes are really cool, they just aren't nearly as cool as the original. Here are what I consider to be the best vintage bikes of German origin.

BMW 1967 R60/2
This is my personal favorite vintage motorcycle. It may not be a speed demon, but it is a reliable workhorse. These bikes were made from 1960 - 1969. BMW's of this era were probably the best touring bikes available at the time. Many accessories were available including fairings, over sized fuel tanks, and luggage. Countless miles have been put on R60/2's and they just keep going. The shaft final drive was quite unusual for its day, though not uncommon today. Parts availability for BMW motorcycles is generally good compared to more rare machines. These bikes are not too difficult to find today. I hope to own one myself someday.

Zundapp KS 750
Zundapp was a major motorcycle manufacturer in Germany and in my opinion this is the zenith of their production. After the war they switched to mostly smaller uninteresting designs. These bike entered production in 1940 and nearly 18,000 were produced. They featured side cars with driving wheels and a locking differential giving true two wheel drive when supplied to the Wehrmacht. Very cool in my opinion. These bikes were flat twin engined and featured drive shafts. 

NSU was a giant in the motorcycle industry in the 1950's. For a time they were the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. They had considerable success with racing in the 50's, especially the Isle of Man TT races. They set many records and were highly regarded. The Fox isn't a super fast racing bike, its a small city bike. It does have a nice look to it. I have a tendency to like sheet metal frames and springer seats though. It has a small 98cc 4 stroke engine and was know for being reliable. 

The Neander is a very rare bike, the company only produced around 2000 of them. It was a very futuristic bike for its day, and in my opinion is one of the coolest looking bikes I've ever seen. The company was formed in 1926 and ceased production some time in the 1930's. The frame was of a very unusual design, being constructed of boxed duralumin. It also featured a very strange pivot on the fork. 

Horex Imperator
Horex was a fairly obscure motorcycle maker. The Imperator featured a 500cc parallel twin with an OHC, not a common setup for the 1950's. As far as I know the Imperator was in production from 1951 until 1960, when Daimler-Benz took the company over and halted production. I think I like this bike because it looks very similar to an old mid-60's Honda Dream I used to have.

BMW R50/5, R60/5 and R75/5
The line of BMW's commonly known as "Slash 5's" are legendary. These are one of the most dependable bikes ever made, with many having hundreds of thousands of miles on them. They came into production in 1970 and stayed until 1973 when the /6 appeared. These bikes were far more modern than the /2's they replaced. They featured 12 volts electrics, electric starters, and telescopic forks. The R75 was the fastest production bike available at the time with a top speed of 110 mph. These bikes were all produced in the Spandau suburb of Berlin, where BMW relocated all motorcycle production from Munich in the late 1960's.

For those that don't know, the R90S is one bad ass bike. They are considered to be one of the first superbikes. While the performance would be considered mild by todays standards, these bikes were incredible in their day. top speed was 120 mph. And with a few accessories like panniers and racks, they made competent touring bikes. They also featured distinctive two tone paint jobs, with no two being exactly the same. These bikes were made from 1973 - 1976.

Hercules Wankel 2000
I only learned of this rare bike a little while ago. It almost looks like a typical 1970's Japanese bike until you get to the motor. It is the only Rotary powered bike I have ever come across and that is good enough to get it on this list. It features a single rotor, air cooled, 294cc rotary engine. Horsepower was only 25 or 27 depending on model year. For 1974 and 1975 engine lubrication was by manually adding oil to the fuel tank, but from 1976-on there was a seperate oil tank with a pump.

DKW RT 125
This particular motorcycle is interesting because of it history. It started production in the 1930's and continued in one form or another to be built in Germany until the 1960's. As part of reparations after World War 2, the drawings and some tooling were distributed among the allies. Harley Davidson modified the design in the U.S. into what became the Harley Davidson Hummer. In the U.K. BSA turned it into the Bantam. the Soviet Union also produced a version. DKW also developed the Schnurle two stroke loop scavenging process which made the deflection piston unnecessary and also developed a very good design for the transfer ports.

These bikes are extremely rare today. This was the first motorcycle made under the BMW name. It was the beginning of the legendary boxer twin engine and shaft drive layout that is still going strong on BMW's today. These bikes were only made from 1923 - 1926, so there are very few people living that have had the pleasure of riding one. The bike was fairly advanced for its day using a wet sump lubrication system while most others had the archaic total loss system still in place. It had a rather large for the time 486cc engine that put out 8.5 hp, which may not sound like much, but was good enough for 59 mph and 78 mpg.

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