Zundapp 1921 (1917)-85 Germany
An amalgamation of munitions companies who created ZUNDer (or Zunderund) APParatebau Gmbh in Nurnberg during 1917. Although another German giant, Krupps, was involved with the initial set up of Zundapp, they withdrew at the end of WWI when munitions manufacture ended.
Another Zundapp founder, Dr Fritz Neumayer, restructured the business with a new name, Zundapp Gesellschaft fur den bau von Specialmaschinen. Early post war work included many forms of engineering, much on a large scale, along with the manufacture of agricultural machinery, turbines, hydro-electric equipment and the like.
Rapidly Zundapp gained an excellent reputation for quality engineering and Neumayer decided to trade on his company's expertise for another new venture, the manufacture of motorcycles. Such were their skills of design, manufacturing, quality control and marketing, Zundapp soon became one of the world's largest by-unit, volume motorcycle makers, competing with rival world giants BSA and DKW.
Rather than build small volumes of large capacity motorcycles, Newmayer's vision was a quality-built volksmotorrad (everymans' or the people's motorcycle). Many other German makers had similar aspirations but Zundapp headed by Neumayer, had the resolve to see the project through into profitable large scale production. Zundapp never expected to make huge profits on each machine, instead settling for small unit profits, which when allied to big volume sales, led to huge profits. In turn, Mr and Mrs Everybody profited too as they were able to buy well made reliable transport at modest unit cost. In turn the government also gained as Zundapp helped mobilise the masses.
Zundapp's basic launch model 211cc two-stroke model Z22, unveiled in 1921, was a thoroughly tested and reliable machine from the outset. Built in the style of the UK's leading two-stroke model of pre-WWI days, the 211cc Levis, the Z22 featured side-sprung front fork, forward mounted magneto and direct belt drive. With cycle front brake, belt rim rear brake and simple controls, the new Zundapp was easy to maintain and cheap to run. In truth, many rival models were as good or almost as good but Zundapp had a marketing network quickly in place to ensure they capitalised on a sound product.
Despite raging inflation in Germany, the Z22 was priced at just over 14,000 DM in spring 1922 and 12 billion DM by November 1923. Sales got off to a good start, which by 1924 saw production levels at 3400 annually and rising. Realising the need for more sophisticated machines Zundapp fitted a two-speed gearbox to the Z22 creating the more sporting Z2G.
Fritz Neumayer knew the value of planned marketing and from the outset Zundapps were entering sporting events as part of their effort to gain the best publicity. As well as competing in national events, recording their first win in the 1921 Wurgau hill climb, the company dreamt up many publicity stunts. Soon Zundapp clubs were established across Germany and for many the little two-stroke had become a way of life. Instantly customer loyalty was created and in readiness for repeat sales, Zundapp progressively designed more new models.
Zundapp realised many owners weren't enthusiasts and as such many were ill equipped to maintain their machines. Thus, Zundapp dealers and service centres were created across Germany. By the end of 1924 over 10,000 Zundapps were in use on German roads, served by over 300 dealers, many doubling as service centres. Two years later the Zundapp network had risen to over 1000 dealers. These were no fly by night boys but well planned operations with instant or near instant access to every spare part possibly needed to service, maintain and repair their chosen brand.
With their national dealer network in place Zundapp launched new models. The three-speed 249cc K249, with semi-automatic lubrication unveiled in 1924 was the first of many. It was a mix of new and old parts; the old included the dated side-sprung front fork from the Z22, but within a year these were updated while the engine was reworked to give more power to create the EM250. It was another great model from the Nurnberg factory but on 1 April 1928, the German government shot Zundapp and many rivals in the foot by introducing legislation to make under 200cc motorcycles exempt from vehicle tax and Zundapp hadn't a 200cc machine in their range.
In less than two months Zundapp designed, built and tested prototypes for a new under 200cc model, the single cylinder two-stroke Z200 with forward inclined cylinder. Advertising, press publicity and publicity stunts, including an epic 16-day 3500 mile return trip to Africa, shot the new model to the fore and by 1929 Zundapp were making over 4000 machines per month.
Knowing their four factories set up in and around Nurnberg was cumbersome, Neumayer had instigated the building of a new factory with up to date production lines at Nurnberg-Schweinau, completed in the nick of time during 1928 as sales rose. A larger, faster version of the Z200 (S200) coded the Z300 (S300) was built and gained huge publicity by beating an express train and a Mercedes car from Berlin to Paris – the motorcycle took just 17 hours 40 minutes for the well publicised stunt leaving the big boys gasping in its wake.
Fritz Neumayer's son Hans-Friedrich joined the company in July 1929, an opportune move as his excellent skills as a businessman would soon be called on to help Zundapp survive the great depression.
By late 1929 sales had dropped to just 300 motorcycles per month as Germany struggled with 5.5 million unemployed workers. Having overseen the design and manufacture of the 'people’s motorcycle', Neumayer senior had a similar dream for a 'people’s car' (Volkswagen). Dr Ferdinand Porsche was contracted for design work and three prototypes of the 1000cc with rear radial-type engine, Type 32 car, were built before Neumayer and Porsche decided it was a project to keep on hold until Germany was out of the depression.
Zundapp decided to stick to what they knew best, motorcycles. In turn at the government's request, Porsche designed and developed the more familiar VW Beetle-type car with rear mounted horizontal flat-four cylinder 1131cc engine. A claimed 30 prototypes were built before production started.
During the early Thirties, Zundapp fought for every sale with a selection of models, which had become the S range 200, 300, 350 and 500cc motorcycles; a four-stroke Rudge Python engine being fitted to the largest model. Despite making and selling very small numbers of machines, Zundapp somehow survived the depression to consider new models and new designs. But they would face further problems, too.
First came unit construction two-strokes, the B170 and B200 then deciding to compete across the entire spectre of motorcycles, rather than just the utility end of the market, the famous German engine maker and designer Richard Kuchen was contracted to design new four-stroke models. The results were launched in 1933 comprising the 398cc K400 and 498cc K500 – both horizontally opposed flat twins and the horizontally opposed four cylinder 598cc K600.
Later, a flat four cylinder K800 was introduced. The prefix K represented karden (shaft) drive and all employed pressed steel frames and a gearbox with car-type gear lever operating via chains and sprockets to change gear. At the other end of the market came the DB175 with conventional tubular frame and loop scavenge engine. DKW felt such Zundapp designs breached their patents but happily, although solicitors were drawn at dawn, the matter was resolved.
During September 1933 the 100,000th Zundapp rolled off the production line and gradually as the world pulled itself out of the depression, Zundapp production levels steadily increased with almost 25,000 units being built in 1936. Sadly Dr (Dipl Ing) Fritz Neumayer didn't live to see the completion of Zundapp's revival as he died on his 60th birthday on 10 September, 1935 with Zundapp's best years yet to come. But at least he knew his company was in the safe hands of son Hans-Friedrich.
As the world headed to war, Zundapp continued to uprate existing models and add new machines to their ever increasing range. Following their theme of shaft drive for bigger models, Zundapp unveiled the two-stroke K350, a shaft drive model housed in a trademark Zundapp pressed steel frame. Then later came the DS350, a stylish four-stroke single with good performance, which gained favour with many civilian riders. Against this background of lively development, the company name was changed in 1938 to Zundapp Werke GmbH Nurnberg.
No Zundapp history is complete without mentioning their major contribution to the German war effort. In 1934 the first orders were placed for the K800, in both solo and sidecar trim. Nicknamed by some the 'White Elephant', there was no doubting it was heavy, but it had tree stump pulling power. Despite the ‘Smart Alec’ comments, the military must have been impressed as next they ordered the two-stroke DB200, which was built throughout the war and continued in civilian production until 1951. Another favourite was the 597cc ohv shaft drive flat twin KS600 supplied as the KS600W (Wehrmacht) in solo and sidecar trim to the German forces. In the four years up to 1941, 18,000 were built for the military.
Despite the mentioned models, the Zundapp we all associate with the German military, is the 751cc ohv flat twin KS750. Developed for the military, over 18,000 were built during 1940-44, all with two sets of four forward gears and reverse.
Although ordered as sidecar outfits there have been claims of them ridden solo on rare occasions. On 13 March 1942, the 250,000th Zundapp, a KS750 rolled off the production line, but by then its days were numbered. Towards the end of the war the military switched to the cheaper more economical DKW350.
As the war ended the Zundapp motorcycle works were in a terrible state due to allied efforts and the Americans occupied the areas still standing. From a labour force of 4000 in 1943/44, under 200 were left trying to salvage anything of the factory. Motorcycle production wasn't initially an option so Zundapp made anything they could including axles, potato mashers, small basic equipment and they used up remaining flat twin motorcycle engines for generators.
From this shaky start Zundapp were soon manufacturing components for essential grain mills as Germany struggled to rebuild itself. Earlier, Zundapp Werke GmbH owner Hans-Friedrich Neumayer's sister, Elizabeth Mann, joined in the business.
In a move, which to the outside world must have seemed outright nepotism, leading some observers to forecast the Zundapp's demise, the pair appointed Elizabeth's husband Dr Ing Eitel-Friedrich Mann as managing director. University trained in engineering and political science, he was the man to lead Zundapp to new prosperity.
Soon, Mann felt Zundapp were ready to start building motorcycles again and under the guidance of chief engineer Ernst Schmidt the pre-WWII DB200 (Derby) re-entered production. The company spent time developing a shaft drive ohv 250, the KS250 but decided production costs were too high so instead offered a de-luxe version of the Derby with a little more power and a top speed of over 50mph. Coded the DB201 it was joined briefly by the KS600, in effect a copy of their pre-WWII model. But it wasn't long before Zundapp unveiled the KS601, in effect a sports version with many updates including enough power for almost 90mph, not that quick by 1951 standards for a big motorcycle but it could hold that speed up and down the German autobahns forever!
From building 15,000 motorcycles in 1949, by 1951 two factories were running and the year's output had risen to more than 35,000. To ensure both factories performed to maximum efficiency the successful family team took direct control with Hans-Friedrich Neumayer at Nurnberg and Eitel-Friedrich Mann at Munich. The design team were continually working on new products, some of which never reached the showrooms, like the 100/125cc scooters but others including the 95mph KS601 Sports, four-speed, two-stroke DB203 Comfort and DB204 Norma, became favourites.
Another winning concept was the tiny 48cc Combimot two-stroke unit designed for fitting to a sturdy cycle, either within the frame diamond or over the front wheel. Although rival makers Triumph (Nurnberg) and Hercules used them to make mopeds, Zundapp delayed before building their own. However, the tiny income from each of the claimed 15,000 Combimots made per month, built into huge profits. And the world didn't have to wait too much longer before the first Zundapp scooter, the 150cc two-stroke Bella 150 (R 150), hit the showrooms in 1953. Variants, including larger engines, were developed and when Bella production ended in 1964 over 130,000 had been built.
Zundapp took promotion seriously and their machines performed well in the ISDTs year after year, an event of which the continentals were hugely supportive. New for 1953 was the 198cc two-stroke Elastic – DB205 – so named for its hydraulically damped suspension. At the year's Frankfurt Show, Zundapp stunned many with a new 247cc ohv horizontally opposed flat twin, its engine supported from a pressed steel structure, which deceived some as at first glance it appeared almost tubular. Despite stunning the crowds at the 1953 Show it got no further.
An enlarged Elastic, with 247cc two-stroke engine was unveiled and in late 1953 former Brooklands car and motorcycle racer Kaye Don, established with the Zundapp factory UK Concessionaires Ltd at his Ascot works, to import the company's motorcycles, scooters and mopeds into the UK. This business ran alongside some of Don's other concerns, including the Ambassador assembly lines.
During 1954 the Combimot cycle motor attachment engine was revised from 48 to 49cc and installed in a simple moped frame to make the Combinette Type 408, later a de-luxe version with smaller 23in wheels was launched. In spring 1954 the successful Bella 150 scooter was stretched to 198cc giving the R200 version and in 1955 a new breed of 200cc motorcycles started. Coded the 200S it had an inclined engine of shorter stroke than earlier models, radial finned cylinder head and 100kph (62.5mph) claimed top speed. Later 247cc and 174cc versions were unveiled but a dalliance with the tiny Janus car was halted in 1958 due to slow sales after just 6900 sales.
Selling well, the Combinette was given regular updates and by 1956 was coded the 423S, the same time a tuned version, Falconette – 425, was unveiled. Again a good seller the Falconette was given regular facelifts until later replaced by the KS50. Zundapp continued to excel at the annual ISDT and many other off-road competitions. In late 1957 production KS601 ended. As the Fifties drew to a close Zundapp continued to revise and introduce new models including the Falconette, with increased engine capacity, coded the KS75. Tragically for both the controlling family and the Zundapp business, Dr Mann died in his 50th year.
With production levels at circa 75,000 motorcycles per year additional lucrative income was being made from many other products, including sewing machines. Gradually over the next few years, Zundapp concentrated more on the lightweight classes and later implemented an under 100cc policy, although they were to again make machines over this limit. Not all went well, exampled by the Janus car and 175cc Bella scooter; less than 2000 were built before it was dropped quietly. But the under 50cc Roller 50, Roller S50 and variants, looking as though styled by the Italians, sold well and with many updates, continued in production until the Eighties.
Zundapp continued to support sporting off-road events, just with much smaller but still very successful machines.
The founder's grandson, Deiter Neumayer, oversaw the many world speed record breaking events Zundapp undertook. In 1968 Zundapp machines, ranging from 50- 125cc, broke the Eastern Bloc ISDT domination for the past five years. On the back of this supreme effort, Zundapp designers set to on a new range of roadsters and off-road models. New models included the 70mph KS125 roadster, 19bhp MC125 motocross model and the enduro GS125 – all with the 123cc single cylinder two-stroke engine prepared for each different role. The 123cc engine was used by rivals, including the Rickman Bros, for their 125cc Metisse enduro and motocross machines.
Moving with the times, Zundapp installed a water cooled engine to the KS50, their first liquid cooled roadster. Once again thinking of larger motorcycles Zundapp displayed at the Cologne Show a prototype 350 (326cc), the KS350. Although the KS350 never went into production, the water cooled KS175 launched in 1977, was in effect half a 350. Unfortunately it wasn't as fast as some sports 50s.
From an enviable situation in the mid/late Seventies of building over 100,000 motorcycles per year, sales were down to around 40,000 by 1982, despite still making sound machines. Unfortunately, sound products didn't cut it with many younger buyers, which combined with a declining market, sent Zundapp into a downwards spiral. Despite their problems Zundapp weren't finished yet, new mofas and mopeds for the Eighties included the ZL 25, ZS 25 and ZE 40 of 1983 and the 80kph (50mph) KS80 motorcycle while internationally they had one last surprise.
For the new 80cc European road race championship, Zundapp developed a single cylinder, six-speed racer, which developed a staggering 28bhp at 14,000rpm. Sponsored by Krauser, the team leader Hubert Abold was near unbeatable scoring 75 championship points to win the title by 29 points from Italian Fargeri who rode both Kreidlers and Zundapps. A year later, Swiss rider Stefan Dorflinger secured Zundapp's first World Championship road racing title, again in the 80cc class with the 30bhp RSM 80 GP racing motorcycle which almost hit 140mph. With the same machine, badged for 1985 as a Krauser Dorflinger, took his fourth world title and in effect Zundapp's second. But it was all too late for the factory.
Suddenly another of Europe's famous marques was gone and the liquidators sold off the family silver. Chinese buyers bought all Zundapp's assets They sent trains with cargos of empty packing cases to Germany and 1500-2000 Chinese personnel to dismantle the entire factory set-up, pack it and send the lot by rail back to China. To save cash, the Chinese workers slept, ate and washed in the factory or in packing cases on the trains.
A year later, in 1986, Enfield India began marketing a 'Zundapp K80,' whether this was under a licence from Zundapp created before the liquidators were brought in, by agreement with the liquidators or with the new Chinese owners, is unknown.
Zweirad-Union 1958-74 Germany
In 1958 DKW, Victoria and Express were combined with a main base at the Victoria, Nurnberg factory. In 1966 Hercules joined the group, which was later taken over by Fichtel and Sachs. Production details covered in individual marque histories.
ZWI 1952-55 Israel
Unlikely any survivors but included as Israel's only known motorcycle maker. Lightweight 125cc two-stroke machines, built by former Hungarian road racer Stefan Auslander using proprietary engines, including Villiers.
ZZR c1960- Poland
Moped and other 49cc machines which are also marketed under the Komar brand.
Encyclopaedia of Classic Motorcycles
This book is the culmination of hours of painstaking work by author Richard Rosenthal who has, over a number of years, developed a passion for old motorcycles. Richard is a known to thousands of classic fans around the world. He has ridden over 800 different motorcycles from a 25cc Cyclemaster to a Suzuki Hayabusa. Formerly an archivist of one of the finest collections of photographic and motorcycle related material in the world, now owned by Mortons Media Group Ltd, publishers of this book. It is from this very archive Richard has carried out his research using original sales catalogues, motorcycle magazines of the time and of course one of the largest photographic collections in the world.
The Encyclopaedia of Classic Motorcycles will become the definitive guide to classic motorcycles, from the very earliest attempts to motorise pedal cycles to the latest technology seen in more modern-day machinery. It lists in alphabetical order all the machines you are ever likely to see from the dawn of two-wheeled power right up to the mid 1980’s.
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