Reference: A to Z classic reference: Mabeco – Matador



1928 Magnat-Debon 350

Mabeco 1923-27 Germany
Intrigue surrounds Max Bernhard and Co from Berlin, who began making near exact copies of 600 and 750cc Indian Scouts with engines built by Siemens and Halske. Following successful legal action by Indian, production stopped and Max Bernhard and Co folded to be reformed as Mabeco.

Under this label, they built large American-like 996cc V-twins and 350cc two-stroke split singles, under licence from Garelli.

Maffeis 1903-35 Italy
Milanese brothers Carlo and Bernardo Maffeis were associated with Belgian makers Sarolea, before building their own models with Sarolea engines. From the outset, Carlo entered many national speed competitions as he had done earlier with Saroleas. After WWI, they developed their own 339cc V-twin, which was dropped in favour of proprietary engines, especially Blackburne singles. In the early Thirties, Cesare Galirriberti took over the Maffeis marque. Production ended in 1935. A rare find for the Italian enthusiast.

Article continues below…

Magnat-Debon 1906-58 France
Grenoble factory, founded in 1893 by Joseph Magnat and Louis Debon to build bicycles. Soon after the turn of the century the firm began experimenting with motorised cycles, leading to production, by 1906, with their own engines, as well as Moser and Moto Reve units. By 1912, they were building ohv singles followed, just before WWI, by an ohv V-twin.

Magnat-Debon were advanced thinkers, who developed a telescopic front fork and experimented with wheel rim mounted disc type brake beforeWWI. During the inter-war years they built commuter-type motorcycles and ohv sporting singles, some of which, stripped for racing, did well in the hands of riders like Paul Boetsch. Magnat-Debon was taken over by the Dijon firm of Terrot in c1930.

After WWII, much of the Magnat-Debon range looked like that of Terrot and comprised mopeds, two-stroke scooters and up to 500cc motorcycles. Their last ohv 499cc single, built in unit with a four-speed gearbox, was a cracking touring motorcycle.

Article continues below…

Maico Mobil classic scooter with 197cc engineMaico 1935-87 Germany
Founded during 1926 in Poltringen, near Stuttgart, as Ulrich Maisch and Co, they had no involvement with transport until 1931 when the founder’s young sons began building cycles, leading them to consider motorcycle production. Contracting Maisch and Co to Maico in 1933, they offered their first motorcycle two years later. The 118cc Ilo-engined MP120 was the start of a range of neat two-stroke lightweights, including the favoured 143cc Konsul and, in 1939, the 49cc Sachsonette autocycle.

Encouraging sales led to expansion into a new factory at Pfaffingen and designs for in-house engine manufacture. Not needed for motorcycle manufacture during WWII, Maico made aircraft parts for the Luftwaffe. As the war ended, Maico lost their military business and the allies had dismantled the Pfaffingen factory, leading the brothers to acquire premises at nearby Herrenburg, conveniently located in the less restrictive American sector. Labour was plentiful, second-hand tooling acquired and, with a limited supply of materials, Maico launched the 123cc M125 in 1947. It was the first machine powered by their own designed and built engine.

Sales success led to the 148cc M150 in 1949 and a year later came their first scooter, unveiled at the Reulingen Show in June 1950. The Maico-Mobil was more a 148cc motorcycle encased in bulbous bodywork, than a typical small wheeled scooter. Heavy at 275lb, its engine had grown to 174cc when serious production started in 1951. The same engine, minus cooling fan, went into the new M175 motorcycle.

Article continues below…

Many gold medals in early Fifties ISDTs encouraged even more development. Small motorcycles were dropped, the M175 gained extra power and was joined by the 197cc M200. The Herrenburg factory went over solely to engine manufacture, while the recommissioned Pfaffingen plant took responsibility for frame fabrication, paintwork and assembly. At the huge 1953 Frankfurt Show, Maico dropped another bombshell; the Taifun, a twin cylinder two-stroke designed for comfort and high speed cruising. There were two capacities; the smaller had a 348cc unit, with the larger of 394cc. Needing big handfuls of revs for quick acceleration, the quiet, smooth engine thrived on hard work. Tested by journalists at Montlhéry, the 400cc model clocked laps of 84mph (rider prone) and 78mph (rider upright).

While the rest of the model range was regularly updated, with more power, the move to four-speed gearboxes for some models and even a dashboard radio for the Mobil, development work continued on ISDT factory off-road models and a 250cc scrambler. At the early 1955 Brussels Show, came the Maicoletta scooter, powered by a fan-cooled version of the 247cc scrambles engine. The same unit minus fan also went into a new 250cc roadster, the Blizzard. The Maicoletta was then also offered with a 174cc engine and, in autumn 1957, a 277cc version, which soon became the scooterist’s ultimate speed tool and was a real motorcycle eater.

John Dunn ciompleted the London-Edinburgh run in nine hours on his Maicoletta classic scooterIn a somewhat bizarre move, Maico bought the ailing Champion car marque, and continued manufacture of the 400cc Heinkel two-stroke twin powered car, re-badged as the Maico. The engine was enlarged to 452cc for the later 500 model, of which a Sports Coupe was planned but never went into production. Bodywork was by Baur of Stuttgart, though Maico car manufacture ended in 1957.

Article continues below…

In common with rival German makers, Maico sales fell sharply during the mid-Fifties, but the struggling firm continued to support the annual German ISDT, gaining valuable promotional exposure. While roadster production was continually ‘under review’ – in reality an ongoing manufacturing cost cutting exercise – Maico were rapidly becoming a leading motocross factory, which would prove to give them a new lease of life. Factory rider Fritz Betzelbacher became the first 250cc European Motocross Champion when the class was introduced on an unofficial basis in 1957; the recognised title began a year later.

Scooter stunts and racing success helped keep the Maico name alive and a substantial military contract for 10,000 M250M singles ensured survival. But a ploy by the then UK Maico importer turned sour. In 1961, Maico GB became the UK importer for Honda and soon dropped the import of Maicos. Honda business thrived before, in early 1963, the Japanese giants established their own import/dealership network leaving Maico UK high and dry, with nothing to sell.

Maico scooter production ended in 1966. New models, including the MD50 and MD125 appeared, along with uprated motocross models and the GS175-360cc enduro motorcycles. As rivals floundered, Maico continued to survive thanks to its diversification into the manufacture of agricultural machinery, car parts and animal feed/water equipment. Leading two-stroke tuner Anton Mohr developed a successful 125cc racer from the roadster MD125, encouraging the factory to design and manufacture the 21bhp 125RS ‘over-the-counter’ racer.

Although continuing to produce a range of 50-250cc roadsters, Maico relied heavily during the Seventies on motocross sales, developing a range of 125, 250, 350, 400 and 440cc single cylinder models. Gaining another substantial military contract postponed the company’s demise. Roadster manufacture ended in 1983, leaving only off-road motorcycle production, which ended in 1987 when Maico collapsed financially.

Fritz Betzlbacher on his way to fourth place on his Maico in the 1960 Swiss motocross GPMuch enthusiasm exists for the fast Maico scooters, especially the 250cc and 277cc Maicolettas and many roadster motorcycles; both the 125RS racer and all the motocross/ISDT models are eagerly sought too. For many models the spares situation is pretty healthy.

Postscript: On liquidation Maico was sold to Laurence Merkle who transferred production to Bavaria and eventually restarted manufacture with an off-road only model range.

Maino 1902-56 Italy
Pioneer manufacturer, who suspended production for decades until introducing a lightweight range c1945/48 using, variously, Sachs, NSU and Mosquito engines. Post-WWII examples are rare – but inexpensive – finds for the Italian enthusiast.

Malaguti c1950- Italy
By 1930, Antonio Malaguti had established his San Lazzaro di Saverna, near Bologna, business to build cycles and accessories. Struggling to meet post-WWII demand for cycles, Malaguti put off trying powered vehicles until c1950 when they began fitting Garelli Mosquito cyclemotor engines to selected cycles.

Around 1956, complete mopeds and lightweight models with Sachs engines were introduced, followed later by up to 125cc machines using Franco Morini two-stroke engines. During the Seventies, Malaguti concentrated on 50cc models alone including mopeds, children’s motorcycles, off-roaders and lightweight roadsters. It was a wise decision; production levels rose until by the mid-Eighties they were building over 25,000 machines per year and then, in the Nineties, became a big player in the twist and go scooter markets.

Mako c1953-55 Switzerland
Limited production of Lambretta LC styled scooters with Ilo engine. Good mechanical spares availability from German Ilo specialists.

Malanca 1956-86 Italy
Another Bologna-district based motorcycle maker. Founded in 1956 by Mario Malanca at Pontecchio Marconi, to build attractive lightweights and mopeds. As well as super 50cc motorcycles they designed a 123cc parallel twin cylinder two-stroke which performed well on the road and even better as a racer in national club events.

Later, as well as trying an enlarged 149cc roadster, the company developed a 125cc twin cylinder disc valve two-stroke racer with which established rider Otello Buscherini enjoyed some success at GP level from 1973, including wins at Brno-Czechoslovakia and Imatra-Finland, until his death in 1976 during a 250cc event aboard a Yamaha.

For a time, the Malanca was ‘top dog’ amongst the 125cc sports roadsters developing 25bhp, the same as Walter Kaaden’s landmark MZ racers achieved in 1961. But by 1980, time had stood still for Malanca, and they became outclassed by Gilera, Aprilia and Cagiva, as well as machines from Japan. Spares situation isn’t that special, but these lively pretty lightweights are sought after.

Mammut 1925-33 Germany
Confusion, confusion and even more confusion. One of three distinct, unrelated concerns marketing motorcycles as Mammut, the others being a creation of Freidel Munch, which was sold from 1966-on in some markets simply as the Mammut rather than Munch Mammut, and of Alfred Ostertag, from Meister, who designed two-stroke mopeds and lightweights assembled in Bielefeld and sold as Mammuts during 1953-56.

Vintage Mammut production started with 198cc Baumi engined lightweights, then up to 247cc two-strokes of their own manufacture followed by JAP, Blackburne, MAG and Villiers engined models. From 1929, they opted for pressed steel frame design built under licence from British leaders in this field, Coventry Eagle.

Czechoslovakian firm Manet's 89cc classic motorcycle from the early FiftiesManet 1948-67 Czechoslovakia
From the Slovakian town Povazska Bystricka came first the 89cc double piston two-stroke motorcycle designed by Vincenz Sklenar and then, in c1958, the 125cc Manet scooter. Part of the nationalised Czechoslovakian motorcycle industry, Manet were closely associated with Jawa and CZ. A 98cc version was built too, and c1965 the Manet scooter was renamed the Tatran.

Manurhin 1956-62 France Weapons and munitions factory from Mulhouse (Rhin) who began building and then took over sole manufacture of the DKW Hobby scooter, after which they began using French instead of German parts including Gurtner, rather than Bing, carburettors and the Bosch flywheel magneto was replaced by a Morel. When DKW joined the Zweirad Union and ended Hobby production, Manurhin built their own 75cc engines. Spares are difficult but in an odd, quirky way the slab sided Manuhrin is different and attractive, making it worth the effort for some.

Marc 1926-51 France
British styled motorcycles, powered variously by JAP or LMP engines by the Vincennes based firm.

Mars 1903-58 Germany
Yet more confusion! In addition to this Nurnburg factory, founded in 1898 as a fabrication works, two distinct British concerns also built motorcycles under the Mars label. They were Minerva and Fafnir engined cycles c1905-08 and then Villiers, JAP, Blackburne, Bradshaw and Barr and Stroud engined motorcycles from a Coventry maker between 1923-26.

Before WWI, the Nurnburg factory concentrated on building Zedel and Fafnir engined models, then after WWI came Der Weisse Mars. Designed by Herr Franzenberg, the stunning white motorcycle comprised a Maybach fore-and-aft 956cc side-valve flat twin housed in a substantial sheet steel box section frame. Initially, the White Mars sold well, but, in 1924, the company fell victim to the, then rampant, astronomical inflation in Germany.

Two years later, Mars engineers Karl and Johann Muller secured financial backing and restarted production, which continued until WWII. Initially barred from using the Mars title, the motorcycles, powered variously by JAP, Villiers, Sturmey Archer and Sachs engines, were marketed as the MA then, later, Mars.

1951 Sachs-engined Mars classic motorcycle at showPostwar manufacture restarted in 1950 with a pretty 98cc Sachs engined two-stroke single – coded bizarrely as the S50 – designed by established motorcycle engineer Rudi Albert, who followed this with ultra-low 150/175cc Sachs engined models.

Like many German rivals, Mars was struggling by the mid- Fifties, and production ended in 1958, with Gritsner-Kayser taking over their model range. Der Weisse Mars is one for the well braced vintage German motorcycle enthusiast, but the post-WWII models are attractive, well built, with good Sachs engine spares availability and affordable.

Martin c1909-22 UK
Established Brooklands and TT racer Harry Martin founded the Martin marque in Croydon c1909, beginning manufacture with JAP single cylinder engined side-valve tourers and ohv sports models, adding V-twins to the range by 1911. After WWI, production moved to AG Miller’s works at Willsden, where JAP and MAG engined models were built. Martins – often ridden by Harry – performed well at Brooklands before WWI, but enjoyed little success in the TT. After the war, their success dwindled both on the track and in the High Street. Very rare and expensive.

Martin 1956-61 Japan
Maker of up to 250cc lightweights. They were built in reasonable numbers so sooner or later survivors must wash up in Europe.

Martin-JAP 1929-57 UK
Maker of JAP engined speedway motorcycles built by Victor Martin in his Tottenham, London speedway and JAP engine preparation shop. Survivors are highly prized today.

Martin-Moulet 1953-c54 France, USA, Japan and UK
Claimed to be the perfect briefcase for the commuter, the Martin-Moulet Valmobile transformed from a 25kg slab sided metal carrying case into a mini-scooter in 30 seconds, the maker confidently stated. Originally powered by 60cc Alter two-stroke engines, later replaced by a 98cc Villiers unit. Able to hit 40mph on tiny wheels, this baby ugly duckling carried its designer Victor-Albert Bouffort from Paris to Geneva in a day and Paris to Madrid in three days, as publicity stunts. Built under licence in the USA as the Foldmobile, but in Japan/UK as the Valmobile. Fair survival and sought after, especially by US scooter collectors.

1922 Martinsyde classic motorcycleMartinsyde 1919-23 (1925) UK
Cracking singles and V-twins built by aircraft firm Martin and Handasyde, with – unusually – overhead exhaust valve over side inlet valve design. Aiming at the quality end of the market, M and H bought the V-twin engine design from Howard Newman for a reputed £6000 in 1919, to begin production with a 677cc model, complete with AJS designed gearbox built under licence. The range was expanded in 1922 with a 500cc V-twin, then came the 732cc Quick Six V-twin and finally a 347cc single. Production ended in 1923, but BAT bought the remaining unassembled stock and continued listing models as the BAT-Martinsyde until 1925.

Intended for sidecar work, the V-twins are ideal as fast, early vintage solos, easily able to hit more than 65mph and cruise at 50mph, although the rim type brakes fitted to many survivors need planned use to be effective! Successful at Brooklands and in Twenties reliability trials, enthusiast Chris Tait tuned a Quick Six to do over 100mph. Spares are almost non-existent but enthusiasm abounds for the Martinsyde, which is reflected in values.

Mas 1920-56 Italy
Once great Milan factory, founded by Alberico Seilig, MAS (Motoscafo Anti Sommergibile) began life building a massive range of side-valve 250-600cc single cylinder motorcycles, as well as ohv models from 123cc upwards during the inter-war years. Selected models were adopted military service, including a nice ohv 498cc single, while others excelled in ISDT events as gold medal winners.

Post WWII, models included the ohv 122cc suction air cooled Stella Alpine, as well as more conventional ohv and ohc models up to 175cc. Ideas for a 492cc ohc parallel twin came to nothing, and MAS ended their days assembling and marketing imported 49/125cc Sachs engined scooters.

Maserati 1953-61 Italy
Alferi, Bindo and Ettore Maserati – three of six sons of a railway engineer – began making sparking plugs as Maserati SpA of Bologna in 1914. Younger brother Ernesto joined the company in 1919. The Maseratis had been associated with cars, but not as manufacturers, until they started to build two litre racing cars for Diatto in 1925. A year later, Diatto withdrew from racing, but Maserati continued with the design though sleeved the engine to 1.5 litres. On its first outing, the new Maserati, with Alferi at the wheel, won the 1926 Targa Florio, an impressive start. In 1937 Omer Orsi took control of the company and the Maserati brothers left in 1947 to found OSCA.

1958 Maserati 50cc road/racer classic motorcycleMaserati moved to Modena after WWII, built more racing cars and started motorcycle production in 1953 with 123cc two-stroke and 158cc ohv models, followed by a pair of larger 175cc and 200cc ohv singles. Then, at the 1955 Milan Show, Maserati unveiled a 246cc ohv single with disc front brake; a world first they claimed. Maybe they’d forgotten the sporty ohv Douglas models built three decades earlier! Seemingly ever keen to develop new models, Maserati then launched super 50cc two-stroke racers for road or track and dabbled with ohc design too. As suddenly as they began motorcycle production, Maserati stopped in 1961, to concentrate solely on the manufacture of cars. Examples are currently imported into the UK by specialists giving a few of us the chance to own a Maserati at modest cost, but spares are limited.

Massey (Massey-Arran) 1920-31 UK
Lying second on the last lap of the 1921 IoM Junior TT, Jim Whalley’s 350cc Massey-Arran Blackburne punctured its rear tyre and crashed at Windy Corner. Cut and bruised, Whalley remounted and limped home fifth, tyreless, with the motorcycle dragging its exhaust and stuck in second gear. A tough man, typical of the breed of riders and makers desperate to establish themselves against all odds.

EJ Massey, trading as the Massey-Arran Motor Co Ltd, 52 Bordesley Road, Birmingham, began designing and building motorcycles after WWI, using proprietary components. First they were JAP and Blackburne side-valve singles, then replicas of Whalley’s 350cc ohv Blackburne engined model by the 1921 London Show. Car, motorcycle and boat speedman Kaye Don modified a Massey-Arran for Brooklands racing.

As well as building a wide range of models, including Villiers engined lightweights, Massey is attributed with the design of the first HRD machines for Howard Davies. Although rare, second-hand spares for the proprietary parts surface at selected autojumbles.

BNlackburne-engined Matador classic motorcycleMatador 1922-7 UK
Sporting models based on 350cc Blackburne and Bradshaw engines, designed by noted competition rider Bert Houlding senior. This northern firm enjoyed a fourth in the 1923 IoM Junior TT as well as being favoured by sporting competition riders. Although basic design followed period fashion, some concepts didn’t. As well as pioneering adjustable handlebars which were also marketed by the accessory houses, they tried car-type wheels, spokes and tyres on some models and their ideas on braking were different. They tried two brakes on the rear wheel with no front, front and back brakes controlled by handlebar levers and a single front with two rear brakes. bike


Sign-up to the Classic Bike Hub Newsletter

Get the latest classic bike news and updates straight to your inbox…
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Latest Issue

Newsletter Signup

Get the latest classic bike news and updates straight to your inbox…

You can unsubscribe at any time.