By Leon Vlasveld. Pictures from the collections of Leon Vlasveld and NMBA. Thanks to Rik Smits, Eric Porter and Kevin Johnson.
Bromfiets translates as moped. It is the oldest moped magazine in the world.
After my masterpiece in ‘Bromfiets’ in 2017, marking the hundred year anniversary of Zündapp’s foundation, editor in chief Wout Meppelink asked me for a new article, which I considered a great honor.
So, after many years of research, with some help from Alexandra Berghuis, who translated it, I present to my friends all over the world this new old story.
May, 2017. Leon Vlasveld (center) has just laid a wreath on Zündapp founder Fritz Neumeyer’s grave, marking the one hundred year anniversary of the founding of Zündapp. On the left Christian Meier, the former mayor of Egglofstein, and observing on the right Leon’s friend Erich Wirth, who also had a warm relationship with the last Zündapp director Dieter Neumeyer.
It is September 2017, and I, a qualified baker visiting Wirth Bakery in Egloffstein in Southern Germany, am sitting in the, to me very familiar, outdoor café. This is the town where, in 1875, the founder of Zündapp, Fritz Neumeyer, was born. I am trying to read the then oldest known document of the Neumeyer family in my collection, which dates from 1865. I am having a hard time, because for me the document, which is written in Old-German, might as well have been written in Russian.
At that very moment, two people at the table next to me start conversing in Russian. I look up in surprise and observe a cameraman and a journalist. Upon inquiry I learn from local friends that Gabriela, Oleg Popov’s widow, is giving an interview. This world famous clown, who was born in Russia, spent the last years of his life in a secluded existence in Egloffstein. But however intimate his birthday parties might be, he still received every year without fail, a phone call from president Putin to congratulate him.
The day after I decided to visit the Neumeyer tomb and saw to my surprise that, at its foot, an imposing funerary monument had arisen on the flower bed that marked Popov’s final resting place.
The grave of Oleg Popov, close to that of Neumeyer, its playful style perfectly fitting for a clown.
The first Zündapp moped (1953) had a prewar belt drive. The Berliner brothers considered this model a good fit for the US market. “Fifth Avenue, New York” is stamped on the back of this photograph.
Usually a Zündapp engine block
Zündapp has had to deal with more clowns and clones than we might think. Scientists define a clone as the genetically identical offspring of a parent. I define a Zündapp clone as an exact copy of a Zündapp, although we probably have to understand that in a slightly wider sense. Usually it concerns a Zündapp engine block which is being used in a different brand of moped, bicycle, threewheeler or microcar. For instance, an American named Berliner imported a Horex 500, stuck a Zündapp emblem on it and sold it as a Zündapp Citation, in spite of the fact that none of its parts were made by Zündapp. And it went even further than that: even the postwar Zündapp sewing machine did not escape being cloned on Russian soil.
How much similarity do you need? On the left, a Russion copy of the Zündapp sewing machine, provided by Elizabeth Maria Neumeyer, daughter of the founder, and now part of the Vlasveld collection.
The shriner clowns on Zündapp Bella. Note the original Freemason uniforms complete with a Fez hat, which was also worn by the English clown/magician Tommy Cooper. (For info on TC see YouTube Dean Martin birthday party.)
The American Shriner Clowns do not enjoy great fame like Popov, although they do play an important role in the life of their public. In the fifties and sixties these cheerful followers of Free Masonery often used Zündapp Bella scooters for their performances in some children’s hospitals that are run by the Shriners. At that time these scooters were very popular in the US, and immediately upon being bought would be given a ‘clown’s outfit’ by being repainted in pink, yellow and green. It seems that, very rarely, one of these Shriner-Bellas will show up at a trade fair, where they are instantly snapped up by enthusiasts. The Shriner clowns are still very active nowadays, although needless to say they now use more modern forms of transportation.
But we are here to talk about mopeds. Mopeds are defined by their engine capacity, which is 50 cc. We have already digressed by discussing the Bella scooter, so we will not mention the 125 cc Zündapp crossmotor engine blocks, which are hugely popular in the US and are also used in other brands, like the British Sprite crossers, sold in the US under the name American Eagle.
Mike and Joe Berliner proudly present a Zündapp Citation at the 1958 Daytona Bike Show.
The immigrant brothers Mike and Joe Berliner were descended from Hungarian Jews. They survived the Holocaust and imported their first Zündapp moped from Germany into the US in 1953. At that time, they had been importing Zündapp motorbikes for two years. The moped was an almost forgotten model with a belt drive, that because of its 33 kg weight, narrowly escaped taxation in Germany. The Berliner brothers built a company which imported various European brands and ultimately distributed Zündapp in 50 states, to 450 dealerships. In 1984 the company closed its doors, just like Zündapp.
Built in England and sold in the USA under the name American Eagle.
On June 4, 1954, the 100,000th KM 48 cc engine built by Zündapp is given by The General (left) to Dr.Eitel Friedrich Mann, son-in-law of founder Fritz Neumeyer.
The KM 48 and the slightly more powerful KM 50 are the first small two-stroke Zündapp engines.
When the Famel Zündapp Flash is launched in 1987, German production has long since ceased. In The Netherlands it is imported by Matton, but in spite of its modern design it is not a great success.
Famel, the Portugese Zündapp
For more Zündapp “clones” we go back to Europe and start with Portugal. The country, from 1926 until 1974 a dictatorship, was at that time the poorest country in Europe. The government decreed import restrictions in an attempt to keep as much money as possible from leaving the country.
The moped was an important means of transportation and needed to be manufactured in Portugal itself. Famel is one of the leading manufacturers. The company started manufacturing bicyles in the late fourties and has made mopeds from 1952 until its bankruptcy in 2002. It did, however, use engines it bought elsewhere, for a long time primarily from Zündapp. It gave its products great names, like Arizona, Foguetao, Supersport, Mirage, Phantom, Yuppie and Flash. There also was a threewheeler named Carrinha, and its model Tricarro came equipped with a cabin. Even after Zündapp’s bankruptcy in 1984 various kinds of Famels were sold for many more years.
But there are models which one has to study very closely to decide whether it is a Famel or a Zündapp.
Casal engines designed by Robert Erich Zipprich could be mounted on a Zündapp frame without any adaptations, and vice versa.
The Portuguese Famel Arizona is almost identical to a Zündapp from Munich. You would be hard put to find ten differences.
The General gives in
The family company Metalurgica Casal S.A.R.L. in Aveiro, Portugal, initially started manufacturing small, stationary engines in 1953. Very quickly they became a power source for transportation in the agricultural sector. In the sixties João Casal took note of the fact that there was a growing interest in ‘civil’ mopeds, and also in sporty models that appealed to younger buyers. Competitor Famel was doing very well in that market.
Casal wanted to develop new, even more appealing models and also its own engines, but did not have the required knowledge in-house. He made the acquaintance of Robert Erich Zipprich, an engineer whose nickname in the industry was ‘the General’. Zipprich had worked at Zündapp since before the second world war , where he clashed on a regular basis with his boss, Hans Friedrich Neumeyer, the son of the company’s founder. Neumeyer considered it treason when Zipprich resigned in a huff and took employment with arch-rival BMW.
After the war Neumeyer and Zipprich reconciled and the engineer returned to Zündapp as technical director. Undoubtedly a suitable compensation had been discussed…
In 1953, at the head of a technical group, Zipprich succeeded in developing a completely new 1.5 hp two-stroke engine, internally known as KM 48, within six months. It was used wherever propulsion was needed, from mopeds to generators, out-board engines, water pumps, sawing machines, milking machines and lawn mowers. These developments made the General very popular at Zündapp. As a result, his comeback was celebrated extensively in Munich on June 4 1954, after 100.000 engines had been sold within the first year. The company adopted the proud slogan ‘a Zündapp Combimot every 38 seconds’.
Even so, when in 1964 Casal offered him a job in Portugal, he gave in. History does not reveal whether it was the Portugese climate that inluenced his decision or the princely salary on offer… His arrival solved an enormous problem for the Portugese, because João had received a fairly imperative message from above: it was considered very regrettable that the import of German engines was causing currency to leave the country . It would be better if the engines were manufactured in Portugal itself…
The Macal GT, with a sporty design and a liquid-cooled cylinder.
The Confersil was identified under model number 504 for many years. This is an SS, and, according to Zündapp employees, has the best (forcibly cooled) engine block in the brand’s history.
The Spanish firm Sanglas is well-known for its four-stroke two-cylinder motorcycles, but has also manufactured mopeds. With a Zündapp engine, of course.
For this later 504 Sport, the designers seem to have looked at the Yamaha FS1 for inspiration.
The General gives in again
Zipprich got a free hand at Casal, but did not forge any radically new paths. His creations, both the mopeds and the more sporty models and light motorcycles still look slightly German. Also the engine blocks are not vastly different. On the contrary: a Zündapp 517 block can be fitted into a Casal without any adaptations. By this time it should be abundantly clear that the word ‘clones’ in the title of this article has not been conjectured out of thin air. And speaking of clones, one model we still have to mention is the Casal Carina S 170, manufactured since 1966. It is almost the twin of the Zündapp R50 scooter, which from 1964 to 1981 was Zündapp’s longest manufactured moped/motorscooter. In the Netherlands this model was only imported after the legal pedal obligation was lifted.
Undoubtedly Zipprich was missed at Zündapp, but according to sources in Portugal his switch to Casal happened only after consultation between the two firms, and it seems the manufacturer in Munich even received a kind of transfer sum. But nothing lasts forever, and in the end the General gave in again to the lure of big money, in this case German marks again. Zündapp made him an offer which makes the notorious bonus scheme of Air France’s president look like pocket money. Zipprich not only received a princely salary, but got in addition 50 pfennig for every Zündapp that left the factory. With tens of thousands of engines a year that added up to a tidy sum. Might it be for this reason that the General did not retire until he was 72?
The Indian Zündapp Famel Enfield Explorer is legally entitled to use the Zündapp name because of a licence agreement.
The Casal Carina S170 is the Portuguese version of the successful Zündapp R50.
More Portugese brands
Famel and Casal are not the only Portugese brands with ties to Zündapp. In 1921 the firm Macal was established in order to manufacture bicyle parts, but quickly branched out into the motorized bicycle sector, with nationwide success. The first mopeds originated from the late fifties. Usually they were equipped with Sachs or Minarelli engines, but later some mopeds were produced with Zündapp engine blocks.
Confersil is the initiative of an ex-Macal employee who in 1948 started importing Ducati Cucciolo engines, which he applied to his own frames. Different mopeds followed, using both Zündapp and Casal blocks for a while. In the end the company lived on as a bicycle manufacturer until the beginning of this century.
In Spain, MTV Mototrans not only made Ducati one-cylinder motorcycles, but also mopeds.
ASB scooter with a Zündapp front wheel engine with a beltdrive. If you find one, let me know.
In Portugal’s neighbour Spain, we end up at Mototrans, famous because of its Ducati one-cylinder machines which they were licensed to build. In the eighties they also developed the Sport and the Cross, both with a Zündapp 50 cc engine block.
Another rare Spaniard with an engine from Munich is the Sanglas 50, which was produced from 1965 until 1970 in three successive variations. During the first two years they contained an engine block with forced cooling. Sanglas also manufactured 100 cc twin-stroke machines, but is primarily known for its heavy one cylinder four-stroke machine, which was also, though sparingly, sold in The Netherlands.
Mustang Super TT from 1967. Should the tank really not be the other way around?
Enfield without Royal
In India, one may also encouter mopeds and light motorcycles with the name Zündapp. In the early nineteen eighties, the company Enfield (at the time still without the prefix “Royal”) opened a facility for the manufacture of light machines, such as the 50 cc Explorer and the Silver Plus. The 175 cc Fury (always with air cooling) is the Indian variety of its water cooled German example, the KS175. The Asian Zündapps resemble their German examples closely, but lack some of the perfecion which was so characteristic of the original machines.
The same goes, to a lesser extent, for the Zündapps manufactured by Xunda Motor Co in Tianjin, a Chinese company that bought the complete manufacturing facility in Munich after Zündapp went bankrupt in 1984. We will pay no further attention to them, because from a legal standpoint these are real Zündapps and therefore not clones. In addition, they are mostly 80 cc models, and since we already overstepped the mark several times in the beginning of this article, we will colour neatly within the lines as far as these Chinese models are concerned.
There are countless other examples of machines which only engine-wise may be called Zündapps, even though the brand name sometimes is used emphatically. Usually the cooperation stays limited to the purchase of engines. In Germany alone, there have been more than twenty moped manufacturers who used Zündapp engines. Some people will recognize the names Rabeneick, Achilles, Phänomen, Göricke, Hercules and TWN, but names such as Wittekind, Heitmann, Drewer and Goebel, to name but a few,is it reading the nameplates on the letterboxes of a German apartment building.
The primitive Ferbedo scooter (1953) did not meet the Dutch and German legal moped requirements, in spite of its Zündapp KM 48 engine.
Not mature enough
Most of these mopeds and “Kleinkraftrader” (50 cc motor cycles) are of the solid German variety, but there are also creations that would not look out of place in the act of a, er… circus clown. Take for instance the Ferbedo scooter, with a Zündapp KM 48 engine. This vehicle was manufactured in the same Fürterstrasse in Neurenberg where in the fifties KBN Konstruktion Bureau Neurenberg developed the real Zündapp prototypes! Ferbedo, originally a toy manufacturer, was not destined for much success with its motorized version of a children’s scooter. For this the concept was not mature enough. In addition, the Moped legislation was not taken into account.
Another user of Zündapp engines is A.S.B., otherwise known as Arbeitsgemeinschaft Schulz & Beckmann, a forgotten brand from Quelle. In this village, situated close to Bielefeld, not only simple mopeds were developed, but also a curieus scooter with a (Zündapp) front wheel engine and belt drive. It will not be easy to find one, and certainly not on the cheap.
Another curious phenomenon is the Hercules 213, also manufactured under the name Triumph Knirps. Hercules is traditionally synonymous with Sachs, but in 1953 a batch of Zündapp engine blocks was introduced, which were mounted in the simple, but fast (38 ml/h), 213.
Around 1953 the Hercules 213 comes equipped with a Zündapp engine, unusual for this loyal Sachs customer.
In Italy Moto Müller makes, among other things, enduros with German technology, like this six-day version from the early seventies.
Frivolous names from Sweden
From 1937 until the early nineteen sixties the Swedish company M. Berlin & Co., under the brand name Apollo, manufactured motorized two-wheelers, including mopeds with remarkable constructions and with, for down-to-earth Scandinavians, quite frivolous names, such as Monte Carlo, Bel Rock and Bladet. These often made use of Zündapp engines. The firm was ultimately gobbled up by Volvo and after that the moped excesses came to a quick end.
Another Swedish company we should mention is the Trelleborgs Velocipedfabrik, a bicycle factory founded in 1923 by Carl Liljeberg. Beginning in 1952, this firm manufactured mopeds under the brand name Mustang. In its catalogues we find (zoo) names like Mamba, Anaconda, Cross and Cobra, again names we usually do not asscociate directly with Sweden, a country not particularly known for its exuberance. Most Mustangs have Zündapp engines, except for the Mustang Sport, which has a three-speed HMW engine. In 1989 the factory was bought by the Danish bicycle manufacturer Smith & Co., and it closed its doors five years later.
We remain in Denmark a little while longer to look at another bicycle factory, Claudi Fisher, in Aalborg (CFA) which used Zündapp engines in some of its models for the Danish market. However, this venture was not very successful.
This Swiss Zündapp-Belmondo was manufactured between 1971 and 1977, exclusively for the local market.
The likelihood of encountering a Swedish moped on Dutch soil is just about as slim as spotting a Zündapp-Belmondo, a light gearshift moped that was produced between 1971 and 1977, exclusively for the Swiss market. The frame was built by Intramotor Gloria in Verona, after which the various components were assembled by MAHAG in Zürich. The first models only sported the name Zündapp. These Swiss mopeds have at this point in time reached a cult status in their own country.
This Santamaria with a Zündapp drive can be recognized from afar as Italian.
In Bologna, Italy, we end up at Moto Müller, not a very Italian sounding name. In 1950 Bruno Müller, its founder, enthusiastically registered as a motorcycle manufacturer. When in the late nineteen sixties Robecco d’Oglio took over and started manufacturing sporty terrain models with 50, 100 and 150 cc Zündapp engines, the founder was no longer involved.
Moto Santamaria – the holiest brand name a moped could possibly aspire to – from Novi Liguri, manufactured mopeds and light motorcycles from 1951 until 1963. For engines they shopped around; Zündapp being one of their choices.
That concludes our list of Italian brands with 50 cc Zündapp engines, although it might be prudent to add a proviso at this point.
This Dutch Islok came equipped with the Zündapp engine for heavy transport.
If we want to look closer to home, we arrive in Belgium, although we detect a slight Italian odour… In the period between 1958 and 1962 Zündapp importer Moorkens from Antwerp launched Santamaria mopeds under the brand name Cyclon Motos. According to the catalogue, the Cyclonette-Zündapp Super Sport enraptured Belgian youth, which we can well imagine, taking into account the beautiful, sporty design of this in reality Italian machine. A temptress of the first water was the Zündapp Vromm, again a Santamaria under a new name. Unfortunately, the temptation was not strong enough, because the popularity of this brand turned out to be short-lived.
In 1953 one would look dazzling on this Cyrus with its modern tank frame and powerful Zündapp engine.
In The Netherlands a documented nine brands have bought 50 cc engines from Zündapp, but the real number may be higher. We name, in no particular order, DMF, Zündapp Easy, Fongers, G.M.F. Boy, Durys, Typhoon and Islok. AGS and Nijland Sport produced cross-country models. We are not going to describe all these Dutch Zündapp clones, but a few deserve some attention. The Dutch company Knibbe, from Amersfoort, for instance, in the period from 1952 to 1969 tried to give the impression that Typhoon was a Dutch brand, but shopped elsewhere for its components. For a brief period, engines from Zündapp were used, and on August 29, 1954, two of these clone-Typhoons completed the 521 mile journey from Amersfoort to Munich without any problems. This marathon was accomplished non-stop, except for getting gas, in 22 hours and 40 minutes.
At Driebergse MotorenFabriek (DMF) the Nestor – a name which does not suggest a youthful target market – became available with a Zündapp engine. This did apparently not lead to an overwrought production line, as DMF sadly went bankrupt in 1956.
Fongers Duo Sport is a name to raise expectations, althought this moped is not as sporty as it sounds. The Zündapp engine block may be the most exciting component of this industrious two-seater, with a dual saddle on the sheet metal bagage rack. Because of the V-shaped spring elements, we do not have to limit our selection of passengers to the very slim. Sometimes these mopeds have a long, downward sloping bagage rack, big enough for a complete set of camping equipment. “Jeez, Mary, the steering is pretty light this way!”
For the real heavy duty applications one has to go to Islok in Zwolle. They manufacture transportation mopeds and three-wheelers. In 1957, the company made a little detour with a moped called Libelle. This names refers to what the Dutch call a dragonfly, but it was mainly the name of a popular women’s magazine at the time. The Libelle was not very successful, but that was definitely not due to its solid construction.
The Typhoon Zündapp is in reality an Italian Peripoli, but with an essential German touch.
Contrary to what its name suggests, the Fongers Duo Sport is more of a means of transportation for the whole family than a sporty moped. With a passenger on board and a full luggage carrier one does not need any power steering.
Of this GMf Boy from 1957, less than a hundred were made.
The Cyclonette-Zündapp Super Sport is in reality a Santamaria, relabeled especially for the Belgian importer. (See photo of the Santamaria)
Islok builds transportation mopeds and three-wheelers, but takes a detour with the Libelle/Dragonfly in 1957 and 1958. Whether this was an ideal name is open to question.
Zündapp sponsored clown
We started this article with clowns, and we also end with one, namely with the only genuine Zündapp clown. This artist, named Grock, although on his birth certificate he went by Charles Adrien Wettach, was born in 1880 in the Swiss town of Loveresse, was an acrobat and a composer as well as a clown, and played no less then seven musical instruments. In addition to French, his mother tongue, he spoke English, Italian, German, Spanish, Czech and Hungarian. Grock enjoyed a stellar career, and started traveling the world at a very young age. In the nineteen thirties he regularly performed for Nazi leadership, which earned him substantial dissaproval, mainly in his native country. His choice to do this becomes even more astonishing when one realizes that his father was Jewish.
Financially he prospered. For instance, at the age of 48 he could afford to have a mansion built for him on the Italian Riviera. During the later years of his career as a clown, Grock traveled all over Europe with his own circus, which was sponsored by Zündapp. It is therefore no surprise that he was spotted on Zündapp motorcycles on occasion, and that the brand name figured prominently on the circus’ printed programs.
At the age of 74 Wettach decided he had enough of the circus. At the end of his farewell tour a description in Zündapp’s in-house magazine showed a picture of him getting on his Zündapp to ride to his villa in Italy, where he spent the last five years of his life. During his lifetime he made millions of people laugh and his well-known phrases, like ‘Waruuuum’ (Whyyyyy) and ‘Nit mööööööglich’ (Not pooooossible), were long cherished by his many fans, including Elizabeth Maria Neumeyer, the daughter of the Zündapp founder. After retiring, he wrote several books and appeared on Italian television a few times. Not on a Zündapp, but that he dearly loved the brand goes without saying.
Zündapp sponsors the circus owned by clown Charles Adrien Wettach, alias Grock. On the back of the printed program, an advertisement for the brand.
Posthumous thanks to Elisabeth Maria Neumeyer, Werner Adolph Ing Zündapp, and Manfred Klaassen, my Zündapp friend for always.
Special thanks to Günter and Adela Sengfelder, Mom and Dad Vlasveld (see last picture), Archive Rik Smits, Archive Bromfiets, Archive Vlasveld, Drs. Marijke Uittenbroek, A.Grasser.
An overview per country, brands known to me that used Zündapp engines
Leon Vlasveld with his Zündapp DS350 from 1939, never repainted, engine never opened. The only motorbike in the world with pushrods in front and behind the cylinder. This technology comes from the aircraft engine that Zündapp built.
About the author
Leon Vlasveld was born in 1967 in Leiden, a town with the oldest university (1574) in The Netherlands. Wedged between his parents he rode on a Zündapp from his first birthday, his mother told him.
As he grew older he rode a dirt bike through the city, sowing his wild oats. In 1983, with the help of his parents, he bought a brand new Zündapp GTS50 moped and started collecting everyting with the name Zündapp on it.
He was the secretary of the greatest Zündapp club in the world, the Zündapp Veteran Club, and in the period between 2010 and 2012 wrote, together with the club’s president, a book called ‘Zündapp, a great brand’, in celebration of the club’s 25th anniversary.
One of the highlights of his life was the motorcycle tours he took through the USA including Alaska in 2014 and 2018, during 40.000 ml which he attended a Zündapp rally and made many new friends, among whom Pim van den Bergh, the new Zündapp fool.
He wishes his fellow Zündapp enthousiasts much fun in finding, restoring and driving their Zündapps.
Mum and Dad on my 1965 Zündapp Super Combinette with only 3903 ml sinds new.
ZÜNDAPP FOR ALWAYS.
© Leon Vlasveld. Pictures from the collections of Leon Vlasveld and NMBA. All rights reserved.