A tale of in­trigue

The DKW rac­ers and a tale of in­trigue.

Old Bike Australasia - - CON­TENTS - Story Jim Scays­brook with in­put from Eric Williams, Peter Shannon, Nev Stum­bles. Photos Graeme Os­borne, Eric Williams, Keith Ward, Howard Loveder, Glenn Saun­ders.

When Ger­man cham­pion and DKW works rider Ewald Kluge ar­rived in South Aus­tralia in late 1937 with his wife for a se­ries of ap­pear­ances to pro­mote the DKW brand – part of the gi­ant Auto Union cor­po­ra­tion – there was a third mem­ber of the troupe that in some cir­cles, drew more at­ten­tion than the fa­mous 27-year-old rider.

Baron Klaus-Det­lof von Oertzen ac­com­pa­nied the Kluges on the trip to act as in­ter­preter, but was im­me­di­ately un­der ob­ser­va­tion as a pos­si­ble en­emy agent with sym­pa­thies to the Nazi Party. When the brands of Audi, Horch, Wan­derer and DKW – all based in the Sax­ony area of Ger­many – amal­ga­mated in 1932 to form Auto Union, Von Oertzen, who had been Sales Di­rec­tor for Wan­derer, was ap­pointed to the board, where he later be­came chair­man. It is said that Von Oertzen sug­gested the four-ring sym­bol that be­came the over­ar­ch­ing em­blem for the new group and which is still used to­day on Audi ve­hi­cles. How­ever the in­creas­ing ten­sions in Ger­many did not sit well with Von Oertzen, and in 1935 he wisely de­cided to mi­grate to South Africa with his wife Irene (who was Jewish), where he set up in busi­ness im­port­ing the DKW sa­loon cars. He also man­aged to bring a brace of the in­cred­i­ble Auto Union Grand Prix cars to South Africa for pro­mo­tional races at Cape Town and East Lon­don. Ever the en­er­getic busi­ness­man, Von Oertzen also be­gan eye­ing Aus­tralia as a po­ten­tial mar­ket, and was highly in­stru­men­tal in ar­rang­ing the Kluge visit. Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties be­gan closely ob­serv­ing the move­ments of the Baron and Baroness, not­ing that they made con­tact with many Ger­mans while in Aus­tralia (cer­tainly not that dif­fi­cult in South Aus­tralia with its large Ger­man pop­u­la­tion), and that large amounts of money – around £11,000 – were be­ing de­posited into his bank ac­count. It was later al­leged that he was dis­pers­ing funds to in­di­vid­u­als and groups and that he was listed in the ac­counts of the Trea­surer of the Nazi Party of Aus­tralia. He was also ac­cused of pho­tograph­ing strate­gic in­stal­la­tions and try­ing to ar­range for parts of the Aus­tralian coast­line to be filmed from an air­craft.

As a prom­i­nent Ger­man mo­tor sports­man, Kluge was obliged to join the N.S.K.K. (Na­tional So­cial­ist Mo­tor Corps) which had links to the Nazi Party and op­er­ated from 1931 to 1945. “Aryan qual­i­ties” were a re­quire­ment for mem­ber­ship, as was ad­her­ence to the Nazi doc­trine. Kluge wore the NSKK in­signia, which in­cor­po­rated a swastika, on his leathers. Mean­while, back to the real story. Baron Von Oertzen ar­rived in Mel­bourne in Novem­ber 1937, where his wife had been hol­i­day­ing for the pre­vi­ous two months. He brought with him a DKW cabri­o­let which used a 20hp two-stroke en­gine with front wheel drive which he be­lieved could be pro­duced lo­cally. The cou­ple left al­most im­me­di­ately for Perth where they held talks with trade of­fi­cials re­gard­ing sales for DKW. He ex­plained that he hoped that the cur­rency flow­ing out of Aus­tralia would be com­pen­sated by the pur­chase of Aus­tralian ‘wool and raw ma­te­ri­als’ by Ger­many. “We have no gold,” he ex­plained, “and we must try to bal­ance our trade if we are to carry on busi­ness on an eq­ui­table ba­sis.” The Kluge en­tourage set up camp in Ade­laide in prepa­ra­tion for the races at the 14-kilo­me­tre Lo­bethal road cir­cuit on 27th De­cem­ber, 1937. Roughly tri­an­gu­lar in shape and com­pletely bitumen sealed, the cir­cuit ran through the towns of Lo­bethal and Charlestow­n, and had an in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of fast cor­ners and straights with el­e­va­tion changes thrown in for good mea­sure. The DKW team was ac­tu­ally un­der covert scru­tiny from Bri­tish am­a­teur driver Alan Sin­clair, who was also an MI5 agent and was in Aus­tralia to com­pete in the car Grand Prix at Lo­bethal, and much was sub­se­quently made of this cold war tac­tic. Lo­cal press re­ported that the van driven by Von Oertzen con­tain­ing the bikes and gear was adorned with swastikas, but this was ac­tu­ally the NSKK in­signia. The DKW ma­chin­ery con­sisted of three 250cc ma­chines, all fin­ished in sil­ver/cream and all based on the split-sin­gle lay­out de­signed by Ing. Zoller. The en­gine used tan­dem bores with a com­mon com­bus­tion cham­ber and ar­tic­u­lated con­nect­ing rods. A third pis­ton was con­tained in the hor­i­zon­tally-mounted su­per­charger which at­tached to the front of the crankcases. All three of the bikes

dif­fered slightly in spec­i­fi­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to Eric Wil­liams who would later own one of them. “Kluge’s bike had a gear or chain-driven crank for­ward of the main crank­shaft with a ver­ti­cal pump­ing cylin­der (su­per­charger) and an across-the­frame gear-driven ro­tary valve on top, with two Amal Fis­cher Ver­gasser car­bu­ret­tors feed­ing into it, then to the front split-sin­gle cylin­der. The se­cond bike (which was raced by lo­cal Les Fredricks at Lo­bethal) had hor­i­zon­tal for­ward-fac­ing pump­ing cylin­der with two carbs un­der stream­lined teardrop shrouds, feed­ing into it then to the front split-sin­gle cylin­der via reed valves. Both had ‘pis­tol grip’ fuel tanks with sep­a­rate oil tank and pump, with swing­ing arm/plunger rear sus­pen­sion and full width hubs. The “prac­tice bike” (here­after re­ferred to as such) was a 1936 model with hor­i­zon­tal for­ward-fac­ing pump­ing cylin­der with ‘up­side down’ pis­ton in­creas­ing crank­case ca­pac­ity and crank­case com­pres­sion, with two side-mounted carbs feed­ing rear split-sin­gle cylin­der as per a con­ven­tional two stroke. This bike also had a pis­tol grip tank, petrol/oil lu­bri­ca­tion, a rigid frame and girder front sus­pen­sion con­trolled by rubber bands. Auto Union had al­ways ar­gued that as the pump­ing cylin­der was an in­te­gral part of the en­gine they were tech­ni­cally not su­per­charged.”

Visu­ally, the three bikes could be dis­tin­guished by their rear sus­pen­sion. Kluge’s ‘num­ber one’ ma­chine and the se­cond bike rid­den at Lo­bethal by Fredricks had curved tubu­lar rear sub frames with swing­ing arm sus­pen­sion work­ing in­side plunger style spring units. The spare bike had a rigid frame. At Lo­bethal, the rau­cous DKWs ran riot, with Fredricks (who was com­pet­ing in his first road race, al­though he was an ac­com­plished speed­way and scram­bles rider) fol­low­ing home Kluge for a 1-2 fin­ish in the 250cc event in a race time just short of one hour. The 350cc race was run con­cur­rently and Kluge took out that as well af­ter an en­ter­tain­ing dice with Frank Mus­sett’s Ve­lo­cette un­til the Bri­tish ma­chine ex­pired on the fi­nal lap, much to the de­light of the huge Ger­man spec­ta­tor turn out. Two weeks later, on Jan­uary 5th, 1938 at what was known as The Weath­er­board Cir­cuit at Lear­month, north of Bal­larat, Kluge took over the num­ber two bike as Von Oertzen did not want to risk the ro­tary valve bike in the dusty con­di­tions, while Fredricks rode the prac­tice bike. The track was dirt­sur­faced in its en­tirety, and the pair had lit­tle dif­fi­culty in the races. Kluge de­scribed it as “a well or­gan­ised meet­ing but the roads were atro­cious”. On 14th Jan­uary, 1938, the DKW squad was in the Aus­tralian Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory where Kluge set up an Aus­tralian 250cc record of 94.25 mph for the fly­ing quar­ter mile on a stretch of The Fed­eral High­way in Can­berra, just eclips­ing Tom Jemi­son’s pre­vi­ous record. He wanted to at­tempt the fly­ing one mile record as well, but this had to be can­celled ow­ing to rain. On 31st Jan­uary, 1938, the DKW team was at Phillip Is­land for the Vic­to­ria TT on the dusty 6.5 mile road cir­cuit. Again, the 250cc Light­weight and 350cc Ju­nior events were run con­cur­rently, and Kluge again led home Friedrichs in the smaller class, but could fin­ish only third to the Ve­lo­cettes of Mus­sett and Don Bain in the Ju­nior.

Fol­low­ing Phillip Is­land, both ‘race’ bikes were loaded onto a ves­sel in Mel­bourne and re­turned to Ger­many. Eric Wil­liams says ar­chive footage of this ex­ists, which de­stroys the myth that one or other of th­ese spe­cial ma­chines re­mained here. What is cer­tain is that the prac­tice bike with the rigid frame re­mained in Aus­tralia. By this stage Geelong dealer Frank Pratt had se­cured the DKW agency and placed or­ders for the new ‘works’ replica 250cc pro­duc­tion rac­ers (the SS250) that were to be avail­able later in 1938. Von Oertzen gave per­mis­sion for Pratt to re­tain the prac­tice bike on the pro­vi­sion that it be re­turned to Ger­many once the pro­duc­tion rac­ers ar­rived.

Even­tu­ally, one of the new SS250 rac­ers did ar­rive at Geelong, painted black and red, and just to con­fuse mat­ters, Pratt had this re­done in the works sil­ver dé­cor. This had the swing­ing arm/plunger rear sus­pen­sion, but with straight, in­stead of curved tub­ing to the spring boxes. It also had a con­ven­tional, rather than ‘pis­tol grip’ fuel tank. Pratt raced the SS250 at Phillip Is­land in 1940, while Pratt’s usual side­car pas­sen­ger, Ted Groves, rode the rigid frame bike. By 1939, with the threat of war im­mi­nent, port au­thor­i­ties were de­lib­er­ately de­lay­ing the re­fu­elling of Ger­man ships, per­haps in the hope of con­fis­cat­ing them. Kluge had ac­tu­ally agreed to re­turn to Aus­tralia for the Bathurst races in 1939, but that trip was can­celled as ten­sions in­creased. Cu­ri­ously, Syd­ney firm Hazell & Moore ran an ad­ver­tise­ment in the March, 1939 is­sue of The Aus­tralian Mo­tor­cy­clist ad­ver­tis­ing a ‘prac­ti­cally new and never been used for rac­ing’ ‘Real Road racer Su­per Charged Twin Two-Stroke DKW’, which ‘cost nearly £300, now avail­able for only £120’. To fur­ther muddy the wa­ters, a full page story ap­peared in the June 1939 is­sue of the same pub­li­ca­tion, stat­ing that the Syd­ney firm Eric Moore Pty Ltd had se­cured the DKW agency and that a big ship­ment was due in the se­cond half of 1939. This ship­ment was sup­posed to in­clude the lat­est ver­sions of the SS250 racer, but whether any ac­tu­ally ar­rived is doubt­ful. The pub­lic­ity also stated that Kluge would re­turn to Aus­tralia for a se­ries of races in­clud­ing Lo­bethal in De­cem­ber 1939 and Phillip Is­land in Jan­uary 1940, bring­ing with him “three gen­uine ‘TT’ DKW mo­tors… which will be left be­hind in Aus­tralia and will ap­pear at Bathurst next Easter (1940) rid­den by one of Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous TT rid­ers”. Not sur­pris­ingly, given the dec­la­ra­tion of war on 3rd Septem­ber, 1939, none of this sub­se­quently oc­curred*. Kluge, who had sen­sa­tion­ally won the Light­weight Isle of Man TT in 1938 (only the se­cond ‘for­eigner’ to do so) was called up for mil­i­tary ser­vice and as a sergeant, was sta­tioned at Leipzig at the School for Army Mo­tori­sa­tion. In 1943 he was re­leased from this role to en­able him to work in Auto Union’s test depart­ment, but af­ter the war, the Rus­sians de­nounced him as a Nazi and im­pris­oned him un­til 1949. Al­though he re­sumed rac­ing for DKW in 1950, Kluge suf­fered a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent at Nur­bur­gring in 1953 which fin­ished his ca­reer. He died from can­cer in 1964. Dur­ing the war, the Von Oertzens fled to Java, but were cap­tured and in­terred in sep­a­rate pris­oner-ofwar camps. Post-war, Oertzen wasted no time in set­ting up in busi­ness again in South Africa as the im­porter for Volk­swa­gen, and ar­ranged for his Mel­bourne friend Lionel Spencer (Re­gent Mo­tors) to be­come the Aus­tralian VW agent.

Eric Wil­liams says he was told by Don Bain, “some­one in Queens­land brought one (a DKW racer) out from Ger­many for his out­board racer, but its weight and lack of revs (the split sin­gle only revved to 4,700) made it more suit­able for the prover­bial an­chor, and he’d scrapped the rest!” When rac­ing be­gan again in Aus­tralia in 1946, so did the con­fu­sion sur­round­ing the DKW rac­ers. Cer­tainly, the Kluge prac­tice bike was in op­er­a­tion, rid­den at var­i­ous times by Jack French and Bill Day and later by the Jamieson brothers, Bill and Lau­rie. It also ap­pears that the SS250 im­ported by Pratt was also raced fre­quently, firstly by Frank Pratt him­self at Phillip Is­land in 1940, and later by Lau­rie Jamieson at Nu­ri­ootpa in 1949, by Pratt’s busi­ness part­ner Norm Os­borne, and many oth­ers. It is thought the SS250 went to Dar­win in the early ‘fifties where it was raced by Char­lie Lack.

Around 1956, the SS250 sur­faced again in a typ­i­cally un­usual se­ries of events. Al­lan Saun­ders from Al­bion Park, near Wol­lon­gong NSW, was work­ing at he Tullawarra Power Sta­tion with a chap named Arnie Coglan, who hailed from New­cas­tle. Both were keen club­men rac­ers (Al­lan had won the Se­nior B Grade at Bathurst in 1954 on his Tri­umph Tiger 100) and Coglan hap­pened to men­tion that he had a rac­ing 250 that he wished to sell, con­ve­niently housed at the time at nearby Dapto. “I thought that I wouldn’t mind a 250,” re­calls Alan Saun­ders, “be­cause the Light­weight class at the time was pretty com­pet­i­tive. Arnie said this was an ex-works bike, a DKW, and I paid him one hun­dred pounds for it, which was a fair bit of money at the time. Doug James, who was a very suc­cess­ful pre-war racer and owner of a mo­tor­cy­cle shop in Wol­lon­gong told me that I would have trou­ble with fuel, be­cause the DKW team that came to Aus­tralia (Kluge) had a chemist to mix the fuel which was done im­me­di­ately be­fore a race. Doug also said that he thought I wouldn’t be able to race the DKW in the 250 class be­cause it was su­per­charged, but I thought I’d give it a go – they wouldn’t put me in gaol would they? The first meet­ing I did on it was at Mount Druitt and Doug was right – it blew a pis­ton. I wrote to DKW to see if I could get a pis­ton but hey couldn’t help, al­though they did give me some tun­ing in­for­ma­tion. The bike sat around for some time un­til I got in touch with Sid Wil­lis, and took the bar­rel and the dam­aged pis­ton to him. Sid made a pis­ton and also some blanks, which I still have. Dur­ing the time it was out of ac­tion I con­sid­ered pulling the mo­tor and gear­box out and putting some­thing like a JAP in to use on Short Cir­cuit. I’m glad I didn’t be­cause the DKW mo­tor would prob­a­bly have been thrown out.” With the en­gine back to­gether, Al­lan Saun­ders en­tered the DKW for Bathurst in 1958. “Prac­tice was on Fri­day and it was run­ning fairly well, but the race was Satur­day morn­ing and it was a typ­i­cally misty Bathurst day and it just wouldn’t rev out, it was way too rich.” Even­tu­ally Alan got the DKW run­ning re­li­ably, us­ing a 16:1 petrol/oil mix­ture us­ing Cas­trol R as rec­om­mended by the DKW fac­tory. He raced

it at Mount Druitt and again at Bathurst in 1959, fin­ish­ing tenth in the Light­weight TT. There­after the DKW, now 20 years old, lapsed into re­tire­ment and is still in Al­lan’s pos­ses­sion. The Kluge prac­tice bike ended up back in South Aus­tralia where it even­tu­ally blew up while be­ing raced at Sel­lick’s Beach. The sand and salt had not been kind to the elec­tron-al­loy crankcases ei­ther. “I fluked catch­ing the then-owner short of cash and bought it in a fairly bad state,“says Eric Wil­liams. “As a mid-level com­peti­tor lack­ing the ben­e­fit of trade con­tacts it took a while be­fore fi­nally get­ting it go­ing. Jack French had bought it af­ter the war and later came over with the en­gine and frame num­bers and pho­tos, con­firm­ing it was Kluge’s prac­tice bike.” Af­ter a lengthy restora­tion, the DKW was rid­den at His­toric events by Wil­liams, as well as ex-Moto Guzzi works rider Keith Bryen at Ama­roo Park and by South Aus­tralian star Bill Hors­man at Ade­laide Race­way. Fit­tingly, a 78-year-old Les Fredricks demon­strated the DKW at the 1988 Lo­bethal Re­union, forty years af­ter its first ap­pear­ance there. The DKW was dis­played along­side Juan Manuel Fan­gio’s Mercedes Grand Prix racer at the Aus­tralian For­mula One Grand Prix in Ade­laide, and at­tracted some tempt­ing of­fers (one of more than $120,000) which Wil­liams con­sid­ered. “I thought about it for about a year, then the stock crash hit and I fi­nally sold it for less than half what I’d been of­fered to Steve Hazel­ton (in Goul­burn, NSW)”. Hazel­ton held onto the bike for around 20 years, but fi­nally sold it in 2013. “I re­ally wanted to keep it in Aus­tralia,” Steve told me last year, “but I had very lit­tle in­ter­est (from Aus­tralia) when I ad­ver­tised it. So in the end, I ac­cepted a sale over­seas.” Thus ended the Aus­tralian saga of a tale that has grown in depth and de­grees of dis­tor­tion for more than 75 years.

MAIN Les Fredricks on the‘Num­ber Two’ bike at Lo­bethal. Note the al­loy shrouds cov­er­ing thecar­bu­ret­tors. LEFT Ewald Kluge, Ger­man Cham­pion and DKW works rider. ABOVE Baron Klaus-Det­lof von Oertzen.

ABOVE (L&R) The en­gine of the Num­ber One Kluge ma­chine, with the su­per­charger op­er­at­ing through a ro­tary valve. LEFT Mys­te­ri­ous ad for DKW road racer that ap­peared in March 1939. Ewald Kluge, Baron Von Oertzen and Mr Green, the Vic­to­rian DKW agent, in Can­berra Jan­uary 1938.

Start of the Light­weight TT at Phillip Is­land in 1940, with Ted Groves (11) on the Prac­tice Bike and Frank Pratt (14) on the SS250, still in its black dé­cor.

RIGHT Frank Pratt on the new SS250 in 1939. FAR RIGHT Ted Groves on the “Prac­tice Bike” at Phillip Is­land, 1940. The “Prac­tice Bike” fore­ground, and the re­painted SS250 at the 1940 Geelong Speed Tri­als.

Lau­rie Jamieson on the “Prac­tice Bike” at Wood­side in 1947. Bill Day on Sturt Street, Bal­larat in 1947 on the Prac­tice Bike. Bob Els­bury dic­ing with Norm Os­borne on the SS250 at Bal­larat, 1947. At Wood­side in 1948, Al­bert O’Hara on the ‘Prac­tice Bike’.

LEFT The Prac­tice Bike at Fish­er­men’s Bend, Au­gust 1948 when it was rid­den by Norm Os­borne. RIGHT Lau­rie Jamieson on the SS250 dur­ing the Aus­tralian TT at Nu­ri­ootpa, 1949.

Norm Os­borne with the SS250 at Bon­ny­vale, near Queen­scliffe, Vic­to­ria, circa 1946.

At Bathurst in 1959, A. Saun­ders aboard the 20-year-old SS250.

LEFT Char­lie Lack on the SS250in Dar­win, around 1954. BELOW The SS250 in the pits atBathurst in 1958, when it was rid­den by Alan Saun­ders

Les Fredricks on Eric Wil­liams’ bike at the Lo­bethal Re­union in 1988. The Prac­tice Bike dur­ing the time when it was owned by Steve Hazel­ton in Goul­burn. BELOW Eric Wil­liams’ bike at Ama­roo Park in 1977 when it was rid­den by Keith Bryen.

LEFT Crank­shaft and front ‘pump­ing cylin­der from the “Prac­tice Bike” dur­ing Eric Wil­liams’ painstak­ing restora­tion, early ‘six­ties.RIGHT Stu­dio shot of the Prac­tice Bike fol­low­ing Eric Wil­liams’ restora­tion. BELOW Keith Bryen on Eric Wil­liam’s DKW in 1977.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.