A pair of MZs

Iron Cur­tain cool

Old Bike Australasia - - CON­TENTS - Story and pho­tos Jim Scays­brook

Once the world’s largest pro­ducer of mo­tor­cy­cles, DKW (Dampf-Kraft-Wa­gen), based in Zschopau in Eastern Ger­many, didn’t fare so well in the Sec­ond World War. Apart from be­ing nearly oblit­er­ated by al­lied bomb­ing, its bril­liantly sim­ple RT 125 was snaf­fled as war repa­ra­tions to ap­pear as the BSA Ban­tam, Har­ley-David­son Hum­mer and sev­eral oth­ers, in­clud­ing vague Ja­panese knock offs. Prior to this, in 1932, DKW had be­come part of Auto Union as part of an eco­nomic re­or­gan­i­sa­tion brought about by the Great De­pres­sion, an amal­ga­ma­tion of the Audi, Wan­derer, Horch and DKW it­self, which was by this stage mak­ing small cars as well as mo­tor­cy­cles. Through­out the 1930s, DKW de­vel­oped su­per­charged two stroke rac­ers that pro­duced prodi­gious horse­power and made an un­holy racket, and won the Isle of Man TT among many sig­nif­i­cant race vic­to­ries. Th­ese en­gine were of the ‘lade-pump’ de­sign, where an ex­tra cylin­der served as a com­pres­sor, feed­ing the com­pressed mix­ture to the fir­ing cylin­ders. As a com­pany, DKW was con­vinced that the con­ven­tional pis­ton-port two stroke had reached the limit of its de­vel­op­ment, and hence­forth con­cen­trated on forced in­duc­tion. Iron­i­cally, the pis­ton-port RT 125 con­tin­ued to pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of DKWs in­come. But by 1948, what re­mained of DKW’s man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity was un­der com­mu­nist con­trol and re­named IFA, still cen­tred in the now Rus­sian oc­cu­pied Sax­ony re­gion at Zschopau. Pro­duc­tion of the RT 125 was restarted in 1950, but iron­i­cally, DKW had to com­pete with its own de­sign un­der dif­fer­ent names on world mar­kets. Su­per­charg­ing was banned post-war, but when Ger­many was re-ad­mit­ted to in­ter­na­tional mo­tor sport in 1951, DKW em­barked on a rac­ing pro­gramme that yielded the in­no­va­tive and stag­ger­ingly fast three­cylin­der 350s. Th­ese were de­vel­oped from a sin­gle cylin­der 125 with a cylin­dri­cal ro­tary valve placed cross­ways be­hind the cylin­der and gear-driven from the crank­shaft. A sim­i­lar 250 twin fol­lowed, but with only 22 hp it was no match for the four strokes from Moto Guzzi and NSU. The 350 was ba­si­cally the 250 twin with an ex­tra cylin­der, in the form of a V3, and this was pro­gres­sively de­vel­oped each sea­son un­til it reached 45 hp at 9,700 rpm in its fi­nal form, be­fore the fac­tory quit rac­ing at the end of the 1956 sea­son. The disc valve tech­nol­ogy was de­vel­oped, but not pi­o­neered, by Wal­ter Kaaden, an en­gi­neer from Chem­nitz, who was also an en­thu­si­as­tic racer. One of his first tasks af­ter start­ing work at Zschopau was to con­vert an RT 125 to disc valve op­er­a­tion with a car­bu­ret­tor mounted on the end of the crank­shaft, re­sult­ing in a power in­crease from 9hp at 7,000 rpm to 11hp at 8,000 rpm. In 1953, the state con­trolled Zschopau works were given a de­gree of au­ton­omy and be­came VEB Mo­tor­rad­w­erk Zschopau, or MZ. Kaaden’s disc-valve racer was re­branded as an MZ and given a four-speed gear­box for good mea­sure. Very grad­u­ally, the re­stric­tions on travel out­side East Ger­many were re­laxed, mean­ing that the MZ team, boosted by the ar­rival of Ernst Deg­ner, was able to take in the oc­ca­sional meet­ing in western Europe. Deg­ner, who had an ex­cep­tional tal­ent for di­ag­nos­ing an en­gine’s per­for­mance, as well as be­ing a very tal­ented rider, even took in the 1956 Isle of Man TT, along with team mate Horst Fugner, where they fin­ished fifth and sixth re­spec­tively in the 125cc Light­weight TT. When Rhode­sian Gary Hock­ing joined the team in 1959, he gave the MZ fac­tory its first Grand Prix vic­to­ries, in Swe­den and Ul­ster. By 1961, when such rid­ers as Mike Hail­wood and Alan Shep­herd were part of the team, the 125cc MZ was putting out 25 hp at 10,800 rpm – the first en­gine of any kind to pro­duce 200 bhp per litre. Although much work and what money there was avail­able had been poured into the disc-valve rac­ers, MZs range of road and off-road bikes re­mained sim­ple pis­ton-port sin­gles, which owed much to the pre-war RT 125 an­ces­try. How­ever if the me­chan­i­cal work­ings were largely con­ven­tional, styling cer­tainly was any­thing but. To the western eye, the range of

125, 175 and 250cc MZs were ex­tremely un­usual cre­ations, with enor­mous mud­guards, piv­oted fork front sus­pen­sion, huge seats and head­lights, and quirky switchgear. The frames were also an un­usual mix­ture of steel tub­ing, steel press­ings and light al­loy cast­ings. The MZs did have one ad­van­tage – price, and in mar­kets like the UK, sold very well.

In events like the in­ter­na­tional Six days Trail, MZ rid­ers fre­quently cov­ered them­selves in glory, while their mounts gained a de­served rep­u­ta­tion for rugged­ness and re­li­a­bil­ity, as well as per­for­mance. There were sev­eral at­tempts to mar­ket MZ in Aus­tralia, all doomed to fail­ure. In a mar­ket be­com­ing used to Ja­panese so­phis­ti­ca­tion, the MZs seemed not only ugly, but out-dated. One of the more suc­cess­ful ef­forts was in the late 1960s and cen­tred around the ISDT mod­els, which sold in small num­bers.

A day on the green

At the 2015 Mac­quarie Towns Show day on the banks of the Hawkes­bury River at Wind­sor in Syd­ney’s north west, I spot­ted not one, but two ex­am­ples of the MZ ES se­ries, pro­duced from 1956 in 175cc, 250cc and 300cc form. You could hardly miss them; David Cameron’s vivid red ES250/2 with its bright, white seat, and Michael Cook’s 175/2, fin­ished in a more sober all-white dé­cor. Both th­ese bikes are in the “/2” se­ries, pro­duced from 1967 – 1969. The ES se­ries be­gan with the 250, pro­duced at a time when de­mand for cheap mo­tor­cy­cle trans­port in East Ger­many was high due to the scarcity of mo­tor cars. The 175 fol­lowed a year later and the ES 300 came on stream in 1961. Along­side the larger 175/250/300 ma­chines, which shared many com­po­nents and the ba­sic en­gine de­sign, the ES 125 and ES 150 were also pro­duced from 1962 to 1977, and were ac­tu­ally MZ’s big­gest sell­ers, with around 340,000 built. The 150 in par­tic­u­lar was a vol­ume seller, due to li­cenc­ing laws that al­lowed 16 year olds to ride mo­tor­cy­cles of a max­i­mum 150cc ca­pac­ity.

At the time of its in­tro­duc­tion, early 1956, the ES250 was a very ad­vanced mo­tor­cy­cle, al­beit with the rather cu­ri­ous styling that per­vaded Eastern Euro­pean mo­tor­cy­cles and cars of the time. With long travel swing­ing arm front and rear sus­pen­sion, the ES 250 pro­vided a plush ride, which was some­thing of a ne­ces­sity over the atro­cious roads, many of which were un­sealed and par­tic­u­larly treach­er­ous in win­ter. To this end, the ES 250 fea­tured enor­mous mud­guards and a com­pletely en­closed mid-sec­tion and drive chain. The head­light formed an in­te­gral unit with the fuel tank and thus did not swing with the han­dle­bars. The twin ex­haust port en­gine pro­vided ex­cel­lent torque and an out­put of 12.5 hp, but a sin­gle port bar­rel was in­tro­duced on the 1957 ES 250/0 ver­sion. By the time of the ES 250/1 in 1961, power was up to 16.1 hp, thanks largely to the avail­abil­ity of much bet­ter fuel and lu­bri­cants, al­low­ing the petrol/oil ra­tio to be re­duced to 33:1 and thus bet­ter pre­serv­ing the oc­tane rat­ing. The ES 250/2 ap­peared in 1967 and fea­tured what the fac­tory called an “elas­tic” en­gine mount­ing sys­tem – claimed to be a world first on a pro­duc­tion mo­tor­cy­cle. This con­sisted of two large rub­ber blocks on the frame cross mem­ber just ahead of the footrests. The ex­haust sys­tem is also rub­ber mounted so that it moves in tan­dem with the en­gine. Sim­ple but ef­fec­tive, pro­vid­ing an ex­cep­tion­ally smooth ride. The en­gine had re­vised bore and stroke for a slightly de­creased ca­pac­ity to 243cc and was now an an­gu­lar, deep finned, all-al­loy unit, with a nee­dle roller small end bear­ing and able to cope with a 50:1 petrol/oil mix­ture, fed through a 28mm BFV car­bu­ret­tor. Power was up to 17.5 hp, with a top speed of 115 km/h. The ul­ti­mate ver­sion of the ES 250 was the ES 250/2 Tro­phy, pro­duced from 1969 to 1973, with 19 hp and a top speed of 120 km/h. The “Tro­phy” gained its moniker from the con­tin­u­ous suc­cess of the MZs in the In­ter­na­tional Six Days Trial’s premier cat­e­gory, the Tro­phy con­test.

Although rugged and quite bul­let proof, the four­speed gear­box is slow and clunky in op­er­a­tion, with the clutch at­tached to the crank­shaft, Adler-style,

on a plain ta­per. Later trans­mis­sions, such as used on the ISDT Repli­cas, are more pos­i­tive in op­er­a­tion with shorter lever throws and bet­ter spaced ra­tios. The De Luxe ver­sion of the ES 250/2 is even rarer, mak­ing David Cameron’s fea­tured ma­chine an un­usual sight in­deed, es­pe­cially in Aus­tralia. “My MZ came from the Aus­tralian Mo­tor­cy­cle Mu­seum at Nabiac”, says David, “where he had one very in­com­plete one stuck among his col­lec­tion of in­com­plete bikes. This MZ and the other MZ on dis­play came from Eng­land when the owner moved to Aus­tralia. Af­ter about a year’s ne­go­ti­a­tion and some horse trad­ing, the MZ came into my pos­ses­sion. Though not the most at­trac­tive of mo­tor­cy­cles it ap­pealed to me, and my daugh­ters liked it. As for try­ing to see how many were in Aus­tralia, I con­tacted a seller from South Aus­tralia who had lived the im­port­ing story him­self, bring­ing out three to Aus­tralia; mine was not one of his batch. “I joined var­i­ous MZ fo­rums on the net to get more info and find more MZs in Aus­tralia, with no luck. I as­sumed not many had made it out here. I did how­ever find that the bike came from Kent in the UK. The restora­tion was fairly straight for­ward, with eBay get­ting a bit of traf­fic and var­i­ous postal ser­vices mak­ing a profit. I was for­tu­nate to find a friend in Ger­many who as­sisted with much of the ship­ping. Many of the Ger­man sell­ers were re­luc­tant to ex­port their parts, I think due to the com­plex­ity of in­ter­na­tional ship­ping and PayPal fees, for what may be a small item. An­other thing to watch is the sales tax; un­der a cer­tain amount there should be no tax on ex­ports, which was a lit­tle hard to ex­plain to some com­pa­nies. The only real has­sle came in get­ting the cor­rect seat. Af­ter deal­ing with banks that all wanted a slice of the ac­tion, the seller would not send the seat. Even­tu­ally af­ter track­ing him down and a few phone calls the seat was on the way to my mate in Ger­many. “To get the bike us­able some mod­i­fi­ca­tions had to be done; the electrics have been up­graded to 12V elec­tronic ig­ni­tion, I con­verted the head­light to H4

while re­tain­ing the East Ger­man head­light lens, the tail light and brake light were con­verted to LED, and the front brake ca­ble was changed so it would op­er­ate the brake light. I relaced the wheels, a mate pol­ished the cases and an­other did the ma­jor paint work. I still have the leg shields and the pan­nier rack to put on. Mick Cook (who owns the ES175/2 MZ fea­tured here) con­tacted me just prior to the 2015 Mac­quarie Towns Show Day. Mick lives just a few short hours away and ad­vised me of an owner in Vic­to­ria with a small col­lec­tion. So much for think­ing there was only a hand­ful in Aus­tralia!”

Pri­mar­ily to fa­cil­i­tate the use of a side­car, the big­gest ver­sion of the ES range, the ES 300 (dis­plac­ing 293cc from 72mm x 72mm bore x stroke) ap­peared in 1961 and con­tin­ued to 1964. Power was 18.5 hp but the en­gine pro­duced con­sid­er­ably more torque than the 250. How­ever it was plagued with over­heat­ing and vi­bra­tion, and prone to crack­ing the frame and other com­po­nents, and was dropped from pro­duc­tion in 1964. At the other end of the scale sat the 175cc mod­els, pro­duced from 1957 to 1972. Like the 250, the 175 also evolved through ES 175, ES 175/0, ES 175/1 and fi­nally, ES 175/2. The first model ap­peared al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the 250 in 1956 and var­ied only slightly, mainly in the tin ware, and was thus a bit over weight for the ca­pac­ity. Ini­tially, the 175 (172cc) pro­duced 10 hp, but this was in­creased through sub­se­quent mod­els to 14.5 hp, al­beit with a steadily in­creas­ing weight which went from 141 kg to 155 kg. Like the 250, the in­ter­nal di­men­sions were al­tered in the /2 model of 1967 and also fea­tured the ‘elas­tic’ en­gine mount­ing. The fi­nal 175, the ES 175/2 Tro­phy rolled off the pro­duc­tion line in 1972, six months be­fore the 250 ceased pro­duc­tion. Michael Cook’s ES 175/2 shares its sta­ble with a beau­ti­fully re­stored ISDT Replica 250. “I bought my bike off eBay from a fel­low in Vic­to­ria who im­ported it and a cou­ple of oth­ers from Ger­many,” says Michael. “It was blue and cream then, but af­ter a run in with a round­about and gut­ter I de­cided it would look bet­ter black and cream mi­nus dints and scrape marks. I was rid­ing from the NSW Cen­tral Coast up to Grafton for Christ­mas to show off my newly painted bike but be­fore I left, the 44-year-old crank seals went, so I put the en­gine out of my MZ TS250 in and off I went via Glouces­ter and Ar­mi­dale. Luck­ily a lot of the parts from 1968-1978 are in­ter­change­able. I also did a sim­i­lar trip with my son the fol­low­ing year but this time do­ing more dirt road sec­tions and the MZ had its work clothes on; sin­gle seat, ETS head­light and 22 litre tank, dif­fer­ent guards. My im­pres­sions are they like the smaller poorer brother of the BMW R80 G/S that they share the shed with. They are well made and well thought out solid lit­tle bikes. Parts are easy and cheap from Ger­many over the in­ter­net. I have been to the Sin­gle­ton Rally a cou­ple of times with my mate Tem­ple Eyre who has an ETS 250 and we have both won The Most Un­usual Award on sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions. Also at The Pel­i­can rally on the Cen­tral Coast the ES was voted the ugli­est bike of the rally! If you ride an MZ you can’t take things too se­ri­ously. The Ger­mans nick­named the ES the iron pig.”


MZ has had a tor­rid his­tory, sev­eral times seem­ingly des­tined to join the ranks of de­funct man­u­fac­tur­ers. But along the way, it pro­duced some very fine mo­tor­cy­cles.

TOP CEN­TRE Owner David Cameron likes to clean his hubs clean. TOP RIGHT Side stand piv­ots from rear brake an­chor. ABOVE CEN­TRE MZ was jus­ti­fi­ably proud of their achieve­ments in the ISDT. ABOVE RIGHT MZ had a very strong mar­ket in UK, from whence this one came.

LEFT Where to carry your bear skin. ABOVE Ex­tra long gear lever with ex­tra long throw.

Fully sealed rear chain is a very worth­while fea­ture. Chunky look­ing all-al­loy en­gine. Michael Cook’s ES 175/2 at the 2015 Mac­quarie Towns Show Day at Wind­sor NSW.

1964 125cc ver­sion of the fab­u­lously suc­cess­ful ISDT MZ. The ul­ti­mate ver­sion of the 250/300 sin­gle, a 1990 model with light­weight side­car. Reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor and arch MZ en­thu­si­asts An­drew Dun­can en­joy­ing his 250 in the NSW South­ern High­lands.

ABOVE & TOP RIGHT Lovely ISDT Replica 250 pur­chased by Michael Cook from his neigh­bour and fel­low MZ en­thu­si­ast Tem­ple Eyre. RIGHT Michael Cook’s ES 175/2 as de­liv­ered in its blue and white colour scheme.

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