Zun­dapp Bella scooter

A lit­tle beauty

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Jim Scaysbrook Pho­tos Galvin Fam­ily and Jim Scaysbrook

The ‘fifties was the decade of the scooter – and not just the tiny putt-putts that zipped around on daily du­ties. Big­ger and bet­ter ver­sions kept ap­pear­ing – a se­lect few bridg­ing the per­for­mance gap be­tween scooter and mo­tor­cy­cling. One such was the cute and func­tional Zün­dapp Bella.

Pre-war, Zün­dapp was renowned for its pow­er­ful flat fours and twins, many of which spent years plough­ing through the sand dunes and mud of the com­bat zones. Fast-for­ward a decade, and Zün­dapp, like the rest of Europe, was strug­gling back to life as best it could, given chronic short­ages of ma­te­ri­als and cap­i­tal. Cheap, re­li­able trans­port was what was needed, and that, in Euro­pean terms, meant scoot­ers. Bor­row­ing a lit­tle from the ideas in the 1952 Par­illa Levriere scooter, Zün­dapp launched the Bella, in 148cc form, in 1953. The Bella was to con­tinue in pro­duc­tion for eleven years, en­larged to 197cc in mid-1954. In 1956 the smaller model was given a slight in­crease in power, but could still claim a fuel con­sump­tion bet­ter than 100 miles per gal­lon. It was vir­tu­ally un­changed other­wise, and earned a wellde­served rep­u­ta­tion for qual­ity and per­for­mance. By the time pro­duc­tion ceased in 1963, around 130,000 had been made.

Early ver­sions had a lead­ing axle tele­scopic front fork with one-way damp­en­ing, with solid 12-inch in­ter­change­able wheels and 3.50 x 12 tyres. Big 6-inch brakes pro­vided ex­cel­lent stop­ping power. The en­gine was fit­ted with a kick-starter and 6-volt electrics. To as­sist with en­gine cool­ing, fresh air was chan­nelled through the cen­tre of the chas­sis into the en­gine com­part­ment – a fea­ture also found on the Par­illa. So­phis­ti­cated for a scooter, the Bella fea­tured a four-speed, pos­i­tive-stop gear­box, with the clutch hub be­ing the pin­ion for top gear. The method of gear chang­ing was also unique, with sep­a­rate heel and toe levers for up and down changes pro­trud­ing through the right side foot board. It also made rid­ing a less daunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for those not fa­mil­iar with the Lam­bretta/Vespa style han­dle­bar twist-grip method of gear chang­ing.

Un­like many other scoot­ers, the Bella had con­ven­tional tubu­lar han­dle­bars in­stead of the cheaper-to-pro­duce steel press­ings, with a plush foam rub­ber dual seat. The great­est at­ten­tion was paid to keep­ing rider and pas­sen­ger clean and dry, with ex­tra wide leg shields, a fully en­closed cen­tre sec­tion, and full en­clo­sure of the rear chain. The spec­i­fi­ca­tion list was im­pres­sive: high and low head­light beam with a park­ing light, fold­ing kick starter, side and cen­tre stands, com­pre­hen­sive tool kit, and plenty of chrome and pol­ished al­loy. The scooter had come into be­ing pri­mar­ily to pro­vide eco­nom­i­cal trans­port, par­tic­u­larly in densely pop­u­lated and con­gested ur­ban ar­eas, but by the mid ‘fifties its tra­di­tional mar­ket was un­der con­cen­trated at­tack by a new gen­er­a­tion of small cars, notably the Fiat 500 Topolino (“Lit­tle Mouse”). Euro­pean scooter man­u­fac­tur­ers be­gan to new eye mar­kets – even the staunchly tra­di­tional USA, and Zün­dapp was one of the first to ap­point an Amer­i­can dis­trib­u­tor, the In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Cy­cle Com­pany of New York. As well as the ex­ist­ing 150, a new bored and stroked 200, pro­duc­ing 10 horse­power, was in­tro­duced with the US in mind. Zün­dapp had stiff com­pe­ti­tion in the States, with Cush­man, NSU, TWN, Lam­bretta, and Vespa all vy­ing for a slice. The US-built Cush­man made much of the fact that it was the only four-stroke scooter on the mar­ket, and re­quired no ‘te­dious and messy’ mix­ing of oil and gaso­line. The new 197cc model sported a 12 volt bat­tery with an elec­tric starter, although at a price pre­mium over the 6 volt, kick-start 150 (US$389 ver­sus $499). The 200 also weighed 32 kg more than its lit­tle

sis­ter. Lead­ing link forks, with a sin­gle sus­pen­sion unit on the right hand side, re­placed the ear­lier tele­scop­ics on the 197cc model.

A lo­cal love af­fair

In 1954, John Galvin (who read­ers will re­mem­ber as the long time Aus­tralian dis­trib­u­tor for Craven Equip­ment, Bel­staff cloth­ing and Met­zeler tyres) thought he should cel­e­brate his fi­ancé Mar­garet Carters’ twenty-first birth­day with a suit­able gift. Not a bunch of flow­ers or a scarf, but a prac­ti­cal gift – a mo­tor scooter. Hunt­ing for a suit­able ma­chine, John’s first port of call was, nat­u­rally, the epi­cen­tre of mo­tor­cy­cling in western Sydney, Ryan’s of Par­ra­matta, but this failed to re­veal any­thing he con­sid­ered suit­able. Talk­ing to his mate Bernie Pear­son, who worked down the road in Church Street at Hill­don’s Holden, Bernie said he had seen a very pretty scooter in a dealer just a bit fur­ther up the road. It turned out to be a Zün­dapp Bella, one of the 148cc early mod­els with tele­scopic forks.

A deal was struck and Mar­garet be­came the proud owner of a quite rare means of trans­port. But this was not just a ride-to-work bike, as Mar­garet was, and re­mained all her life, a very en­thu­si­as­tic mo­tor­cy­clist; a keen club mem­ber who was not afraid to get in­volved in week­end ac­tiv­i­ties, along with John. In 1956, John en­tered the Cas­trol 7 Days Trial on his BMW, and not to be out­done, Mar­garet en­tered the Bella as well. The trial be­gan from the fore­court of the NSW Art Gallery in Sydney’s Do­main on Box­ing Day, 1956 and trav­elled through Bathurst, Dubbo, Narrabri, In­verell, Gunnedah, Cess­nock, and back to the fin­ish at Wind­sor on New Year’s Day, 1957. Of the 52 starters, four were women, but Mar­garet was the only en­trant mounted on a scooter. She was on course to fin­ish the event with­out loss of points, only to have the bat­tery fail on the Bella. The de­lay cost her 16 points but after a re­place­ment bat­tery was quickly sourced, she had the sat­is­fac­tion of ac­tu­ally com­plet­ing the course and re­ceiv­ing a tro­phy for her ef­forts, which was pre­sented at the Awards cer­e­mony at the Tro­cadero in Campbell Street, Sydney on 6th Fe­bru­ary, 1957. Soon after the trial, Mar­garet and John de­cided on a trip to Eng­land, where they were to re­main for three years be­fore rid­ing back home over­land on a BMW R50 that is still in the Galvin fam­ily. The Bella was re­luc­tantly sold prior to de­par­ture, but not for­got­ten. Many years later, with John Galvin now en­trenched in his grow­ing busi­ness at Guild­ford in western Sydney and Mar­garet busy with the up­bring­ing of their three sons, John be­gan the process of track­ing down the Bella, which he even­tu­ally lo­cated in Ade­laide. A pur­chase price was agreed and the lit­tle blue ma­chine was once again back in Sydney, where it was com­pletely re­stored. After 57 years of mar­riage, Mar­garet and John Galvin passed away within three weeks of each other in 2014, but the Bella is still in the Galvin fam­ily, along with the much-trav­elled R50 BMW and John’s 98cc Zün­dapp ISDT Replica.

Off to work; Mar­garet Galvin on the Bella in 1956.

Mar­garet with the Bella at a check­point in the 1956 Cas­trol 7 Days Trial.

BE­LOW Mar­garet leaves the start of the Cas­trol 7 Days Trial at the NSW Art Gallery. Bella – bel­lisimo! BOT­TOM

A 1957 200cc Bella on dis­play at Surf­side Mo­tor­cy­cle Garage in Brook­vale, Sydney.

Re­united. Mar­garet with the re­stored Bella in later life.

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