Not all Mazda vehicles had four wheels,
Read about the Mazda ‘bikies’
I WAS recently fortunate to enjoy the utlimate father-son trip, exploring what are arguably Germany’s four best car museums in two days — BMW’s museum in Munich, Mazda’s in nearby Augsburg and then the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums in Stuttgart.
Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) shows its car and motorcycle products, along with the occasional foray by this German manufacturer which dabbled in aero engines out of necessity; and even built powerboats on occasion.
It might surprise Wheels readers that the first vehicle to be produced by BMW was in fact a motorcycle. Currently there are 11 different models manufactured right here in Munich — including race bikes, enduro, touring, urban mobility, sport and roadster models. And every example can be seen in this living museum.
Impressive as the car exhibits are at the BMW Welt Museum and Group Plant, (to give the museum its proper title), I had travelled all this way for the bikes, having owned many bikes in more than half a century of riding — the last four being BMW.
A heart-warming surprise for me was how well the public supported these motoring museums. All the venues encountered were really well supported by enthusiasts young and old alike.
I wondered if this was due to just something to do on a weekend, but I suspect it has more to do with pride in Germany’s automobile heritage (whether two wheels or four).
The standard of the exhibits — whether they were simply crankcases, complete power plants, technical drawings or just beautifully streamlined bodywork both on or off their respective chassis — could all be viewed close up for pictures or scrutiny.
Incidentally, I must say the transport experienced in Germany that weekend (plane/train/taxi or tram) was simply a revelation after having to on occasion risk life and limb riding Cape Town’s rundown trains or the use of life-threatening Hi-Ace taxis — all with little hope of improvement.
Language difficulties buying tickets were kept to a minimum via an automatic ticket machine that proved easy to use even for this Luddite. Public transport is not cheap in Germany, but my son and I were very impressed with a transport system that really does work to everyone’s benefit.
‘Frey Mazda’ Museum
Augsburg was the next stopover point, a 40-minute train ride out of Munich Central.
The train ride proved very smooth — due to having rubber-coated wheels, I believe.
The Frey family run the Mazda agency in Germany and their private museum (the largest private Mazda museum outside of Hiroshima in Japan) shows pretty much “one of everything” that Mazda ever exported to Europe since the late 1950s.
The vehicles are displayed in a converted tram station, which works well for visitors and enthusiasts alike.
The exhibits range from Mazda’s motorcycle-powered Type GB threewheeler “bikies” (to coin a phrase) to the cute-as-a-button Mazda R360 Coupe with its twin-cylinder 356cc motor.
Built to fit in with the tiny measurements allowed to Japan’s tiny ‘Kei’ cars, the 360 proved a really successful model for Mazda.
Naturally, rotary-powered vehicles form the backbone of the Frey museum. Owning a Mazda MX5 makes me somewhat biased, but the rarely seen 2007 MX5-based race car must be the best car in the Frey Mazda Museum.
• Dave Fall is a former motoring editor at The Witness.
These two Mazda ‘bikies’ helped build Japan.