Not all Mazda ve­hi­cles had four wheels,

Read about the Mazda ‘bikies’

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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