Saturday, August 24, 2013

Champion and Maico microcars

The Champion motor company was first established in 1946 by motorcylce engineer, Otto Maisch to build a budget motorcar. Several prototype cycle cars were developed and tested over the next couple of years, none really making it into production. The company was always teetering on the verge of insolvency and changed hands three times in three years before Champion produced its first viable vehicle, the Champion 400 in 1951. Powered by a rear mounted 398cc JLO two-stroke engine, the Champion 400 was a handsome and streamlined two-seater coupe. In 1953, the JLO engine was replaced by 398cc Heinkel two-stroke engine, the same type powering the contemporary Tempo Hanseat tricycle.  This became known as the Champion 400H.  A larger engined kombi version, the 500G was also manufactured.

Maico 500

In 1955 the Maisch brothers retook control of Champion and bought it under their Maico motorcycle brand.  They decided to release an improved, enlarged sedan version of the car as the Maico 400 and 500.  In terms of size and comfort, the Maico 500 was an improvement over its predecessor, but the car was dogged by mechanical problems, which required a complete redesign of the front end and suspension.

The Maico 500 was widely exported. It was sold in the US by the Whizzer Company.

In Argentina it was built under license as the Alcre Susana 500.

It was even exported to Egypt.

Despite selling over 6500 cars, Maico could not compete with the larger manufacturers and, unable to raise additional capital, was forced to rationalise its product line.  By 1958 Maico stopped manufacturing cars and scooters, such as the Maicomobil and Maicoletta, and their over engineered prestige motorcycles, like the Typhoon, in order to concentrate on tough trail and racing bikes.  In this way they were able to stay in business long after many other German motorcycle giants, such as DKW, had bitten the dust.  They finally shut down in 1986.

Maico 500s continue to show up all over the world.  This unmolested example was recently put up for sale in eastern Europe.

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