Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Munich Technical Museum, Germany

The Munich Technical Museum is one of many outstanding museums in Germany. The museum is spread across a number of sites around Munich. The transport and automobile campus is situated on Theresienhöhe Strasse, on the edge of Bavaria Park, a large park and fairground in the centre of the city. It's also the site of the annual Oktoberfest. We visited the museum on both occasions we visited for the Oktoberfest. The first time we attended before heading off to the festivities an hour before the museum was closing. Consequently we had hurry towards the end. Photos of that visit can be found here:

When we visited again in 2016 I set aside time during the middle of the day to visit at a more leisurely pace. To my surprise the museum was virtually empty so I had an opportunity to take better photos.

The museum consists of three large halls. The largest hall covers mass transport, with an inevitable focus on Germany. The second hall has trains and vintage cars and the third hall has veteran cars and motorcycles as well as some of highlight vehicles. This photo presentation starts in the mass transport hall.

Let us start with a train....

Modern city cars. Micro cars like the Smart make total sense in European cities.

From left to right a Mexican VW Beetle taxi, Citroen 2CV commercial, Durkopp Diana, and Messerschmitt-built Vespa.

Ford Capri and Saab Sonet

Magirus truck and tram

VW Karmann Ghia Type 34 in the foreground and NSU Sports Spider behind

VW Karmann Ghia

Heinkel Perle moped, Heinkel 150 scooter and an NSU Prinz 1000.

Glas Goggomobil TL400 and Messerschmitt KR200

From left to right - Heinkel Kabinescooter, Lloyd 400 and BMW Isetta

Lloyd 400

Victoria 250 Sport. Victoria were a motorcycle manufacturer, but for a short time built microcars. Being a small manufacturer they weren't able to compete with the bigger companies like Messerschmitt and BMW.

Adler MB250

Victoria Sports.

BMW Isetta, NSU Prima, and a Goliath Goli tricycle.

Victoria moped and Goliath Goli

Citroen Traction Avant, Imme R100 and a parade of lightweight motorcycles

The Imme R100 is a very interesting little motorcycle. The 100cc two stroke engine was developed by Norbert Riedel as a starter motor for the Messerschmitt Me 232 jet fighter. After the war he developed the engine for use in a motorcycle. The motorcycle's construction is very unorthodox. The motorcycle has a half frame which pivots at the engine. The chaincase is mounted directly to the engine and is sprung against the frame.
Goliath and Tempo built commercial delivery tricycles in Germany and although superficially similar, they were differently constructed. Tempos were powered by a two-cylinder two-stroke motor mounted atop the chaincase driving the front wheel. The whole engine pivoted with the front wheel. Goliath, which were built by the Borgward group, had similar engine but mounted under the seat and driving the rear wheels through a differential.

The attraction of these unorthodox vehicles was they could be driven without a license and were free of road taxes. Although slow, they were very simple to operate and could haul a surprising amount of cargo.

When Ernst Heinkel saw the first BMW Isettas on the road he though he could do much better. He quickly designed the Heinkel Kabineroller as an improved microcar for the German domestic market. The interior fittings were better than the Isetta, the interior was roomier, the engine more powerful and given a soft top so that the driver/passengers would have an escape route in the event of a crash.

Think microcar and Messerschmitt comes to mind. Despite claims that the KR200 was derived from surplus Messerschmitt fighter parts, the Kabineroller was originally designed by Fritz Fend as an invalid carriage for disabled servicemen. They started off as a hand powered 'pedal' car, but were then upgraded with a small motorcycle engine. Fend leased some space in Messerschmitt's empty and idle factory and this eventually led to Messerschmitt taking over manufacture of an improved version as a personal transporter. The type was immensely popular and almost 35,000 were built over 11 years.

NSU Prinz 1000. Before the Second World War, NSU was one of Germany's biggest motorcycle manufacturers. In order to get into car production, the company had formed a joint venture with Fiat to build Fiats under license. After the war, NSU split into two entities, NSU Neckarsalum, which built Fiat 500s under the brand name Neckar, and NSU the motorcycle company. A non-compete clause in the contract meant NSU was prevented from building cars of its own. When the contract expired in 1957 NSU unveiled their own small car, the Prinz. The Prinz was superficially similar to the Fiat 500 in that it was powered by a two-cylinder air-cooled rear mounted engine, but they were much better cars than the their Italian counterparts. This is a later 1000cc model which gained fame for its performance in rallies.

In the foreground is an IWL Berlin scooter from East Germany. Behind is a post-war Fiat 500.

The NSU Sports Prinz was a sleek and stylish sportscar mounted on the trusty Prinz running gear.

BMW 501 'Baroque Angel.' During the war years BMW developed a new large sedan car for the anticipated 'post war boom.' That boom however was much more literal than BMW management expected. BMW's car plant was at Eisenach in East Germany and came under the control of the socialist government. For a short period of time cars were produced there under the BMW name and were sold in the east and west, but in 1949 the Eisenach factory was nationalized. Legal challenges over the rights to the BMW name led to the products of the Eisenach plant being sold under the EMW name. The new car began running off the Eisenach production line as the EMW 340 in 1949 and was built in small number until 1954.

Plans were smuggled to the BMW factory in Munich and was developed into the BMW 501, which went on sale in 1952. Like its East German sister, it was a large and expensive car in a depressed market and sales were slow. Annual production numbers were low over the car's six year production run with less than 20,000 cars built.

In Britain a third independent version was built as the Bristol 401. 

Progress Strolch and Kriedler Florette moped

A very early Volkswagen Beetle from 1950. Although developed for an entirely different purpose and market in 1936, the robust and cheap Beetle was exactly what post-war Europe needed and the Beetle was on its way to become one of the best selling cars of all time.

For the story of Volkswagen's resurrection from the ashes, check out my history here:

Opel truck and a street sweeper

Krupp street sweeper. Krupp are a major German industrial concern building everything from ships to armaments. This is one of their more unusual constructions - a street sweeper and washing vehicle.

Opel Blitz truck with a holtzgas burner. Gasoline shortages during the war meant alternative fuels, such as charcoal gas burned were used to keep civilian vehicles on the road.

Hall 1

Although things were beginning to look up economically, austerity remained a sign of the times in the 1930s. With household income rising and vehicle prices coming down, more people were able to get motorized. Although Germany has a reputation for being an advanced motoring nation, in 1935 car ownership was only 1.5% of the population. For this reason, Adolf Hitler's call for a 'cheap car' for Germany in 1933 hit such a nerve.

1939 Wanderer W26L - Wanderer were incorporated into the Auto-Union conglomerate of Saxon car manufacturers in 1932. Builders of reliable but uninspiring middle-class cars, Wanderer were the only company joining the group with a positive balance sheet. The largest concern, DKW, may have been in the red as a result of being strong armed into buying up the insolvent Audi company in 1930, but DKW's sales of cheap mass produced cars and motorcycles kept the group afloat.

Steyr 50 'Baby'

The Steyr Baby and the KDF (Volkswagen) Beetle were contemporary designs both targeting the same budget car market and with similar inspiration. Streamlining and simple lines were both cost effective and reduced fuel consumption.

The legendary Citroen Traction Avant simply bristled with innovations in 1934. It featured monocoque all-steel construction, low slung chassis and front wheel drive. It remained in production until 1954 when it was replaced by the even more innovative Citroen DS.

A car of stunning simplicity and innovation. J S Rasmussen, owner of the DKW motorcycle company was always on the look out for market opportunities. Keen to become a serious car manufacturer, he allowed the Bank of Saxony to talk him into buying out the insolvent Audi company in 1929. This proved to be something of a disaster as he found that no amount of rationalization would make Audi's cars saleable, especially after the effects of the Great Depression began to felt in Germany. Desperately in need of some success, he charged his design team to develop a simple, budget car for the 1931 Berlin Motor Show - four months away. The result was the DKW F1.

The DKW F1 was revolutionary in a number of ways. It was powered by transversely mounted two-cylinder 500cc two-stroke motor driving the front wheels. Styling was attractive and performance sprightly and the car was an instant hit. The F1 formed the model for all future DKW and later Audi cars.

Bugatti Type 40 Coupe


1924 Hanomag 2/10 HP 'Kommisbrot.' The Hanomag Kommisbrot was an important pioneer of the 'people's car' concept. Powered by a single cylinder 400 cc four stroke engine mounted in the rear with chain drive. The rear mounted engine was novel at the time and was soon being copied by other budget car designs, ultimately culminating in the Volkswagen.

1930s motocycles

BMW-Dixi 3/15PS. In the late 1920s BMW purchased the Dixi company of Eisenach which was building Austin Sevens under license. Under BMW's stewardship these cars were rapidly developed into a fine range of sporting sedans.

DKW Lomos scooter. To the right is a bicycle with a DKW clip on 'hilfsmotor.'

1922 DKW Reichfahrt motorcycle. J S Rasmussen's DKW company started with a clip-on two-stroke motor for bicycles. This was followed up with the Lomos and Golem scooters before coming out with a true motorcycle in the Reichfahrt. The engine was a repurposed 143 cc stationary engine mounted to the frame and driving the rear wheel by a leather belt. The bike still had pedals to start and brake.

1908 Wanderer. Wanderer started manufacturing bicycles and typewriters before moving into motorcycles at the turn of the century. This 1908 model was powered by a 200cc four stroke engine.

1896 Leon Bollee tricar. The Bollee brothers won and came second at the first London to Brighton race in a pair of these tricycles.

1899 De Dion Bouton tricycle

1911 Adler Landaulet

1907 Ley 6/10PS.

Opel Patentwagen

Opel Patentwagen.

The veteran parade


The train collection

Setra streamlined bus and Citroen ID19

Setra bus

The legendary Citroen ID19

Volkswagen Beetle split window

Maico Mobil and Zundapp with sidecar

Two German Fords - the Ford Taunus and Ford V8

Zundapp KS901

Fiat Multipla, the original 'people mover' van.

Streamlined caravan

Fiat Multipla

Ford Taunus

Adler with a holzgas generator

German Ford V8

Electric train

Hans Ledwinka's personal Tatra T87. Hans Ledwinka may have had Czechoslovakian citizenship after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but he never spoke Czech and was a native German speaker who considered himself German. After his imprisonment for collaboration after the Second World War, he turned down the managing directorship of Tatra and moved with his family to Germany, settling in Munich. He bought with him his personal Tatra T87, donating it to the Munich Technical Museum in his will.

The Tatra T87 is the pinnacle of Hans Ledwinka's innovative designs. Featuring outstanding streamling, rear mounted aluminium/magnesium alloy V8 engine, independent four wheel suspensions, and monocoque steel body.

German pre-war luxury. On the left, a Horch 930

Horch 930

Horch was the luxury brand of the Auto-Union stable. By this time Auto-Union products from the four brands - Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer - were beginning to show a 'Auto-Union standard' with similar radiator grills and styling.

For comparison, the 1938 Horch above looks positively old fashioned compared to the modernist styling of the 1938 Tatra T87.

The future of German motoring in 1938. This little model of the new KDF wagen was presented to Adolf Hitler.

The back end of the Horch and on the other side a Belgian Minerva

Budget motoring for the French masses. The Citroen Type A.

1938 Mercedes-Benz


Budget motoring in Germany. The Goliath Pioneer. Developed by Carl Borgward from a very basic delivery triporter, it was on sale for three years from 1931, selling over 4000 units.

Goliath Pioneer. There is a photo here we took of the same car in 2006 here:


The Wanderer 'Puppchen'

Steam funicular

De Dion Bouton

1901 Adler

1904 Cyclonette

1904 Germania

1894 Panhard and Levassor. This Panhard and Levassor pioneered the front mounting of the engine, with a differential to the rear wheel.

The legends of motorsport display

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL racer.

Looking down on the Messerschmitt racer, Auto-Union Type C 'Silver Arrow' and the NSU Delphine.

This unique Alfa Romeo roadster has a radiator grill and front end from a Wanderer W25K

View down on the sportscar display

Messerschmitt 200 racer

Auto-Union Type C

NSU Delphine

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL racer.

Opel Rak 2. This rocket car achieved a speed of 230 kph on 23 May 1928

Valier-Heylandt rocket car. Max Valier was a rocket propulsion pioneer. He worked with Fritz Opel on the Opel Rak cars. He was killed in 1930 in an accident in his labroratoy when a liquid fueled rocket exploded.

1919 Slaby-Beringer electrowagen.

Jorge Rasmussen, owner of DKW, saw a Slaby-Beringer at a motor show in 1920 and placed an order for several cars. He soon increased his order to over thirty cars, which was a little more than SB could cope with. When Germany experienced hyper-inflation in 1921, SB was forced into bankruptcy. Rather than lose his investment, Rasmussen offered to purchase the company. Rudolf Slaby, the designer of the Electrowagen, was offered a position as technical director of Rasmussen's new automotive division.

Little more than a plywood box with bicycle wheels and an electric motor, the Slaby-Beringer, was a long way from a real car, but it would form the inspiration for DKW's first generation of lightweight cars.

The radical NSU Ro80 of 1968 featured a dual rotary Wankel engine and an incredibly modern body styling. Unfortunately the rotary engine had not been sufficiently developed and suffered repeated breakdowns during its first few years. Although the engine issues were eventually resolved, warranty costs placed NSU into financial difficulties resulting in them being bought out by Volkswagen.

The stunning 1924 Rumpler Tropfenwagen

Only two Tropfenwagen's have survived. This one at the Munich Technical Museum and another at the Berlin Technical Museum

To highlight how radical the Tropfenwagen was, compare it with the 1913 Ford Model on the left.

Viewed front-on, you can appreciate how effective its streamlining is. The car is shaped like a Zeppelin gondola to cut through the air. The engine was mounted in the centre of the car, under the floor. Approximately 300 cars were built and they enjoyed some success as taxis in Vienna and Germany.

The interior of the Rumpler. Notice the folding seat beside the driver for access. The Tropfenwagen offered a lot of space for passengers.

Model T Ford

The 1886 Daimler. Basically a motorcycle in concept, the vehicle was not intended for production but was an experimental testbed.

1886 Daimler

The 1886 Benz Patentwagen. Like the Daimler, the Patentwagen was an experimental design.

1886 Benz

The first production motorcycle, the 1894 Hildebrand and WolfmĂĽller

An early 1920s motor scooter.

Steam engine

Steam engine

Motorised steam wagen

Megola racing motorcycle with engine in the wheel hub

The Megola were fairly impractical as a 'daily rider' as they had no clutch, meaning the engine had to be turned off when the bike came to a halt. They were however very fast, making them suitable for racing.


Quite obviously this car participated in the New York to Paris race.

August Horch's famous Audi Type C that was used to win the 1908 Alpinefahrt


Auto-Union Type C

1931 Alfa Romeo Type C Gran Sport. This car was owned by designer Walter Freud, who was one of the designers of the Freud and Killinger streamlined motorcycle.

This car has an extraordinary heritage. It was one of three Alfa Romeo cars competing in the Kesselbergen Race in 1931 in a team led by Grand Prix driver Tazio Nuvolari. The car broke down with an engine failure. Rather than tow the car back to Italy it was offered for sale 'as is.' Walter Freud, an automotive engineer, purchased the car, repaired the engine and sent it to a bodyshop for restyling (the competition racer was fairly spartan). For the story of this unique Alfa Romeo, see this link (in German):

The car received a new, streamlined body based on the gorgeous Wanderer W25K. The original Alfa Romeo radiator and grill along with all running gear is hidden underneath the streamlined body.

A terrific display

Hansa-Lloyd Electrowagen

BMW 507 Sportster. Only 262 of these beautiful cars were built and BMW lost money on all of them. That BMW survived at all after the way was solely thanks to their motorcycle division. The motorcar division was devastated by the war and the remaining management doggedly kept pushing out large and expensive cars that had no market in post-war Germany. The 507 would have been a fine car in the 1960s, but in the 50s it was dead in the water.

Last view of the Tatra T87 on the way out.

For details of opening hours and other information, check out their webpage:

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