Tuesday, May 13, 2008

IWL History

The range of IWL scooters - Pitty, Wiesel, Berlin & Troll (and in the rear, a Campi trailer)

VEB Industriewerke of Ludwigsfeld (IWL) was first established on the southern outskirts of Berlin in 1936 by the Daimler-Benz company to build aircraft engines. Being a military industry, the factory was severely bombed during the Second World War and, as part of German reparations to the USSR, the Soviets dismantled and removed everything that could be salvaged from the damaged factory during the late 40's. By 1950 IWL was left with 11 damaged and empty assembly halls, a small administrative office and no future.

However, as the east vs west division of Germany became permanent, the East German government decided to commandeer the site and revive the moribund factory. As in the west, the government desperately needed to re-industrialize and provide jobs for a destitute workforce. After six months reconstruction the IWL factory began to function again, first producing machine tools, then agricultural machinery and finally building Soviet aircraft engines under license. East Germany had the same desperate need for transport as West Germany and Italy, and in 1954 decided to begin building scooters as cheap mass transport.

The Pitty

The Pitty was IWL's first scooter and began rolling off the production line at the beginning of 1955. There was nothing original in its design. IWL had developed three different prototypes, all based on contemporary western designs, but eventually settled on a design directly modeled on the Goggo-mobile. Construction was typically socialist, with parts provided by a number of different state owned companies. IWL was responsible for the body and assembly. Engines were supplied by the famous German motorcycle company, MZ. Simson provided many other components. This arrangement would later prove very useful to a new generation of IWL owners/restorers, as interchangeable MZ and Simson parts are still widely available.

Despite its scooter styling, the Pitty - and indeed all the IWL scooters - had more in common with motorcycles. Gear change was exactly as per a motorcycle -with a hand operated clutch and footpedal gear change. The 2 stroke, 123cc MZ engine delivered a maximum of 5hp and was capable of 70kph. With solid suspension and a twelve inch wheel base, the Pitty was a relatively good cruising bike. But the extra metal around the nose gave the Pitty a heavy, sluggish appearance and production ceased in April 1956. The Pitty came in only three colours - green, red/brown and black.

The Wiesel SR56

After 11,293 Pitty's had rolled off the production line, IWL released the Wiesel. Gone was the fixed nose faring that had made the Pitty look so slow and sluggish, replaced by the more traditional moving fender. Apart from a small change to the rear suspension however, the Wiesel was mechanically identical to the Pitty. The Wiesel came in three colours - red, grey and black. 56,000 were built before production ceased in 1959. Introduced at the same time as the Wiesel was the Campi single wheeled trailer. Fixing to a connection on the rear spare wheel, the Campi made the cruising scooter a much more versatile and useful vehicle.

The Berlin SR59

With the Berlin Statroller (city scooter) IWL really hit its stride. In appearance and styling, the Berlin was almost identical to the Wiesel but it had a larger, more powerful 145cc MZ engine that could push it along at 82kph. The Berlin also had a 4 speed gearbox and rider comfort was improved by the addition of a rear shock absorber, longer front arm and sprung seats. It also had a number of advanced features, such as electric ignition and seven starting settings, such as cold and hot starting in summer and winter. Styling was also enhanced by a new two-toned paint scheme, with the combinations of green/white, orange/white, light blue/white and black/white. The Berlin was IWL's best selling and best loved scooter. 113,943 Berlins were built between 1959 and 1962. Many thousands are still on the roads today in Germany and elsewhere around the world.

The Troll TR1

With the Troll, or 'Touring Scooter', IWL took the lessons from the Berlin to the next level. The engine was still the same but the body was restyled, becoming squarer, longer and larger. The higher seating made for a more comfortable ride, as did the new shock absorbers on the the front wheel and the improved seats. With a top speed of 90kph, IWL had delivered a cruising scooter that was solid, mechanically reliable and capable of comfortable driving over long distances. But the Troll never matched the success of the Berlin. By the mid 1960s imported motorcycles were making headway in the scooter market and even East German customers were looking for cars. Only 56,531 Trolls were built between January 1963 and December 1964. At the end of the production run IWL stopped manufacturing scooters and concentrated on trucks, which they still manufacture today. The Troll came with a two tone paint scheme like the Berlin - red/white, light blue/white and black/white.

The motorcycle manufacturer, MZ, took over IWL production and retired their scooter line at the end of 1964 in favour of their MZ ET motorcycle, with which the Troll shared parts and styling. The MZ range of 2 stroke motorcycles would continue in production almost unchanged right into the 1990s.

East Germany industry isn't renown for the quality of its products - the reputation of the Trabant is understandable - but IWL produced four high quality, well loved scooters. Many thousands are still on the roads today and they remain sought after vehicles for enthusiasts. Although not a bad scooter, the unfortunate Pitty fared the worst of the series. It's stodgy, old fashioned styling made it unattractive and many were later junked for parts by Wiesel and Berlin owners. Although the Berlin remains the pride of the fleet and is highly sought after, perhaps strangely, it's the Campi trailer that is the most collectable item today.

Ludwigsfeld Museum
Here's a link to the museum in Ludwigsfeld. It's all in German but it does have some interesting photos, especially those showing the war damaged factories being cleaned up in 1948. There are also some photos of IWL-IFA trucks that were manufactured between 1964 and 1990.



  1. Muy interesante su aporte!!! muchas garcias! Soy Wilder Dutra de Tacuarembó, Uruguay. Y aqui mismo en mi garage hay una de esas maravillas! es de mi papá y la compró usada ya, en el año 1970, la desarmó para hacerle motor en 1987 y no la ha armado más, aunque está completa y en buen estado. Todas sus piezas están acá esperando por dar unos paseos más, y por cierto que los puede dar! es muy bonita y cómoda para andar. Es Berlin modelo 61, verde con blanco, predomina el aluminio y tiene estrellas cromadas en los laterales. Logré dar un paseo en ella a los 13 años! aunque fue muy corto, sólo recorrí 10 metros!!! Me gritó "frená!" y me bajó de ella como un viento. creo que fue ese el motivo por el cual en realidad se decidió por hacerle motor nuevo a su motoneta!!! Desde esos días está desarmada. Ahora el prácticamente no se levanta de la cama, por una enfermedad y yo no he tenido el tiempo suficiente para armarla. pero algún día voy a dar otra vueltita más ja ja ja (sólo espero poder andar más de 10 metros esta vez). Lo saludo atentamente Wilder.

    1. Hola, soy Alejandro de Maldonado, pudo arraglar la moto? Realmente me sorprende que haya ejemplares de IWL en Uruguay, hay una negra en Canelones del 64 a la venta en MercadoLibre que parece estar más o menos bien, no sé si funciona, no quiero molestar preguntando porque no tengo el dinero para comprarla, pero bueno en otro momento será. Saludos gracias por compartir tu historia.