Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Heinkel Scooter Story

Ernst Heinkel was born 1888 in Stuttgard, Germany. He had a long interest in aeronautics stretching back to 1908 when he witnessed his first Zeppelin flight at nearby Lake Constance, the home of Count von Zeppelin's airship company. By 1911 he had built his first aeroplane from the blueprints of a French Farman. It crashed and he was nearly killed but his efforts ensured him a place in the fledgling German aero industry. During the First World War he was one of the designers working on the famous Albatross fighter which saw extensive use on the western front. After Germany's defeat, the Treaty of Versailles imposed a ban on the manufacture of German aircraft so he was forced to work for overseas aircraft companies, but by 1922the restrictions on civil aviation were withdrawn. Heinkel established his own company the same year.

Heinkel Flugzeugwerke Gmbh went on to produce some of Germany's most famous aircraft. The Heinkel 111 medium range bomber remains one of the archetype German bombers of the Second World War. Heinkel was also a pioneer in jet propulsion, launching the worlds first jet powered aeroplane, the Heinkel He 176, in 1939. Inevitably, as a military industry Heinkel's factories were extensively bombed during the war, leaving the company in ruins.

The ubiquitous Heinkel 111, mainstay of the Luftwaffe's bomber fleet

Heinkel's involvement with the Nazi war machine could have earned him a place in Nuremburg with other military industrialists, but his aeronautical know how was too valuable for the Allies to lose. Certainly some sort of deal was done with the US Airforce gaining access to Heinkel's aircraft designs and his most talented technicans while Heinkel retained control of his company. But like Enrico Piaggio in Italy, he was banned from manufacturing aircraft. Finding himself in an almost identical situation to his Italian counterpart he came to the same solution and in 1949 he began work on a prototype scooter.

Heinkel Tourist 100-A0 Prototype

Although work on the first Tourist prototype began in 1949, the model was never shown until 1953. Superficially it bears a resemblance to a Lambretta LC. Certainly NSU were producing LCs under license at this time, while aircraft manufacturing rival, Messerschmitt were building Vespas, so it's likely the design was based on its Italian contemporaries. From the front, the Lambretta resemblance is quite marked, except that the headlight is placed lower down in order to accommodate the distinctive folding luggage rack. The rear body however is classic Heinkel and would remain unchanged until the 103-A2 came along in 1960. The prototype featured a 149cc four stroke motor, three gears and 8 inch wheels. It was shown at few auto shows but was never put into production.

Heinkel Tourist 101-A0

Sometime between 1949 and 1953 German scooter fashions must have underwent a dramatic change. Certainly influential precursers like Bastert's "single track car", the gorgeous Einspurauto, set a distinctive standard. Like the earlier Maico-Mobil and Glas-Goggo, the Einspurauto featured a streamlined fixed faring over the front wheel - well, it looked streamlined on the Einspurauto; on the Goggo and Maico-Mobile it was just bulbous. The 1953 Tourist 101-a0 was pretty much identical to the 1949 prototype but now featured a streamlined fixed faring over the front wheel that was half way between the sleek Einspurauto and the bulbous Goggo. There were no other mechanical changes. Heinkel built approximately 6,500 between July 1953 and August 1954.

Heinkel Tourist 102-A1

Harald Huber's 102-a1 (read about it here -

The Tourist 102-A1 released in 1954 featured a small number of innovations over its predecessor. Firstly it had a larger 175cc engine. It also featured an electric starter motor and completely did away with the kick starter. No only was this quite a luxury for the time, it was indicative of confidence Heinkel had in the reliability of its product. All other mechanical features were largely unchanged. Although the 102-A1 was only in production for a year, it began to establish Heinkel's reputation for building good quality scooters. 17,500 were built.

Heinkel Tourist 103-A0

Heinkel were now hitting their stride. The 103-a0 was the natural progression from the 102. The 103-A0 was given four gears, which improved performance, and 10in wheels to improve road handling. Otherwise, it was largely the same machine. Production ran from 1955 to 1957 and delivered 34,000 machines to the domestic German market.

Heinkel Tourist 103-A1

103-A1 colour schemes, including the export model

Mechanically, the A1 was basically the same as the 103-A0 but the handlebars, naked up to now, were enclosed to house the speedometer and other controls. The body remained unchanged. Production ran for three years from 1957 to 1960 and 50,000 machines were delivered. Heinkel were now developing an export market and a small number of 103-A1s were sold in the US and UK.

Heinkel Tourist 103-A2

In 1960 Heinkel decided to revamp the Tourist design, which was now getting a little old. The front end remained largely the same but the rear body was extended and remodelled to be little more 'hip' and included features such as built in indicators. Exports also picked up with specialist dealerships in the US and UK now carrying the scooter. Heinkel capitalised on the Tourist's reputation for reliability and quality - essential marketing features given that Tourists were expensive vehicles and definitely at the top end of the scooter market. The 103-A2 was built between 1960 and 1965 with 55,000 rolling off the production line.

Here is a link to a review of the Heinkel Tourist by Cycle World Magazine from June 1962.

The Perle

While the Tourist delivered at the top end of the scooter market, Heinkel was also experimenting with mopeds. In 1953 it released the Perle, an elegant 50cc moped.

Heinkel 112
In 1957 Heinkel attempted to build a mid range 'economy scooter', the 112, with a 125cc engine, but it could not compete with the cheaper Vespas and Lambrettas and never got past the prototype stage.

Marketing for the Heinkel 112 prototype. Only five were built and they never went into production.  In 2013 one of the prototypes' chassis was found in Germany.

Heinkel 150

In 1962 Heinkel again tried to break into the mid-range market, this time with the 150 featuring ... you guessed it, a 150cc 2-stroke engine. Smaller than the Tourist and with revised styling, remininscent of the Japanese Fuji Rabbit scooter, the 150 was not the success Heinkel hoped it would be. Sales were disappointing and the model was withdrawn in 1964 after only 7,000 were built.

Heinkel Kabine

Heinkel's reliable, economic and powerful 175cc four stroke was also used to power their popular microcar, the Kabineroller. These three wheeled bubble cars were also built in Ireland for the British export market as the Heinkel Trojan.

Heinkel changes direction
The 1960's saw the inevitable decline of the scooter industry around the world. The war battered economies of Europe and Japan had now recovered sufficiently for people to consider cars as their first choice of transport, and if two wheeled transport was still desired, it was inevitably in the form of more powerful motorcycles. Demand for scooters rapidly tailed off. In 1965 Heinkel opted out of the automobile market. Heinkel's customers however were not so eager to see the demise of the marque and the Heinkel Club Deutschland bought all the spares, designs and machine tools for the Trojan, Tourist and Perle. They continue to manufacture parts and provide service to club members today.

For Heinkel Gmbh, scooters had been a prop to support their recovery, never their core business. Getting back into aircraft manufacure remained their focus and in the mid 1950s, with the Cold War heating up, the restrictions on the German aviation industry were removed. Heinkel were soon back in the game building US Lockheed Starfighters under license for the German Airforce. As the 1960s progressed there was a flurry of mergers between the many German aircraft manufacturers, including Dornier, Junkers, Blohm and Voss, and Messerschmitt and in 1965 Heinkel's aircraft wing was merged into VFW (a conglomerate including Focke Wolfe). In 1981 VFM was mergered with Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm. Each of the component companies however seemed to have retained a degree of independence as Heinkel is still listed as one of the companies involved in both the Airbus and Euro-Fighter projects.

Not all of Heinkel was absorbed into VFW and MBB. A heavy industrial arm, specialising in turbines, centrifuges and chemical processing still continues to trade as Heinkel GmbH.

Interesting Links

This article is now published in French in the scooter magazine, Scootitude

The order comes together

After auditing my Heinkel against the "erstzteilliste" or spare parts list from Heinkel-Club I was able to prepare a pretty comprehensive list of parts required. I must admit I was just a little shocked when I tallied up the total price of the order. It was well over 1800 Euro, which at current exchange rates meant A$3600! F*ck! I can't pretend I was expecting this to be a cheap exercise, but given that most of the machine was there the cost seemed just a little hard to swallow. I thought to myself, perhaps I'm being just a little over cautious and ordering things that I don't actually need? I went back and re-reviewed. Sure enough I convinced myself to drop a few 'surplus' items, like the complete 103-a1 indicator set, which would have set me back a couple of hundred euros. I'll find some other 'after market' set up for the indicators. Indeed, problems with dodgy original indicators have been one of my main complaints with both the Vespa and Troll.

Eventually I sent the order, neatly tabled in an Excel spreadsheet to the Heinkel-Club, highlighting (colour coded!) with a series of questions and clarifications for them to review. Spare parts meister Wolfgang responded to my queries extremely promptly, noting which parts he thought I should have ordered and which were surplus. I was very impressed. One concern was the requirement for exchange parts. Wherever possible Heinkel-Club seek to exchange and repair critical and hard to find parts. These included all the brake parts, parts of the transmission and the internal engine parts (rocker arms). I was however missing all of the exchange parts - clearly they'd been salvaged by the previous owners for this very reason. Fortunately they did agree to supply the parts, but at a premium.

Although I was dreading the outcome, I was very pleasantly surprised. The end cost was way under what I'd expected. 1200 euro including shipping. Comparing the price charged for each item against their list price in the catalogue, it seems clear that there is a membership discount or something at play.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The clean up

I've done this posting so I can post some photos of the clean up so far. Some of the parts have come up extremely well when cleaned, like the brake drum below.
Initial clean up. A soaking with degreaser and then the brake drum removed.

A good look inside reveals years of grease and dirt. The springs look pretty rusty and nothing moves.

A couple of hours with a wire brush and degreaser and they scrub up pretty well. Pleasingly, now that it's been cleaned up it works.

Over the New Year's break I started going over the chassis and body. The body looks fine. There is no major rust and only a couple of dings that can easily be beaten out. There were a few other issues though. The regulator is rusted to the chassis. It will take some effort to remove. The petrol tank also is rusted through underneath. Not a good sign. Also, the floor braces are twisted and one was rusted right through so that it fell off after a slight knock. None of these things in themselves are insurmountable problems, but they do mean more effort and more expense.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Starting on the Heinkel

It has taken me many months, but I've finally gotten around to starting work on the Heinkel. Making use of the Christmas holiday break, I dragged the boxes of parts out under the shade of the Robinia tree and with a couple of litres of degreaser and a wire brush started the clean up. Apart from the chassis and body work, there were four boxes of parts for the Heinkel. One contained the wheels and two spare tyres, in surprisingly good condition. One box contained most of an engine, one contained miscellaneous parts, largely related to the dashboard and controls, and there was a box of miscellaneous engine parts. I pulled out all the parts, categorized them, photographed them and then, where appropriate began cleaning them up to determine if they were salvageable. It was clear as I worked through the boxes that this machine has been cannibalized for spare parts as some integral parts were missing, such as the rocker arms for the engine (but the valves were all still in place). It also became apparent that I had parts from two different models - likely my 102-a1 and a 103-a1. This became quite obvious when I placed the two swing arms (drive chains) beside each other. They are noticeably different sizes. This is because Heinkel increased the wheel size from 8inch to 10inch when they released the 103-a1.

What I now know I have is:
  • One full engine, minus all the mechanics at the top end
  • One full set of engine seals
  • Two spare cylinders and a spare head
  • About quarter of a second engine (but with almost all the working parts removed)
  • Two complete swing arms (for a 102 & a 103)
  • Two full clutch sets and third set of clutch discs
  • Two dashboards (one very badly battered)
  • One hand brake control
  • One foot brake
  • One lights control
  • Two wheels
  • One brake drum (fully functional)
  • One intact petrol tap
  • Two Pallas carburetters (one missing about half its parts)
  • Two engine mounting braces
  • One petrol tank (but rusted)
  • One complete chassis, footplate, and body work (minus seat)
  • One complete headlamp
  • Part of a set of indicators and rear light assembly
  • One Heinkel flying wing symbol
  • An assortment of other miscellaneous bits and pieces.
So, what do I need? Thanks to the good folk at the Heinkel-Club Deutschland I have a full schematic and list of available parts for the 102-A1. I've since taken several passes through the catalogue and produced a list of parts I require. It's quite long and, when it's all added up, quite expensive. In summary, the parts I need:
  • Engine top end
  • Exhaust and air filter
  • Bike stand
  • Rear shock absorber and fender
  • Front brake drum
  • Seat
  • All handlebar controls
  • Bowden cables
  • Wiring harness, electrics, etc
  • And some miscellaneous stuff.
Some of the items I'm sourcing from at the moment because they can be found cheaper, although this is a bit hit and miss. Most parts from ebay are second hand and some occasionally prove to be in no better condition than the parts I'm replacing. It's all part of the fun.