Saturday, January 8, 2011

Revised 'favourites' list

My ongoing love affair with vintage machines has not dimmed over the years despite their lack of reliability, numerous breakdowns and constant expense. Much to Shelly's frustration, my list of 'most desired' vehicles just keeps on getting longer and longer. A couple of years ago I posted my 'most desired' vehicle list on the sidebar but as time has ticked by my tastes have changed somewhat, so it's time to do a new list. My old favourites I've tracked here, including the original weblinks. This of course doesn't mean I don't want these beauties!

Trabant 501

The Trabant is often lambasted in the popular press as one of the worst cars ever made. That completely misses the point. All the features that come in for criticism - the tiny two stroke motor and duraplast bodywork - had nothing to do with communism or design by committee (as claimed by this idiot - They were the direct descendents of DKWs pre-war designs. In the prewar years DKWs cars were all built of wood with leather, plywood or synthetic body panels. Duraplast, a composite product made of resin impregnated cotton or paper pulp, was one of the products they were experimenting with before the war. Shortages of steel in East Germany meant that VEB Sachsenring continued to use Duraplast, while DKW in the West could afford to abandon it. These decisions, driven by necessity and hardship meant that while the Trabant would never be a high performance vehicle, it was practically indestructible - the body would never rust, could be easily patched if damaged and the engine would run just about forever. It was, as its makers intended, a perfectly adequate, low cost peoples' car.


Maico's answer to the scooter craze in the early fifties was certainly distinctive. Built between 1950 and 1956, it was described as a two-wheeled car it was built like a enclosed motorcycle. Big, chunky and slow, it's a magnificent beast and highly desirable. Information on the web can be hard to find in English.
Philippe Devant in Paris is Mr Maicomobil.

Simson Schwalbe
Simson was part of VEB, the East German automotive collective. They originally built motorcycles but VEB assigned them the moped market (motorcycle production was assigned to MZ, formerly IFA, the old DKW factory in Zwickau). They upgraded their cute little S2 moped with scooter bodywork and created this little beauty. What the Vespa is to Italy, the Swallow is to East Germany. Thousands of these machines survive in Germany where they continue to be used as daily runabouts as they are almost indestructable. We saw dozens on the road in eastern Germany in 2009. They have now gained the status of a cult icon, up there with the Trabant. If you're interested in a Swallow, you need do no more than look on

ZU Victoria Type 115 Blechbanane
Certainly one of the most stylish and elegant mopeds ever built. Originally released by DKW (see my posting "Das Kline Wunder"), it was something of a flop. The model was taken over by the Zweirad Union conglomerate of moped producers, but sales did not really improve. They are now regarded as collectors items. There is quite a bit of information on the Internet about them but it's all in German.

Achilles 175

These very rare little scooters, almost a covered motorcycle really, were built by the German Achilles company between 1952 & 1954. Powered by the ubiquitous SACHS 175cc engine, they were a short lived affair. There are very few left in existance and information about them is very hard to come by.

Aeromacchi Chimera
Like Piaggio, Aermacchi originally built aircraft but were stopped from doing so after the war. Instead they began building small, sporty motorcycles. In 1957 they developed this very advanced and streamlined model but the bodywork put off many buyers and the model flopped. In the end only about 300 were built. They reverted to traditional stylings though and they continued to be successful, so much so that Harley-Davidson bought them out in order to introduce light sports bikes to the US. They flopped in the US so H-D sold them to the Italian motorcycle company, MV Agusta. In the 1990s, H-D, learning nothing from its own past bought MV Agusta, but their new products tanked again. After ten years of losses they sold MV Agusta back to its original owners for 1 euro!!

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