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The Sachs Saxonette

by Andrew Pattle

There are two versions of the Saxonette cyclemotor: one is a modern machine, currently in production, the same power unit as used in the Spartamet.  This article is about the other one, produced during the 1930s. The information comes from a Sachs brochure, printed in English, and published in 1937.  A copy of this brochure was sent to me by Philip Burbury.

The Sachs 98cc engine was put on the market in about 1931, intended for use in autocycles.  The engine proved to be a great success.  Autocycle powered by these Sachs engines gained successes in a number of trials.  A Sachs powered machine took part in a 2000km trial through Germany; entered in the 250cc class it completed the course 1½ hours under the time limit despite its small size.  Other demonstrations of the reliability were give in 24 hour trials in France over 3 successive years.  The engine also proved itself in a 1000km Alpine trial over 15 high passes and a 3000km ride through Germany carried out by members of the Hitler Youth.  Production of these engines had exceeded 250,000 after six years of production.

The obvious capabilities of the 98cc engine led Fichtel & Sachs to consider developing even smaller engines for the autocycle market.  There were 75cc and 60cc units for traditional autocycles and, as well as these, the 60cc Saxonette cyclemotor.

Sachs manufactured a coaster hub called the "Torpedo" for bicycles and autocycles.  The new engine was built around one of these Torpedo Hubs to produce a motorised rear wheel, very similar in layout to the BSA Winged Wheel.

The 60cc two-stroke engine had a bore of 45mm and a stroke of 38mm, developing about 1.2hp.  The overall gear ratio was 1:17 through a metal plate clutch mounted on a intermediate lay-shaft.  The flywheel magneto also provide 5 watts of lighting power to the Bosch head lamp.  The maximum speed was approximately 30 km/h, considered by the designers to be a speed that would not impair the life of a standard balloon-tyred bicycle.  The manufacturers claimed that pedal assistance would only be needed to climb hills steeper than 9%.  The engine mounting system was the subject of a patent by an Stuttgart engineer named Hartmann.  The engine is free to revolve about the hub but its rotation is prevented by a flexible torque reaction mounting.  It was claimed that this system prevented vibration being transmitted to the cycle frame.

The fuel tank was mounted above the rear wheel and doubled as a luggage rack.  A number plate mounting was provided at the rear of the tank.  Claimed fuel consumption was 1½ litres of 20:1 petroil per 100km (nearly 200mpg).  The clutch, throttle and lighting cables were combined in a single bundle.  This made removing the wheel to mend punctures a simpler business.

Why the brochure in English?  Well, along with the brochure, Philip sent me a copy of a letter, dated 7th October 1937, from Tormo Ltd of 57 Old Street, London EC1 to Mr George Whitworth of Oldham.  It's worth quoting the letter in full:

"We thank you for your enquiry for the Saxonette Motorised Torpedo Coaster Hub which was shown at the Earls Court Cycle Show where it created a great sensation.  An illustrated leaflet is enclosed herewith.
In view of the immense interest which this new model has aroused in this and other countries the Works are preparing for large scale production which you will readily understand requires considerable time.
We regret therefore that we are not yet in a position to quote prices and do not expect being able to market the engine before the spring of 1938.  In the meantime we are keeping your enquiry before us and as soon as further particulars are available we shall have pleasure in communicating with you."

Presumably, the further particulars never arrived.  Not really surprising, as the months ticked by and the prospect of war with Germany become more apparent, there could have been little chance of importing these machines.

First published - February 1995

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