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Ich Glaube an Auto-allumage!

Philippa Wheeler

For my last year or two at work before retirement I travelled the twenty miles between Abergavenny and Newport on a BMW R65 and later an R60.  Most mornings, I waved to another BMW rider heading the other way.

On Sundays the Godly of the motor cycling fraternity foregather on the car park at Abergavenny to talk of motor cycles and knees down on noteworthy corners upcountry.  Sensible locals stay home since the Police are out in force lurking in hedgerows and watching for head bangers on the Hardwick roundabout.  On that summer's day in 1999 I had been upcountry myself and parked the BM for a walk round and a mug of tea before going home.  When I got back to the bike I was approached.  The tall man wondered if perhaps I was the rider who waved on the Newport road.  So I met Timm.  There was just a trace of accent I couldn't quite place until he said he originated from Hamburg and worked as a translator for a local firm.  When he heard of the German language Lohmann material I had, he offered to look at it and spent, I would guess, many a lunch hour making sense of the text that defied my understanding.  What follows is courtesy of Timm Frenzell, my kindly fellow traveller.

A surprising number of cyclemotors seem to have been conceived during the Second World War and born into post war austerity.  The father of the Lohmann seems to have been one Hermann Teegen who had he been British would no doubt have been called a Boffin.  As the war ended the victorious Allies raced to secure what they could of German inventiveness and technology and despatched teams of experts to assess and report.

One such team was tasked to investigate small compression ignition engines.  However, to date, despite a search at PRO Kew amongst long lists of British Industrial Objectives Sub-Committee reports, this one has not been found and whilst it is possible to speculate that chronic fuel shortages in the latter days of the Third Reich may have a bearing on research into a paraffin driven engine, that remains speculation.  What we can be sure of is that in those early post war days the Lohmann created intense interest.  Some of the contemporary soothsayers and prophets saw in the tiny engine a meaningful future for all powered transport.  Hindsight tells us that, as usual, they were wrong and the Lohmann passed into obscurity within a few short years.

Ich glaube an Auto-allumage (I believe in auto-ignition)

This piece published in 1952 was written in a fairly light-hearted style but is unfortunately incomplete.  The testers travel from Germany by train with the engine and have to find a host cycle in Poitiers...

"In Poitiers it was unwrapped for the first time and fixed into the oldest 'torturer' of some French made bicycle.  The installation took one hour but the repair of the 'torturer' took one whole day.  Hidden corroded screws with damaged screw slots or chewed up hexagons are infinitely time consuming.  When dusk descended , three of us took it in turns to entice the thing to produce a sound with the leitmotif 'Karrakk'..."

Lohmann and the tender gender

"Next morning at 5 o'clock Robert stood in front of my bed drenched in sweat: he managed to pedal down the steep hill before the house, using motor power.  Then I ran in the little motor, taking the whole day.  Whenever I approached the house the whole family plus guests rushed to the window.  They knew by now it was not a Stuka which approached but a bicycle with auxiliary motor.  In the meantime Robert had translated the operating instructions and already gave theoretical driving instructions."
"However, it was a fisherman, although not quite familiar with the differences between a crankshaft and a kickstarter crank who immediately moved about it in a most sensible fashion!  He never rode with too high a compression and cleverly balanced 'more gas and less compression' on the hills."
"This is my most important observation which has been reaffirmed five times since: complete ignorami of motor cycling jargon and of motor technology immediately grasped - in all senses of the word - the two twist grips.  Specialists were the worse the more they studied the Auto Allumage and the more they were educated about petroleum's willingness to ignite.  The fastest to comprehend were women, given roughly the following instructions: here is a grip and there is a grip for twisting.  At a certain position the engine makes a noise like "karrakk", and when you firm up your grip a bit further, you will hear a woodpecker pecking.  That is not good.  So you twist on the left one, and maybe also on the right one, until it is buzzing.  Well, you will see when it pulls best.  The buzzing is just right.  There you are, my female students were immediately at home with the birds and the bees."
"But the male experts!  Running in drivers from Poulain, test drivers from Salmson, bicycle dealers with diplomas, super sales reps from the motor cycle industry.  The sweat just pouring out, wise cracks burbling out, elegant improvements in their heads, time for a cigarette break... they proved to be blind to observations from eye and ear.  If ever I had to employ any test technicians I would take only women who have not yet been to a technical college.  Crash bang wallop, now I have upset the whole industry!  Stop!  A few men are excepted: the Lohmann constructors.  My statement expands the market by 100%.  Well, Max, Fritz and numerous women have thus 'Lohmanned' for about 300km."

Knowing why does not always hurt...

"And then my Chef de file (your most faithful reader Bockholdt) has freed the gunged up rings.  After another 50km of new running-in time for the rings, the warm Lohmann already started after three metres of pushing, and in the cold after 10m.  It mattered nothing how cold it was on the outside when you fetch your Lohmann out of a warm garage.  If it cooled down significantly (5 deg C) the metal block had to be warmed through friction, ie: elbow  power, a method of modest efficiency."
"Bockholdt once covered 110 km on one litre (313.26 mpg).  Top speed is 23kph (14mph) running on petrol and 27kph (16.8mph) on diesel fuel.  In town 1 litre disappears quicker, covering hardly 60km (37 miles).  I thought this was less due to consumption rather than due to starting and driving off."
"Knowing how the carburettor worked, Bockholdt and I succeeded several times..."

And this unfortunately is where the page ends.  Other titles like "100 kilometer fur 70 Pfennig" and "18 Kubik reichten aus" ("18 cubes are enough") evaluate the Lohmann very thoroughly with graphs and charts and technical detail and talk in harrowing terms of test rides of astonishing length.  More anon, perhaps.

[Any reader having a copy of BIOS report Number 1391, entitled "Small Compression Ignition Engines", or knowing of a library holding a copy, please get in touch with our Lohmann Marque Enthusiast - Editor]

First published, April 2002

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