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Germany's first new motorcycle after the war

by Otto Hofmann (374)

In 1945 Germany lay in ruins and as did its entire motor cycle industry with most companies being destroyed 70 - 95%.  In addition, after the war the Allies had ruled that Germany could no longer produce motor cycles over 350cc and only 10,000 machines between 60cc and 350cc per year were permitted.  The immediate interest, therefore, had to the with small machines and the VICT0RIA works, after the rubble had been cleaned up and some tooling repaired, went to work.  Nobody in those days, of course, could foresee the relatively speedy recovery of West Germany with the help of the Marshall-Plan.

The chief designer at VICTORIA was Albert Roder who later became world famous for designing the fabulous new line of NSU motorcycles (Fox, Lux, Max).  His VICTORIA team designed the FM 38 (for "Fahrrad-Motor 38cc").  The problem up to that point had been that conventional bicycle frames did not survive long being operated with a motor and heavier frames required more engine power.  So, in departing from conventional wisdom at the time VICTORIA designed an auxiliary frame holding engine and fuel tank, to be mounted over the rear wheel, which kept stresses away from the bicycle frame.  At the same time they were not afraid of high rpm's and also incorporated a modern two-speed transmission.  The FM 38 was introduced in 1946 was an immediate hit and kept in production for approximately six years.  A few vehicles in a highly tuned version established world speed records for cycles of that capacity.  The VICTORIA FM 38 could be purchased either as a complete "Moped" from the factory or as an engine with installation kit only, to be mounted in a standard bicycle frame of that time.  Either one was beyond my reach then and no one realized that some day these vehicles would enjoy collector's status, similar to the "Whizzer" in this country.

Otto's FM38

A few years ago, a friend and former TWA captain mentioned that he had such a complete engine kit still in the original box, having never been installed.  He had purchased it in Germany while flying the "airlift" between Frankfurt and Berlin but never got around to installing it in a bicycle.  (There is a similar story with his BMW 328: one out of an original 450 produced, it seems to be the only one not yet discovered).  He promised to let me have first choice if and when he was ready to sell it, so eventually I bought it from him.

Now I had the motor with installation kit but no appropriate German bicycle matching the time period.  So the next time I went to Germany I looked around for one.  It was not easy to find one, because 40 year old bicycles had usually been junked.  Eventually I did locate a Durkopp model and brought it back on the airplane as baggage.  Custom authorities did not trust the matter and even let the air out of the tires to be sure this old bicycle wasn't used to smuggle anything into the country!

I installed the motor, put the gasoline/oil mixture into the tank and, unbelievably after the engine turned over a couple of times, it ran - after 40 years of storage!  And strong it is!  This is possibly the only brand new VICIORIA FM 38 in existence worldwide, which does not deter me from riding it occasionally, as I do with all my cycles.  When I find the time, I will also restore the bicycle frame so that I can fully enjoy this small jewel.

FM38 Literature

First publishing details unknown - possibly from an early edition of the US Vintage Motor Bike Club's magazine

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