It is gloss black, it is German, it is single cylinder, produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and it has an enclosed drivetrain. It is a BMW right, and only the model designation is a mystery? Wrong, it is a product of VEB Motorraderwerke Zschopau, branded MZ for short. MZ arose from the rubble of the former DKW plant in Zschopau following WWII. After the war. DKW relocated to Ingolstadt in the western zone, and the remains of the Zschopau plant were cobbled together into MZ. Their first products were produced under the IFA brand, and that lasted until 1955 when they switched.
Despite producing near copies of DKWs, BMWs, and some industrial looking fare common to the eastern bloc, MZ kept the signature fully enclosed chain and sold fairly well into the 1950s. Things changed significantly in 1953 when engineer Walter Kaaden joined to head up the sporting division. His 2-stroke motors were very competitive with the emerging four strokes, particularly in the hands of star rider Ernst Degner. The combination won several Grand Prix races and were in line to win a world championship when Degner defected and then joined Suzuki. Meanwhile, in trials and off-road events, the MZ name was even more successful. They were competitive in what was the biggest international race of that time in the ISDT (International 6 Day Trial) where they were victorious from 1963 to 1967, and then again in 1969. The TS Model 125/G and 250/G in particular which were based on the Trials bikes, won innumerable races within the eastern bloc and were known as sturdy and reliable if not super fast. They are great looking classic enduro bikes that never officially came to the west.
Meanwhile on the streetbikes, MZ continued to produce basic machines with cost-saving measures such as painted silver side panels rather than chrome. Despite this, they produced their one millionth bike in 1970 and kept going strong. An interesting fact is that they were among the last to give up on the glory years of sidecars, selling bikes with them (Stoye) up untill 1972. MZ sold their two millionth motorcycle in 1983. However, a few years later, the reunification of Germany destroyed business, and they went bankrupt in 1991. In 1992, they tried again as MuZ, only to go bankrupt again in 1996. The rights to the name were then purchased by Malaysian company Hong Leong Group, and with a large capital infusion, the company continued through the 1990s, even gaining a one-make series in the Scorpion Cup. But business was never profitable, and in 2008 it closed again. Never say die with MZ. In 2009, the name was purchased by two former Moto GP stars and is having another go at it. This company is very familiar with rising from the rubble of past destruction and failures, so hope springs eternal….
6 Replies to “MuZings”
I had a Jawa from that same era. It was a unreliable mess of a machine , but when it was right, it was a great hare scrambles machine. Someone said they copied MZ. Hehe, a copy of a copy……
You write about these motorcycles like you've owned every one… Or, as if you sat in on every meeting of the board of directors. You are the most authoratative moto/car writer I have ever read. By the way, I am declaring Saturday, July 23rd "Classic Velocity Blog Day" and will wear the hat I got from you all day at the BMW RAlly in Bloomsburg.
Jack • Reep
nice post. i saw some cool skorpion cup racing on youtube. sorta like boxer cup…
It seems like everybody was copying and reverse engineering everything around this time. Kinda like today !!
Between an ever expanding collection of books, and the interweb, you can get darn close to being in the room. For me it is fascinating. If only someone offered a PhD in this stuff….cheers
Yep, they made a good attempt at revitalizing the brand in Germany and much of Europe. Must have been great for the fans of the bike, just like the Boxer cup was.