Friedel Munch is mad. March hare mad. And regular readers will know that if there is one thing we like in an entrepreneur or designer or scientist or driver or engineer, it is madness. It is the essential quality that defines both genius and insanity, and we use the term affectionately. It is a matter of perspective really, and like all madmen, Friedel Munch started out in perfectly normal fashion for the time. Dad had a car and motorcycle repair shop, and young Friedel raced a Horex single after the war. He eventually went to work for Horex, and purchased a piece of their enterprise in 1956.
As Horex faltered in the late 1950s (see Horex Motorcycles), Munch turned to making his own high performance drum brakes which sold very well. They were so effective, that it took the arrival of disc brakes in the late 1960s to outperform them. But he remained convinced that bikes needed much more power. He used the sales success from his brake business to produce a 500cc 4 cylinder transverse-mounted racing engine in the early 1960s. Remember, this was way before Honda’s game-changing CB750 which popularized the same configuration. He was then approached by french BMW sidecar racer Jean Murit to produce something even more powerful…
Munch decided in 1965 that what was needed was the 1000cc engine from a car placed into a double loop motorcycle frame a la Norton featherbed ! That car engine was the NSU Prinz (see NSU TTS) which was relatively new. Imagine a builder today, deciding to put the motor from a Honda Civic into a custom frame ! The result of Munch’s efforts was the Munch 4TTS, which became dubbed the Mammut (mammoth) due to it’s size. This beast was arguably the first Superbike. It was a big, heavy (550 lbs), double overhead cam, high performance machine like nothing else at the time. It was also expensive which made it rather exclusive. Despite this, it was reportedly very good once in motion, easily exceeded 100mph, and hundreds were sold. Besides the famous Munch brakes, the Mammoth had a cast alloy rear wheel (remember this is 1966!), and a fully enclosed chain case which doubled as the left part of the swingarm. It formed the basis for several record attempts, which failed only because they could not find a rear tire which would stay together very long ! In 1967, the Mammoth was the world’s fastest production motorcycle. The motor grew to 1177cc, and eventually up to a whopping 1800cc version.
Like almost all great engineer/designers, Munch was not the best businessman. He may have been dubbed “The sorcerer of Ossenheim”, but that was for his mechanical and design expertise. He had a series of business partners including Floyd Clymer, and emerged from almost every partnership in poor shape financially for one reason or another. Regardless, Friedel Munch persists to this day and has been involved in the Mammut 2000 (which had Cosworth heads, produced 260hp and was limited to 155mph), the Horex rebirth, and a new electric Munch project. Honda, Boss Hoss, and many others owe some thanks to Munch for paving the way. Pushing the envelope of what the motorcycle can be is in the DNA of Friedel Munch, and motorcyclists are all the better for it.