Pete’s Vintage Motorcycle Corner – Cold War Motorcycle Classics
The period following the end of World War II saw allies become enemies afterward. Popularly known as “the Cold War,” it was a time of protracted hardship in Europe.
Germany in particular was left in ruins and required to pay war reparations. The country’s economy was in tatters, and its entire population struggled to return to normalcy in a period of high prices and high unemployment. Wages were generally very low for those lucky enough to find work.
With much of the public transportation infrastructure destroyed, and many individuals’ vehicles destroyed or damaged and fuel both rationed and costly, getting around was a major problem.
These extreme conditions in Germany and other countries turned into battlegrounds by the war led to the development of innovative approaches to personal transportation that required little in the way of materials to produce, could operate for miles on minimal fuel and had low purchase prices.
Microcars, light motorcycles, mopeds and scooters became the mainstays of personal transportation. Some were produced in huge numbers, but many brands and models had short production runs and some, born of opportunism but not necessarily popular enough to last came and went quickly.
As the European economies improved, and infrastructure to support bigger, faster vehicles was restored, the market for those tiny workhorses of the immediate post-war period shrank as the market for bigger, faster vehicles grew.
By 1989, many factors had occurred: relations between East and West warmed; the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR or Soviet Union) broke up; the Berlin Wall came down; and heyday of those 1950s microcars and small bikes came to an end. Scooters and mopeds were still popular, but only within their market niche — not generally as primary personal transportation.
Thanks to the far-reaching efforts of Peter Kisgen, those now-rare and all-but-forgotten microcars, light motorcycles, mopeds and scooters built during the immediate post-war period and cold war are being found, fixed and saved. Kisgen operates Pete’s Vintage Motorcycle Corner out of Florida where he focuses on German, Italian and British machines.
Kisgen, originally from Germany, scours Europe to find some of the rarest, finest and most interesting machines created during that difficult time. He then acquires them and connects them with collectors, primarily in the United States, to help them get into the hands of like-minded individuals who wish to see these unique machines preserved before they are all lost to history.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Kisgen and one of his latest customers from Wisconsin, Mr. Carlo Krause, when Kisgen personally delivered two very rare examples to Krause. Krause has purchased motorcycles, mopeds and microcars from Kisgen in the past.
“These bikes are very rare now,” Kisgen explained. “For example, I recently found a 1952 Torpedo 150 in Germany; in more than 30 years of doing this, it was the first one I ever found for sale, and it was in original condition. The MZ East German military police bike I just delivered to Carlo is probably one of the last ones of its kind to exist in complete condition because after reunification of Germany, most of them were destroyed or sold as parts.”
The MZ (Motorrad Zschopau) Kisgen referred to was indeed in very complete and original condition as it had been the last day it served the East German Military Police in its role patrolling the border or Berlin Wall. So complete, in fact, that it even included the patrolman’s helmet, goggles, entrenching tool, traffic control placard and baton, as well as the two-way radio, spare fuel can for carrying pre-mix for the two-stroke 150cc engine, original olive-drab paint, insignias and designation numbers for the NVA or Nationale Volks Armee—the National People’s Army.
The machine is in as nearly a pristine condition as it would have been when it was built in 1980. Interestingly, while the entire bike is painted in suppressed color, the exhaust system came finished in bright chrome.
MZ is the latter-day successor to the pre-war DKW, which was split first into IFA and then into MZ in East Germany and remained under the DKW name in West Germany. Nearly out of business toward the end of the Soviet bloc days, MZ managed to make a comeback in the mid-1990s.
The other bike Kisgen delivered to Krause was a 1958 Göricke Diva 50cc also in pristine running condition and came with its original registration papers included. Göricke began motorcycle production in 1903 after starting out with racing bicycles.
The Diva sports a 50cc two-stroke Sachs engine, sleek, aerodynamic lines, deeply valenced fenders and some clever engineering. For example, the rear suspension uses a cantilevered plunger style system which uses a rubber biscuit as the shock absorber.
The Diva also includes high-end appointments such as speedometer and odometer (which shows only 12,407 km, original), tool box, rear luggage rack, lights, Göricke front fender ornament, hand-operated front and rear internal expanding brakes and its original Göricke logo bell on the handlebar.
While both bikes are in operational condition, neither will be ridden. Krause plans to put the bikes on display at the Midwest Microcar Museum he opened in August in Mazomanie, WI. For more, visit Midwest Microcar Museum.
“I just want to share these rare bikes with others who are as interested in them as I am and to others to become interested in their history,” Krause explained. Krause went on to say he plans to expand his collection, including more selections from Peter Kisgen.
Not all of the examples Kisgen finds and brings into the U.S. are spoken for. Some in his current inventory shown on his website are still up for grabs. For those collectors particularly interested in European scooters, mopeds and light motorcycles from the cold war era, with unique pedigrees and some that include original documentation and rich histories, Peter Kisgen could be a very good person to get to know.