The A.B.C. Motorcycle


In a recent issue Mr. Granville Bradshaw told us that his A.B.C. motorcycle design was sold by the Sopwith Aviation Company to the B.M.W. (Bayerische Motoren Werke) factory at Munich. The writer—according to his letter—redesigned also the 400-cc. A.B.C.—on behalf of the German factory—to the very first 500-c.c. B.M.W. motorcycle.

I have no comment to make on this statement ... except that I would like a proof of it! Mr. Bradshaw surely has some means to underline his point of view which is not in line with my knowledge about the creation of the first motorcycle in the B.M.W. works.

As an expert, technical journalist and " student " of motorcycle and car history, I feel very strongly about this matter. My only interest is to get my records in order ... they include not less than five names of designers which in one or the other way were —or claim to have been—connected with the very first B.M.W. The names are: Max Friz, well known designer of aero engines in Germany during the First World War and later a director of B.M.W. ; Martin Stolle, who worked in 1921 and 1922 under Friz at the Munich factory and joined later the Victoria Works at Norimberk and the Deutsche Industrie Werke (manufacturers of D-Rad motorcycles) at Spandau near Berlin; Dipl. Ing. Rudolf -Schleicher, who was already with B.M.W. in 1921, was in the design office 1923-24, and between 1924 and 1927 connected with development work at the Munich factory.

The fourth was—according to a Porsche Biography—the late Prof. Ferdinand Porsche himself, who created the machine during his first year with Mercedes at Stuttgart (1923), and sold the design to B.M.W. after Mercedes decided not to produce any motorcycles ... so far I do know, Prof. Porsche never claimed having done it. How far the biography, which was written after his death, is correct in this point, is unknown to me. And now Mr. Granville Bradshaw is the fifth man who claims being closely connected with the design of the R32.

The fact is, that the A.B.C. had 400 c.c., overhead valves and chain drive. The R32, which was the very first B.M.W. motorcycle ever produced, had a 500-c.c. engine (what was explained in Mr. Bradshaw's letter) but had side-valves and shaft drive. I want also to stress the fact that we had in England two more motorcycles with transverse flat-twin engines, before the B.M.W. came into being. One—which had much more in common with the B.M.W. than the A.B.C.—was the Grant-designed and Coventry-built G.S.D. It was equipped with a transversemounted 500-c.c. Bradshaw engine and had shaft drive. The other was a prototype built by B.S.A. in Birmingham, which, too, had a transverse-mounted flat-twin, side-valves and shaft drive. It never went into production.

As to the B.M.W. factory, Max Friz designed in 1921 a 500-c.c. s.v. flat-twin engine—designated M2B15—for the Victoria Works, at Norimberk. In the next year, the Munich firm bought the design of the Helios motorcycles and incorporated the M2B15 in them too.

We wrote the year 1923, when Max Friz redesigned this power unit and created the M2B33 engine, which formed the basis for the first motorcycle bearing the name B.M.W., the R32. In this case the flat-twin was again a 500-c.c. side-valve unit but was transverse mounted and had shaft drive.

The first B.M.W. machine with an o.h.v. engine—with fully-enclosed valve gear—was designed by Dipl. Ing. Rudolf Schleicher in 1924. This model was already raced with great success by a team consisting of Schleicher himself, Reich and Bieber. When B.M.W. started the production of their own motorcycles and was unable to supply the Victoria Works with the M2B15 as a proprietary unit, Martin Stolle designed for the Norimberk factory a new flat-twin, which had 500 c.c. and overhead valves. It was not built at Norimberk, but by a firm named Sedelbauer in Munich.

This, dear friends, is my version of the creation of the first B.M.W. motorcycles ... and I am sure that the B.M.W. factory in Munich will give the same explanation.

                                                                                                              I am, Yours, etc.,

London, N.W.9.                                                                                                         ERWIN TRAGATSCH.