Back in 1906, one Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen, from Denmark, bought an empty cloth factory in Zschopau, in the Erzgebirge region of Saxony, in the former East Germany. Rasmussen went on to build steam-powered cars in this facility (under the DKW name) and was also building some very basic motorcycles (essentially bicycles with small engines strapped on…) at the facility by the early-1920s. By 1929, motorcycle production had gone up to 60,000 units per annum and DKW was the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
In 1956, the motorcycle division of Rasmussen’s company was renamed Motorradwerk Zschopau (MZ), which is German for ‘motorcycle factory at Zschopau.’ MZ did well for themselves in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, winning the prestigious International Six Day Trial (ISDT) from 1963-67 and then again in 1969 and 1987. Their one-millionth motorcycle – an MZ ETS 250 Trophy Sport – rolled off the assembly line in Zschopau in 1972, and their two-millionth motorcycle, an MZ ETZ 250, was produced in 1983. After that, however, MZ ran into trouble since they weren’t able to keep up cheaper and more modern motorcycles from Japan.
The 1990s were bad times for the company, with MZ being renamed to MuZ, being bought out by Malaysian Corporation, the Hong Leong Group in 1996, and finally stopping motorcycle production in 2008, after the Malaysian backers withdrew their support. There was a revival of sorts in 2009, when former GP racers Ralf Waldmann and Martin Wimmer bought the MZ brand and while the company currently only makes an odd bunch of scooters, there are rumours that they will launch a 600cc sportsbike based on their Moto2 racebike.
Here at Faster and Faster, we’re fans of MZ – we especially like MZ bikes from the 1960s and the 70s, which we think are super-cool in a weird sort of way. It’s hard to explain… but, hey, we just like these bikes – if nothing else, then for their sheer eccentricity or quirkiness, perhaps! So when we came across Maximilian Näther’s website, which had a sketch of a vintage racer based on his 1969 MZ ES 250 /2 Trophy, we were quite fascinated with it and got in touch with Max to talk to him about the sketch and his bikes.
“I’m a professional designer and CEO at my firm ZOOM designagency which is located in the middle of Germany, pretty much the center of Europe. We do transportation, product and product graphic design, all with hard focus on motorcycles and motorcycle accessories,” says Max. “I own an MZ ES 250/2 Trophy from 1969. The bike has been kept in a garage, with very few miles on it, by an elderly member of our family who bought it new back in the day, and gave it to me for just a few bucks,” he adds.
“I have been working for MZ for the current owner as part of the race team and later as head of design, designing, developing and building the last real MZ motorcycle at the moment, Anthony West’s 2011 Moto2 racebike. MZ is again bankrupt now but I still have my old bike, which I got running again. I had some thoughts about its future, which I brought on paper here. The sketch [the one you see on top] itself is made by ball pen and has, except for the vintage shader, not been edited at all. I thought of combining new tech with the old and build some kind of a vintage racer out of it,” says Max.
“The bike has a swingarm in front, which gives a unique riding experience, especially when braking, because the front does not bounce when one hits the brake. This led to some totally new style possibilities. Designers were able to create a nice flow from tank to the front, because they didn't have to mess with a telescope fork. I definitely want to keep this. The original rear part is way too heavy for a racer, so I changed that into a more purist, lighter tail end. The exhaust has been moved up to increase the possible lean angle and the form of the new exhausts is inspired by old MZ racing tech. The double conical form was, by the way, invented by an East German engineer working there. It still is two-stroke state-of-the-art. Formally, it has been arranged like little machine guns, adding an even rougher expression to the bike. The rest is pretty much the result of a good chop. The heavy fenders, for example are reduced to a minimum, airbox has been axed as well, just some direct filter on top of the flatslide carburators I'd like to add, and that's it,” he says.
Well, we like Max’s concept racer very much indeed and we hope that someday, he’ll actually be able to build the bike. Old German motorcycle brands like MZ and Zündapp are, for us, fascinating. The MZ name deserves to be on something other than en electric scooter and a vintage-style MZ racebike seems like the right thing to do. All the best, Max!
Visit Max’s website for more of his work