Archive for January 8th, 2008

A bit of nostalgia on this rain/snow mixed day.  

After WWII the allies engaged in a scramble to pinch Nazi Germany’s technology and this included motorcycles.  The Harley “Hummer” (Model 125) design was an adaptation of the German DKW motorcycles whose engineering designs were forfeited to the Allies as a part of War Reparations.  The simple DKW 125cc was reproduced as the British BSA Bantam, the “Hummer”, the Russian Moskva M1-A and the Yamaha YA-1 in Japan. 

The Hummer was added to Harley-Davidson’s model line in 1948. The “Hummer” is the unofficial nomenclature as its official listing is the American Lightweight and referenced that way in the Enthusiast Magazine.  The Hummer was a stripped-down basic model using a redesigned “B-model” engine with the old 125 cc capacity. It was named after Dean Hummer, a Harley dealer in Omaha, Nebraska Omaha, who led national Harley two-stroke sales. The Hummer was as basic as it could have been, and was sold without battery, electric horn, turn signals, or brake lights. 

However, one company went on to innovate the DKW 125.  IMME (a German word for bee and the tank logo) was made in Immenstadt in Bavaria from 1949-51.  The Imme’s list of innovation is impressive in today’s standards let alone in the 50’s.  It had a single sided front fork, a rear swing-arm which doubled as exhaust, rear monoshock, and quick release wheels that leave chain and sprocket in place and a twist grip 3-speed gear box.  

The designer was Norbert Riedel whose claim to fame was designing 2-stroke motors to jump start German jet fighters. Production started in 1949, but only 80 motorcycles were made the first year.   Production numbers reached 400 a month later, and in 1950 up to 1000 a month. The bikes could be sold, but some financial (and warranty) problems occurred and the IMME AG went out of business.   Riedel had designed a new egg-shaped twin 150cc engine and planned a comeback with an improved version of the IMME and a 150cc scooter, but in 1951 the factory was shut down again.  Later Norbert Riedel worked for Triumph in Nürnberg and Victoria. He died in 1963 in an avalanche accident.  

Photo courtesy of Harley Hummer Club.

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