1969/70 MZ RE250 Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. 3148
Engine no. 4066
Although the Zschopau marque established its reputation with the general public as the purveyor of reliable, if somewhat unexciting, commuter machines, the East German concern was in the forefront of high-performance two-stroke development in the post-war years. Under the direction of Walter Kaaden, the racing team achieved some notable triumphs against the might of Japanese opposition in the 1960s, and although its Grand Prix effort eventually faded, the firm produced many highly successful ISDT machines in the 1960s and 1970s.
What would become Motorradwerk Zschopau (Zschopau Motorcycle Works) was founded in the old DKW factory in Saxony after WW2, although its first machines were marketed under the IFA brand name. That first machine was based on the pre-war DKW 125, and derivatives were soon being raced in the East German Championship. The pace of development quickened following Kaaden's arrival in 1952, for it was he who redesigned the engine to accept a rotary disc inlet valve and resonant exhaust system. Another important recruit was rider/engineer Ernst Degner, who was one of the first to race MZs outside East Germany. A string of promising results by Degner and others in the late 1950s attracted the attention of the West's top riders, and Rhodesian Gary Hocking was recruited for 1959. Hocking achieved MZ's first classic victories that year, in the 250cc races at the Swedish and Ulster Grands Prix, but at the season's end was lured away by MV Agusta.
By this time the MZ was the equal of anything in the 125cc and 250cc classes (in 1961 the 125 produced 25bhp, the equivalent of 200bhp per litre) but a lack of sufficient funds to retain top riders and mount a sustained attack of the World Championships would continue to handicap the East German firm. Nevertheless, in 1961 it looked certain that Degner would be 125cc World Champion; he led Honda-mounted Tom Phillis by two points going into the final round but then defected to the West, handing the title to the Australian. Despite some spirited rides by other top Western riders, among them Alan Shepherd, Peter Williams and Derek Woodman, plus East German Heinz Rosner, MZ never got that close to a World Championship ever again.
The machine offered here represents MZ's 250cc Grand Prix racer in its ultimate form. Introduced in 1955, the first 250 racer - effectively a doubled-up 125 - was air-cooled and fitted with a four-speed transmission. Maximum power output was 25bhp at 8,000rpm. Water-cooling was adopted in 1962 on the RE250, which enabled power to be increased to 48bhp at 11,000 revs. By 1970 a six-speed gearbox was standard, and with 50-53 horsepower on tap, the RE250 was good for a top speed of 140mph.
This example was purchased, as a kit of parts, directly from MZ by privateer Dieter Krause circa 1970, while MZ's subsequent invoice (dated 9.2.77, copy available) appears to indicate that the frame currently fitted (number '3148') was manufactured in 1973. Krause updated the MZ over the years to maintain its competitiveness and achieved a degree of success at international level, including 8th place in the East German GP at the Sachsenring and 5th place at Patja, Hungary in 1971, as well as claiming four East German Championships. The immediately preceding owner acquired the machine in 2003 and commissioned a full professional restoration that was completed in July 2005. Improvements incorporated by Krause, which have been retained, include Mikuni carburettors, Kröber ignition and Smiths instruments, while the front disc brake fitted by him has been replaced with a drum brake supplied by Hans Bischoff, a former works rider.
The current, recently deceased owner (an Isle of Man TT competitor throughout the 1970s) purchased the machine at Bonhams' Stafford Sale in October 2006 (Lot 664), since when it has been started and run occasionally but not ridden or raced. Last ridden during 2005/2006, this MZ appears in excellent condition and represents an exciting opportunity to acquire an ex-works, European, Grand Prix racing motorcycle at relatively modest cost. The machine is offered with a photographic record of the restoration and a quantity of engine/transmission spares.