The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710
Lot 342
The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. 260 710
£ 110,000 - 135,000
US$ 140,000 - 170,000

Lot Details
The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710 The ex-Kurt Kuhnke,1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle  Frame no. 260 710
The ex-Kurt Kuhnke
1937 DKW 250cc Supercharged Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. 260 710
DKW was founded in Zschopau in 1919 by Danish engineer Jorgen Rasmussen and built its first motorcycle power unit, a single-cylinder, clip-on engine for bicycle attachment, in 1921. Designed by Hugo Ruppe, this 122cc motor was a two-stroke, and DKW would remain faithful to this engine type from then on, becoming world leaders in two-stroke design in the 1930s thanks to the prescient adoption of the Schnuerle loop-scavenge system. The latter used flat-topped pistons rather than the then-conventional deflector-crown type, relying on carefully angled transfer ports to direct the incoming charge around the cylinder. DKW embarked on a racing programme in 1925 using 175cc and 250cc machines featuring the Bichrone system of supercharging using a 'slave' cylinder, significant success being achieved only after the split-single cylinder configuration, which enabled better control of port timing, had been adopted. Ear-splittingly noisy, the supercharged split-single 'Deeks' eventually overcame reliability problems to become the dominant force in 250cc racing in the late 1930s, works rider Ewald Kluge making history in 1938 when he became the first German to win an Isle of Man TT race.

Racing motorcycles with long and continuous history are rare, but this fabulous ‘blown’ DKW is one such. This particular machine was owned by Kurt Kuhnke, a German rider who began his competition career grass-tracking Ardie and Velocette machines before turning to road racing in 1938 with a supercharged DKW 250SS. Kuhnke entered a number of top-flight races in 1939, including the Großer Preis von Grossdeutschland at the Sachsenring, and around this time began experimenting with a Roots-type supercharger made by Victor Derbuel, of Gera in Thuringia.

In the course of this ambitious project Kuhnke corresponded at length with the DKW racing department’s senior staff, and in 1942 purchased ‘260 710’, another piston-supercharged 250 dating from 1937. Numbers ‘260 001’ to ‘260 800’ had been reserved for the factory’s racing and test motorcycles, so Kuhnke had got himself a genuine works bike.

Despite the difficulties of carrying out such activities in wartime, Kurt Kuhnke was nevertheless able to undertake some test rides on the Brunswick autobahn using the Roots-blown engine. His call up for military service brought the project to a halt in 1943, but immediately after the war’s end contact was resumed with surviving DKW staff at the factory in Chemnitz, now in the Russian-occupied zone of eastern Germany. Kuhnke must have been an exceptionally resourceful and determined individual, for despite having to contend with all the problems of life in his war-ravaged country, he managed to get the Roots-blown ‘Deek’ race ready within little more than a year.

Of course, it’s no good having a race-ready motorcycle if there’s nowhere to use it, and in this respect Kuhnke and his fellow racers were fortunate to receive assistance from the occupying British Army, many of whom had raced in pre-war days. Thus it was that Kuhnke and the DKW came to the start line on 11th August 1946 for the Großer Preis von Braunschweig. Over the course of the next few seasons, the pair contested some 40-or-so races and achieved many leader-board placings against top-flight opposition, many of whom rode pre-war DKWs modified along similar lines using Roots or Zoller-type superchargers. Kuhnke won at the Kölner Kurs and Grenzlandringrennen events in 1948 and at the Kleinen Avus meeting in Berlin in 1949, averaging 93.2mph at the Grenzlandring with a fastest lap of 96.4mph, proof, if it were needed, of just how fast the blown ‘Deek’ had become. From 1947 onwards the DKW was fitted with a pair of Matchless Teledraulic front forks from a crashed G3L - donated by Major Hilary Iremonger-Watts of the occupying British Army - which it still wears today.

Kurt Kuhnke was one of the vice presidents of the ADM (the organising body of German motor sport) in 1947 and ’48, and it was around this time that the current vendor first became acquainted with him, assisting with repairs and race preparation. When the FIM banned supercharging, the DKW was retired from the track (its last race was at the Eilenriede-Rennen, Hannover in April 1950) and for many years thereafter could be seen on display in the window of Kuhnke’s filling station in Brunswick.

At some time in the 1960s, Kuhnke sold the machine to raise money for a Formula 1 project, and it would change hands a few more times before the vendor managed to purchase it from the collection of Braunschweig lawyer, Dr Dieter Klesen in 1984, by which time Kurt Kuhnke had died. The DKW was not a hopeless case and restoring the frame proved relatively easy; the engine though, was in need of a total rebuild. It was the vendor’s good fortune to be acquainted with Professor Ernst Fiala, a member of the research and development board at Volkswagen, whose help was enlisted in the engine’s refurbishment, which was undertaken at the VW factory in Wolfsburg under the supervision of Professor Ulrich Seiffert. Why would Volkswagen, a major automobile manufacturer with no obvious involvement in motorcycling, do such a thing? The answer is Audi, which together with Horch, Wanderer and DKW, made up the Auto-Union conglomerate of pre-war days and had been taken over by VW in 1965.

The VW research department carefully documented the entire reconstruction in a 300-page volume that includes all the engineering drawings produced and several photographs (copy available). The foreword to this report on the reconstruction (by engineer Kurt Reichel) details the immense efforts that were made. Dr Carl-Horst Hahn, CEO of Volkswagen AG at that time and himself a keen motorcycle enthusiast, described the restored DKW as an ‘aesthetic treat’, observing: ‘The history of Auto-Union, and with it the old trademark and tradition of DKW, is part of our group history.’ (It should be noted that the Kuhnke DKW comes with all its original mechanical components plus duplicates of all the parts remanufactured by VW at the time of the mechanical restoration, thus ensuring that a future owner will have access to a supply of spares).

After 18 months, by September 1986, the rebuilt engine was ready for reinstallation in the frame and the first tests of the restored DKW were conducted at the Oldtimer Grand Prix at Hockenheim. On 4th December that same year, Ernst Leverkus, motorcycling journalist, author and founder of the Elephant Rally, was invited to ride the Kuhnke DKW at Volkswagen’s private test track, and his impressions of the machine, together with a detailed account of its history, were published in The Classic Motor Cycle (July 1987 edition).

Writing about the Kuhnke DKW in 1987, Leverkus declared that it was ‘the last survivor of the rotary-blown DKWs from that rehabilitation time in Germany, between 1945 and 1950.’ As such, it played a leading role in the re-emergence of motorcycle sport in Germany in the immediate aftermath of WW2, and is a unique historic motorcycle of immeasurable importance.
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