By Tom White
Should this bike have been called the Detonator? That probably wouldn’t have been the best marketing move. Actually, the Zundapp MC 125 was a sturdy little two-stroke machine that rose off the assembly line of a German company that started life as a producer of detonators for bombs and artillery shells. Founded in 1917 by Fritz Neumeyer to build detonators for the German World War I effort, Zundapp would soon turn its attention to building motorcycles to satisfy rising demand for affordable motorized transportation in the postwar years.
By 1933, Zundapp was building a “heavy motorcycle” that featured an enclosed driveshaft and crankshaft. The Zundapp KS750 used a flat-four boxer engine (a layout adopted by Honda for the Gold Wing in 1974), and 18,000 were produced for the German Wehrmacht in the Second World War. These bikes are ofte seen in WWII movies and documentary films.
In 1958, Zundapp moved from Nuremberg to Munich to concentrate on building small two-stroke machines for civilian use in Germany. To prove the quality and performance of their little street bikes, the factory organized a race team to compete in the International Six-Day Trials (ISDT). Considered the ultimate test of man and machine, the ISDT was the proving grounds for European machinery. While competitors like Hercules and Zweirad Union chose bikes straight off their assembly lines and made small improvements to them for their racers, every Zundapp factory-backed ISDT bike was a custom-made competition machine that only externally resembled the GS 125 it was based on.
Zundapp’s success at the ISDT was legendary, but very limited in motocross. Their greatest motocross success was when Andre Malherbe won the 1973 and 1974 125 World Cup Championships. The 125 World Cup was held just before the class was elevated to FIM World Championship standing in 1975. The Zundapp factory was shuttered in 1984. However, the name was sold to the Xunda Motor Company in Tianjin, China. Thus, there could be Zundapps whizzing around Beijing today.
1972 ZUNDAPP MC 125 FACTS
WHAT THEY COST
Suggested retail was $749. Zundapps were distributed in the USA by MED International on the West Coast (this was an Edison Dye-owned company) and by Rockford Motors on the East Coast. Vintage Zundapps are not high on vintage collectors’ lists, as very few motocross models were sold in the USA—thus American collectors have no experience with them. MXA’s example has never been ridden and is valued by the Early Years of Motocross Museum at $6000.
MC 125 (motocross), GS 125 (enduro) and KS 125 (street).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The MC 125 used quality components. Collectors should look for Magura controls, Metzeler tires and Bing carburetors. The airbox has a naugahyde enclosure, rubber front engine mounts, a steel fork brace, and an artistic steel tank with a gold Zundapp logo.
Try Matt Hilgenburg at Speed and Sport at www.speedandsport.com or by phone at (530) 878-0700.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com