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The Zundapp

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Posted 24th December 2008 at 08:31 by Sporting Lad
Updated 26th December 2008 at 06:24 by Sporting Lad

It was the heady summer of 1967, I was young, Sgt Pepper had just taught the band to play, and I had my first "real" motorcycle.
It was a 1950-something Zundapp. The previous owner told me that
they were built in one of the nether regions of eastern Europe,
and this thing had the look of some relic from the dawn of the Third Reich.
It must've been fading from black to flat grey from the day it rolled out of
the plant.
With all the bulk and weight of the highly coveted 650cc British twins,
alas, it was powered by this feeble and cantankerous 250cc two stroke
I foolishly paid $300 for it.
It was a rolling deathtrap.
The damping in the undersprung fork was completely nonexistent,
the carb would catch fire from time to time,
the brakes worked on hope and foot drag assist,
the engine would rev past redline with no input from me, and
one night the chain fell off halfway down a long grade.
I abandoned that bike at the bottom of the hill and hitched home in the dark
feeling oddly liberated.

A week later a church sexton from a neighboring town phoned to say that the
Zundapp had turned up in his garden and, if I didn't retrieve it,
I was to be charged with littering.
We went out there in my 1958 VW convertible with the top down, my
friend Buddy and I, and found the dreaded beast awash in a thicket of willow
We got her up, tied one end of an old hemp rope to the bars, and the other
around the VeeDub's shift lever (the Bug had no bumpers).
I would drive and convinced my friend (who'd do anything to ride a
even if it was being towed) to "just steer and keep any slack out of the
Scrambling behind the wheel, I put the car in gear, and moved off slowly
whilst carefully
watching the tow-rope uncoil. Then 2nd gear, 3rd, 4th and we were soon
doing highway speed.
Buddy was having the time of his life and we were making good progress
getting out of town.

As we entered the countryside I looked behind and figured Buddy was ready
to crank up his thrill-O-meter a notch or two.
In between the two towns lay a forested piece of curving road climbing over
a low ridge.
As we entered this twisty part of the route,unbeknownst to me, the rope
began cutting across the apex of every turn. To avoid taking out mailboxes
on the right or garroting oncoming cyclists on the left, Buddy, bright chap
that he was, started letting slack gather in the rope before every turn.
Blissfully unaware, I continued driving, confident that all was well. But whenever the tow car accelerated out of a corner, the rope would tighten and the Zundapp was jerked forcibly to one side or the other. By the time we emerged from the twisties I looked in the mirror and noticed Buddy gesturing madly in my direction with this terrifying look on his face. He seemed to be trying to imitate that weird painting called "The Scream".
Curious, I found a place to pull over and I walked back to the bike to find
out what was wrong, stepping over a very frayed section of towrope en route.
Buddy was totally incoherent. His face was pale, his mouth was open, yet no
sound issued forth. Slowly his facial expression returned to normal and he
began to describe the past 15 minutes of his life, which he fully expected
to be his last.
Fortunately the rest of the route was a straight shot but Buddy had become
extremely nervous, so I told him how well he was learning to ride and, after a lot of cajoling, promises of beer and pizza, and permission to phone my sister, he finally agreed to stay on.

That night I happily paid for the pizza we feasted on, and the beer we used
to toast our grand adventure. In an unusual fit of largess, I gave Buddy
the bike which, to my great relief, he enthusiastically accepted. For my part, I was glad to be rid of it.
He couldn't stop talking about how he was going to turn the Zundapp
into a radical custom. We finished off the case of beer.

The next day my sister turned him down flat.
That Zundapp never ran again and the following spring, after six months of fruitless restoration work, Buddy junked it and found a bike that could pass the state's official safety inspection.
I went out and bought a brand new Honda 350.

I still carry in my wallet the fortune from a Chinese cookie reading,
"Better caution at first than tears afterwards". Always good advice, doubly
so if you're seventeen, it's summer, and you've got an old German

And here it is! I found this old pic in 'the apple crate' under the stairs last week, so I thought this story that I sent in two or three years ago might be worth republishing. That's me' Mum posing naively, about a month before the incident. I took the front fender off cos it looked like a huge Wehrmacht helmet. Holy shmoley, it's scary how much it (visually) resembles my current XL !
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Total Comments 5


  1. Old Comment
    sportytrace's Avatar
    Great story telling... thoroughly enjoyed it! Oh, and welcome to the XLF blogs!
    Posted 26th December 2008 at 12:36 by sportytrace sportytrace is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Quebeker's Avatar
    Great writing.
    Great story.
    Posted 26th December 2008 at 20:06 by Quebeker Quebeker is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Quebeker's Avatar
    It's been a long time since Tom wrote this blog but when I saw the following pictures tonight on Church of Choppers, I remembered this blog.

    Posted 21st August 2009 at 03:38 by Quebeker Quebeker is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Sporting Lad's Avatar


    Jeeze, that's absolutely the greatest find! Thanks for that, it's hilarious.
    For a while there I didn't believe members even read these blogs!
    Posted 21st August 2009 at 06:19 by Sporting Lad Sporting Lad is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Nothing better than a good Zundapp story! Very funny.
    Posted 22nd April 2011 at 12:34 by sameeo sameeo is offline

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