Connect the dots #3: The Answer

Confession time: I said there was no chain involved in this teaser, but there is one. And a couple of shafts.  And one absolutely enormous toothed belt.

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The answer is that the engines of all four cars were also used in motorcycles.  It’s a rarer peculiarity than might be expected, particularly as I applied a self-denying ordinance which excluded tricycles, sidecar haulers (even the Borgward-Goliath-Kröger), and one-offs.  All four two-wheelers here were on public sale as complete, series-produced entities.

Starting in the lightweight corner, the Kitten shares its engine with the Quasar, a prescient British feet-forward roofed motorcycle on sale from 1975.  The long-serving 848cc all-aluminium pushrod unit was used with the four speed Reliant gearbox, pedal operated, and transmitting drive by shaft to the rear wheel.

The early to mid ‘70s was a fertile and confident period for industrial design in the UK, and the Quasar is a fine example.    The unstressed GRP bodywork clads a spaceframe fabricated from Reynolds 531 tubular steel.  It’s no featherweight – at 320kg the Quasar is only 74kg lighter than the Bond Bug.  That Ogle-styled three wheeler sat a few pounds short of the 8cwt. (400kg) limit set by the British exchequer to be a motorcycle in the asinine eyes of the law.

As an all-British rethink of the motorcycle’s design and purpose, the Quasar gained wide media attention, but despite its ingenious design and practical virtues, only 21 of the Reliant engine originals were made over 7 years.

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The Van Veen OCR looks like the answer to a question nobody asked, unless the question was “What are we going to do with all of these Comotor 624 engines now that Citroën’s GS Birotor has turned out to be an abject sales failure?”

Henk Van Veen had prospered on his Netherlands concession for the small-capacity German Kreidler motorcycles, and ventured into manufacturing with the ambitious rotary-engined OCR using the GZ’s twin chamber Wankel with a Porsche-designed four speed gearbox and shaft final drive.

The notion of a motorcycle with a two litre equivalent capacity caused some excitement at the time of its introduction at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in November 1974, but interest had faded by the time production began in 1978.  Prodigious thirst, unexciting styling and the availability of more appealing competitors were the cause of Van Veen’s downfall, compounded by ambitious pricing.  The OCR was the second most expensive motorcycle of its time, topped only by the MV Agusta 1100 Grand Prix.

Production of the OCR ended in 1981, with only 35 built.  For the record, Citroën managed to shift almost 25 times as many GS Birotors.

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The Calibra shares its engine with the Münch 2000.  Friedl Münch’s first generation of NSU-powered Mammoths, made from 1966 to 1975 were perhaps the best-known car-engined motorbikes.  A quarter of a century after the last two wheeled 1200 TTS left the Friedberg, Hesse factory, a new and even more extreme Münch emerged, with a bold plan for production in Poland, in Ostrow Wielkopolski.  At the heart of the Münch 2000 is a 2 litre engine credited to Cosworth, but in actuality a GM C20LET as used in the Calibra, Astra, and Vectra.  Cosworth were involved, but engaged by Opel in the design of the twin cam 16V cylinder heads, and production of the head castings.

In its two-wheeled application with a Schwitzer turbocharger, the engine gives 260bhp and 295Nm of torque, adequate for its considerable 354kg bulk.  Final drive is by chain, from a six speed gearbox.

With its aggressive and distinctive styling, and top-quality components the revived Münch looked set for a niche at the high end of the motorcycle market, but its $80,000 price proved too much for the market, and only fifteen were produced.

And finally, to the Bravada‘s two wheeled doppelganger.

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The Dyersburg, Tennessee concern Boss Hoss are known for their V8-engined motorcycles in the ‘custom’ style, but in 1997 introduced a more petite offering featuring the GM LB4 262ci (4.3 litre) V6 engine in its all-iron and pushrods glory.  Aficionados of the marque, preferring the 5.7 and 8.2 litre V8 bikes, shunned the limp-wristed 445kg V6, and production ended in 1998.

Early Boss Hosses had a transmission comprising no more than a manually operated clutch: the V6 has a torque convertor but no geartrain, driving the rear wheel by way of a 38mm toothed belt.

Unlike the Van Veen and Münch, the Boss Hoss V6 was relatively affordable, starting at $25,000 before “personalisation”.   Its poor sales seem to have caused little upset to its manufacturer, which continues to turn out a steady 300-plus V8-powered two and three wheelers per year.

3 thoughts on “Connect the dots #3: The Answer”

  1. Thank you Robertas. A very decent link and, for me, informative. As an admirer of the original Munch, but no great reader of the motorcycle press, I ‘d had entirely missed out on the rather fine and ridiculous 2000. As for the Boss Hoss, I was aware but had manage to induce amnesia in myself. Dare I suggest it as suitable transport for the forthcoming inauguration?

    1. They’re probably putting the finishing touched to the long-wheelbase ballistic-proof trike with a gold plated GMC Twin Six (or possibly two) as I write this.

      In the course of compiling the apologia, I found myself thinking that the Hoss was the most rational and commercially well-considered of the four bikes. It taps into the huge US custom bike industry for its component pool, and uses a simple and inexpensive engine to produce a near-bespoke machine for top-end Harley money. The quality of materials, components, and engineering design is highly regarded; founder Monte Warne’s background is in aeronautical engineering.

      Putting aside the issues of aesthetic taste which divide Europe and the USA, and it could be seen as something of a two-wheeled Bristol or Morgan.

      I’ve also done a bit more Quasar research – there’s an excellent website: http://quasarworld.co.uk/

      My main interest was the price stated in the brochure pictured. £5225 inc. PT (Plus VAT) This doesn’t quite make sense as VAT had replaced purchase tax when Britain joined the Common Market. However there was something called Special Car Tax, which was levied on the price the dealer paid the manufacturer or concessionaire. Anyway, let’s call the bottom line £5750. In 1975 that was XJ12 money.

      However I’ve worked out that the brochure is most likely from 1981. In which case that money would buy you a nice new Cavalier 2.0GL, or a Kitten and a mid-range BMW Strich Sieben two-wheeler.

      Which goes some way to explaining those sales numbers…

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