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An International Family


Click the pictures for bigger pictures.
194? DKW 1951 DKW
The father of the Hummer was the pre-World War II DKW RT/125. This model featured a girder-style front fork, rigid rear frame, and rather primitive fenders. Except for the fenders, it is almost identical to the 1948 H-D Model 125. The 1951 DKW pictured above has a telescopic front fork, different headlight, gasoline tank knee pads, and more modern fenders than the pre-war model. Note the interesting cantilever seat suspension.

DKW produced trucks and heavy equipment in Zschopau, (East) Germany. Their name, Dampf Kraft Wagon, means something like "Steam Car". With the introduction of motorcycles, their acronym was popularly known as "Das Kleine Wunder" - The Little Marvel.

At the conclusion of World War II, the Allies appropriated the DKW designs, since their "loop scavenging" system was vastly superior to other two-stroke technology. In the U.S., Harley-Davidson produced the Model 125 beginning in late 1947. In Great Britain, Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) produced the D1 model starting in later 1948. The U.S.S.R., having occupied East Germany, began making the Mockba M1A model in about 1946. How the Japanese acquired the designs is unknown.

Perry Ruiter (#441)'s grandfather is German, and remembers a little rhyme from the the old country:

Das Kleine Wunder
Wenn kommst ein berg
Denn musst du runter
Day, Kay, Vay
The little wonder
When a hill comes
Then you have to push
BMW of Santa Cruz has a Short History of DKW

DKW-Geyer (Germany) has some great information. And check out the DKW Club Maintal link for a suprise Hummer appearance!

Mr. Hubrich from Germany sent us these notes on DKW


1948 BSA D-1
In June 1948, BSA began shipping the new D1 model motorcycle. However, due to political reasons, it was restricted to export sales only. Domestic sales began in October 1948,BSA Cockerel and by this time, BSA had adopted the name Bantam, and this name and the cockerel symbol appeared on production units. The D1 had a rigid frame, and magneto ignition/lighting system. A "dry cell" battery (mounted inside the headlight shell) provided lighting when the machine was off. Note that the gear shift and kickstarter are on the right side of the motorcycle - the entire crankcase layout was reversed to accomodate British custom! The 123cc D1 model was produced from 1948 through 1963.

BSA made numerous improvements right off the bat. In 1949, a plunger-type spring frame was offered as an option. This was similar to the Indian spring frame of the 1930's-1940's. A battery/coil electrical system was also optional (although I'm not sure the Lucas charging system was really an "improvement").

Sheep!1956/57 D3 Bantam Major with passenger (Australia)

Demand for higher performance resulted in the 148cc D3 model, produced from 1954 through 1957. The D3 produced 5.3 brake horsepower compared to 4.0 for the D1. During 1956, another improvement, swing-arm rear suspension, replaced the plunger unit.

Performance was again boosted as the 173cc D5 model appeared in 1958. The similar D7 model was produced from 1959 through 1966. Both D5 and D7 produced 7.4 BHP. For 1966-1967, the model D10 offered 10 BHP. A four-speed transmission was available with the D10. From 1968-1971, the models D14/4 and (scarce) D175 produced a whopping 14 BHP!

The Bantam was incredibly popular - almost 500,000 were sold from 1948 until the model was discontinued in 1971. Unfortunately, BSA, like many other companies, was hard pressed to compete with the Japanese Invasion of the 1960's, and passed into history in 1972.

BSA Bantam Super Profile Jeff Clew / Haynes Publications, Inc. / 861 Lawrence Drive / Newbury Park CA 91320
Bantam Racing Club / 6 Kipton Close / Rothwell, Northants / NN14 2DR / ENGLAND
BSA Owners Club / 18 Round Wood Close / Cyncoed, Cardiff, Glamorgan / Wales / UK


1946 Mockba M1A
Novosibirsk - June 6, 1991

A couple of days ago I received your packet with materials about your Club and Harleys 125-175cc size. Thank you very much indeed! It gives me a pleasure to hear from Harley enthusiasts from the U.S.

I would be very glad if some lines of mine about "Moskva M1A" could be useful and interesting for the members of your Club. I'm sending you a picture of this very bike. It is the last one I have. No more. And the main thing I want is that this letter and picture wouldn't be missed.

M1A PostcardAs you can see on the opposite side of the picture, "M1A" first appeared in 1946 soon after WWII was ended. In those years people were need in a light and simple motorcycle. And of course, not expensive. And they got it. It was easy on in spite of bad roads. And no service. A motorcycle rider hoped for himself only. The motorcycle's and car's stores couldn't suggest parts enough. It was a problem and it is still a problem here in [the Soviet] Union. You know if you want your motorcycle to serve you well as more as possible, you must love it as if it were your wife. Ha! Isn't it? No less, I'm sure.

Anyhow, "Moskva - M1A" was rather reliable. And many owners used to ride it through 194_ ... 195_ ... 196_ years. Last time I saw a "Moskva M1A" still running in 1988 in a small village in the Ural mountains next to the place I was born. I spent about an hour seeing (looking) on it, and a wave of nostalgia came to my heart.

I think it is a kind of desire (illness) - antique motorcycles. But it is not dangerous. The only danger is for the money in your pocket. Ha-Ha!

Here I try to give you some features of characteristic (you say performance)

Base (mm) 1245
Clearance (mm) 150
Long (mm) 1955
Wide (mm) 665
High (mm) 950
Weight (dry) 71 kg
Full Weight 80 kg
Top speed 70 km/h
Dia of cylinder 52 mm
The way of piston 58 mm
Engine size 123 cc
RPM 4800
Ocurrance of ignition 28 degrees
Gas capacity 9 litres
A full ratio from the engine to the back wheel 23,18
Gasoline enough for distance 370 km
Takes gas for 100 km distance 4,5 liters
Tire size, both, not changable 50 x 19 inches

There were two kinds of "M1A", [early models] with parallelogram front fork, and later with telescopic fork.

I have a very big request to you and maybe to your Hummer's people. I need two Harley-Davidson T-shirts for me and my wife [Marina]. It would be appreciated. Please, if you can do it, send by register way [registered mail]. Or it can be "missed..." Strange things are going on in Union. I don't like it. [This letter was written just before the breakup of the Soviet Union].

If someone wants to write to me a letter from your Hummer Club, I'd be lucky [happy] to answer.

Oleg Padeneshko / Esenina 59, Flat 31 / Novosibirsk 630101 / RUSSIA

Oleg, Marina and their baby boy in 1990


Yamaha YA-1
Yamaha YA-1
Yamaha YA-1 Yamaha YA-1

Yamaha's first motorcycle, the YA-1 was produced in the mid-1950's, and sold under the name "Red Dragonfly". It bears much resemblance to the 1950's DKW - note the cantilever seat. The Black & White picture (1954?) shows a decidedly DKW-looking muffler, while the color pictures (probably 1955) show a more modern style muffler. Both pictures show a unique plunger rear suspension, and a nifty "glove compartment" in the tank.

Yamaha USA did not have any records of this machine (Yamahas were not sold in this country until the 1970's), so they sent to Headquarters in Japan for the color pictures, copies of brochures, and other information, which of course, is written in Japanese. Hopefully, some of our readers can help with the translation!

######### #########
In the photo above, notice that the front end and gas tank appear to be narrower than the Western counterparts, giving the YA-1 a slimmer look, more worthy of the "Red Dragonfly" name. Note the beautiful front fender trim in the color pictures, but not in this one!

Other features include a 4-speed transmission, and some of the literature states that it was "possible to shift directly to neutral by half-stroke operation from any gear". We're not sure exactly when production started and ended. One source dates production starting in 1954, and another in 1955. The literature shows a bike with the front fender trim, but DKW-style muffler, and another bike without the fender trim. Possibly just an early production change?


A closer look at the unique rear plunger suspension


A glove compartment - what a handy feature!

Special thanks to Lea Hiratsuka of Yamaha USA.

My name is John Wearden. I work at a combination John Deere/Yamaha dealership and had
the opportunity last week to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration for Yamaha Motor Corporation in Las Vegas.
At the meeting they had lots of bikes from their first fifty years including one of
the first 1955 models, the YA1. They brought this bike over from Japan and I took several pictures of it.
click on pictures to enlarge


CZ of Czechoslovakia also made a clone of the DKW RT-125.
These were sold in the United States under the Indian brand name. We don't know a lot about these, but check out the dual exhaust!

Thanks to Adam from Poland and Dr. Pepper for these great images

  Last updated: April 15, 2015 ←  Up