Tuesday, January 05, 2010

MAICO, MIDAMERICA, LEPOIX

Yours truly will be providing 'color' commentary again for the MidAmerica Las Vegas Antique Motorcycle Auction, January 7/8/9 2010, and have been doing my 'homework' by taking a hard look at the 500 bikes coming under the hammer, as I'm hired to speak about most of them! Surely, not a bad gig for someone so thoroughly saturated in Motorcycle History.

One of the many rare machines for sale, which caught my eye is this 1955 Maico 'Mobil' (above); certainly unusual on American highways, even with the great enthusiasm of our domestic scooter collectors. In fact, while I've seen a few of the later 'Maicoletta' model, I don't believe a 'Mobil' lives in the Bay Area - a pity, as the bodywork for this early production streamliner was designed by none other than Louis Lucien Lepoix, subject of a recent post. I'm fairly sure he also designed the 'Maicoletta' which refined his initial concept of bulbous, flowing shapes, to something a lot lighter visually... although both scooters are among the largest ever produced (the portly Velocette Viceroy looking positively svelte by comparison to the Mobil).

A scan of Lepoix's pioneering wartime sketches (above) for rider-enclosed two-wheelers, and his 1948 actualizations of those designs (around B.M.W. and Horex machines), clarifies the line of his design evolution between 1942 and 1950, when he penned the bodywork for Maico. Like his motorcycles, the Mobil has full protection for the rider, and a road test report in Motor Cycling (Dec. 1953) quotes, "A 115 mile journey was undertaken at the outset, and on arrival at the destination the rider had only superficial water splashes (it had been raining continuously) on the shoulders and head. A pedestrian walking 400 yards would have suffered more".

The Mobil isn't a scooter per se, but like the Honda 'Pacific Coast' of the 1990s, is a fully enclosed motorcycle. The 175cc single-cylinder two-stroke engine of Maico's own make is housed in a full duplex tube frame, with telescopic forks and interchangeable 14" aluminum disc wheels, with a spare carried out back. The body panels are aluminum, and quickly detachable, with easy engine access and a lockable lid for capacious integral panniers. Promotional materials at the début of the prototype (June 1950, Reulingen, see photo of prototype above) called the Mobil 'not a scooter but a motorcycle with a body giving a high degree of protection against the weather', and 'an auto on two wheels', which could enable a rider to cover 300 miles in a day comfortably. The 60mph top speed of the Mobil would have meant a Long riding day for that kind of mileage, but with good suspension front and rear, and all that wind shielding, the bike lived up to its promise.

Teutonic reliability is taken for granted these days, but Maico was only 3 years into making its own engines, built within completely new manufacturing plants (at Herrenberg and Pfaffingen), after their original factory was dismantled by Allied forces immediately postwar. Terrific showings in the 1951 and 1952 I.S.D.Ts (using their more traditional motorcycles) provided an instant reputation for Maico reliability, especially as their NSU-riding teammates in '52 had a dismal mechanical showing, while all 6 Maicos entered gained golds (an interesting echo of the early postwar competition successes of Japanese manufacturers like Yamaha and Honda).

8 comments:

brian b said...

Would you be able to giving live updated via the vintagents facebook pages?
Thanks

daveinnola said...

i went to the sale site , slim pickins,ie nothing i would send photos of to friends except the vinnies but they dont count , i hope this will not be held against me at a latter date but the two hd krtt,s were two of the better looking bikes on the list , too me

vintagent said...

@Brian B; yes, I will!
@Dave; yes, you will surely be subjected to many many hours of ridicule for your admission.

Craig Howell said...

I've got comparison photos of my Maicoletta and Velocette Viceroy at this link:
http://www.craig.howell.net/maicoletta/comboshots/

Cheers, thanks for the great article! FYI, the Letta' Eric talks about at his link is the one in my photos - I bought it from him.

Craig

Don O'Reilly said...

Hey Paul, have yourself a great time in Vegas! But don't take that "what happens in vegas stays in vegas" stuff too seriously. just a few months ago, we had two honolulu cops get busted for weed over there! the whole world found out about it, hehehe.

all kidding aside, I'm sure the got the best commentator there is... if I can, next time I'm in SF (my son lives in haight) I'd love to buy you a beer, or merlot, or whatever. Thanks again for the vintagent!

Cheers,
Don

Increase Mileage said...

This is really cute. I have never witnessed this Maico Mobil before. However, it is looking very interesting.

Don W said...

I'll be interested to see the auction results of what sells and what doesn't. Is the amount of bikes up this year? I remember looking at the lists from the Vegas auction before, but never knew the total. 500 bikes sounds like more than I recall in the past. Looking forward to the coverage.

vintagent said...

@Don; 500 is MidAmerica's typical number at Vegas; 50 auctioned Thursday night, 225 Friday, 225 Saturday. My work is cut out.