Friday, February 15, 2013

ALTERNATIVE MOTORRAD KONZEPT


 The Porsche AMK concept motorcycle was unveiled in 1978, the rider wearing a Ghillie Suit appropriate for a Mardi-gras hunting party.
As part of a special exhibition celebrating 40 years of the Porsche Design Studio, the new Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, designed by Delugan Meissl Architects of Vienna (Porsche Design doesn't yet do buildings apparently) is exhibiting a few iconic and experimental projects, which includes the 'AMK' - Alternatives Motorrad Konzept - of 1978.  The design brief was a two-wheeler with crossover appeal to automobilists... a project attempted by dozens of motorcycle manufacturers from the very first days of motorized transport.  The 'two wheeled car' has met with very little success over the past century, as motorcyclists prefer Actual motorcycles, not an emasculated version dreamed up by automotive stylists frightened of riding.  

The AMK was constructed around the venerable Yamaha SR500 (whose little brother, the SR400, just passed a marker as the third-longest produced motorcycle ever, according to my reckoning), and incorporates automotive designer's 'ideals' of total enclosure of wheels and bodywork, to calm irrational fears of spinning rubber and ugly/scary mechanical parts.  The resultant machine retains an undeniable appeal (Porsche Design are a talented bunch after all), but in 1979 when the AMK was mocked up, this was radical stuff, penned 10 years before Honda débuted their 'Pacific Coast' to a reception of thundering yawns.
The French press, never missing an opportunity to pose a near-nude woman on a design object, treads dangerous territory by comparing the AMK's curves with a young woman's anatomy.  There's a motorcycle on the cover of Lui?  Where?   
Regardless of the long history of failures in the auto/moto hybrid genre, the AMK has undeniable visual appeal.  It looks contemporary even today, garnering the attention of the custom bike universe, via BikeExif.  Students of engineering know, however, that total enclosure of wheels, engine, and fairing is a recipe for serious mis-handling in a side wind, and on a stormy highway the AMK would undoubtedly prove dangerous handful.   Porsche kept a hand in motorcycle design by helping out Harley Davidson with various projects, most notably the VR1000 Superbike racer and  'V-Rod' VRSC engine.
Inside the Stuttgart Porsche Museum, the AMK is displayed beside a Porsche lounge chair...
In the end, the successful 'crossover' two-wheeler has always been the scooter, that charming sub-branch of motorcycling which offends no-one.  BMW grasped the concept with their 'C-1' scooter of 2000, which had a short production run, now superseded by another range of 'Maxi-Scooters' (the C600 and C650), which will do over 100mph!  Men in suits and ladies in heels feel more comfortable astride small wheels and total mechanical enclosure, while Motorcyclists continue to prove a breed apart.

[I tip my hat to the Classic Driver website for pointing out the AMK this morning]

3 comments:

David in Fort Lauderdale said...

Vive La France. Otherwise: yawn. You are exactly correct that attempts to civilize the motorcycle miss the point. We get where we want to go in a Boeing 757 but if we had our choice and all the time in the world we would fly in a JN-4 Jenny. If you wanted to get there with your hair unmussed you would drive (or be driven) in a car. You take the motorcycle because it is loud, leaky and risky.

Kai Vallon said...

That magazine cover made my day, those zany French!

Rhynchocephalian said...

Now if Porsche had gone back to their heritage of electric automobiles and used that into the creation of this motorcycle into a electric motorcycle - that would have been special... alas, even if they had- the current battery technology would have still sunk them. sadly, timing is everything.