|A drying barn mimics the bold finning of the Windhoff's 750cc oil-cooled OHC 4-cylinder motor|
|From Tragatsch's 'Illustrated Encyclopedia of Motorcycles' - the bible! And as full of omissions, but it has a ton of great information, and is still the best general reference on old bikes.|
|A period drawing of a Windhoff engine and gearbox, showing the valve cover removed, and the OHC mechanism clear. The low-overlap camshaft lobes are also visible - not race tuned!|
The Windhoff chassis is as radical as its motor, with no ‘frame’ to speak of, and no need for one, as the massive engine casting is far stronger than bent or lugged tubing. It predates the Vincent in this concept by nearly 20 years, but the Windhoff is a true 'frameless' machine, as the forks and rear subframe (4 parallel tubes) bolt directly to the engine/gearbox unit. The trailing-link forks use double leaf springs for damping, and there’s no rear suspension; the rear frame tubes emerge straight out of the gearbox casting, and hold the final drive housing for the shaft drive, and rear hub and brake. Despite its massive appearance, the total weight of the machine is only 440lbs. The price when new was 1,750DM, a bit more than the 1,600DM of a BMW R63. A bit expensive, a bit unconventional, and a bit slow on sales, nonetheless the machine ranks as a landmark of vision and development, and is understandably very sought after these days.
While technically and aesthetically the Windhoff is extremely advanced, the overall engine design suffers from a lack of development which would have made it the smooth, quiet, and powerful sports tourer it deserved to be. Sadly, it suffered the fate of a launch at the worst possible moment, when world economic calamity sent incomes spiraling downward, and global motorcycle sales into the ditch. Like most other manufacturers of the late 1920s, Windhoff gave up the ghost, but their legacy is yet fantastic and speaks to a a visionary designer with an excellent idea. On price alone, the Windhoff was considered a luxury sport-touring machine, a category of motorcycling which no longer exists, as anachronistic as wearing a necktie in a Grand Prix race.
|The camshaft drive chain enclosure is up front, and a timed breather alongside. The single, rather anemic carb restricts performance, but it goes well for the period. The bolted-on gearbox is clearly seen, as is the depth of those footboards!|
|Smooth handling from the leaf-sprung front forks of short-trailing-link design|
|I've been acquainted with the road test bike for many years; this was a first encounter in 2010|
|What Windhoff tried after the 750cc 4; a big sidevalve flat twin of more conventional construction in 1929. In the end, they made a few more small two-strokes with Villiers-licensed motors, then vanished.|
|A Windhoff at the Bonhams Quail Lodge sale in 2013|
|Rear end detail; a massive aluminum casting keep the rear frame tubes in line.|
|...and the final drive casting, with a lug for a sidecar fitment. Never seen a chair with a Windhoff, though.|
|The inside of the 4-cylinder 750cc Windhoff motor; a 3-main bearing crankshaft, with a wet sump and oil pump on the left.|
|The cylincer head top and bottom, showing the passages through which oil circulates, and the flat combustion chamber tops, as per automotive practice. The two large holes at bottom are the exhaust passages; the inlet manifold bolted on. This and the photo above are from the book 'Pluricilindriche' by Ing. Stefano Milani. A remarkable, and unobtainable book.|
|At the end of their tether, the Villers-licensed engine produced for other German manufacturers. From 'Motorräder Aus Berlin', by Karl Reese.|