The highly inventive Art Deco design of the Killinger and Freund Motorcycle

Martin Chalakoski
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“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants” – Sir Isaac Newton

Having this in mind and greatly inspired by the inventive design of the Megola, five German engineers from Munich.

Who began an ambitious attempt to build something very dear to them and deliver a far better and improved version of a German front-wheel-engine motorcycle produced in Munich in the 1920s.

Focused on three main elements that by their own standards were characteristics that this motorcycle lacked, the team started to envision a new refined prototype with enhanced elegance, simplicity, and aerodynamics.

Killinger & Freund took streamline style to the extreme. Every part was made round at the front and pointed at the rear. Photo Credit

Killinger and Freund, the main designers of the project backed by three technicians began the designing process in 1935.

Within three years they came up with a successful concept of a sleek, streamlined and absolutely gorgeous motorcycle, naming it Killinger and Freund Motorrad.

It was spectacular, a one-piece configuration of a tubular looking framework, coated with a thin layer of sheet metal, meant to provide cover for the front and rear wheels and the fuel tank. Same as the early Megola model, this one too was envisioned to be powered by a front-mounted engine in contrast to all of the standardized back-powered motorcycles.

The automobile industry in the 1930s was all about that round shape and sleek modern design, so the bike entered the world of the streamliners. Somewhat round at the front and pointed at the rear, so when looked upon from afar it resembled a modern racing ‘two-wheel’ automobile.

We learned that while it is one of the most unusual motorcycles in the world—only a single prototype is known to exist. Photo Credit

The forks at the front which was also a part of that same frame was aerodynamically improved from its predecessor. They’ve also tweaked the engine that was planned to run this beauty, to match the new design. For instance, although they’ve kept the original three-cylinder two-stroke engine, and its displacement stayed fairly the same at 600cc;  by simplifying the mechanical design and replacing parts with smaller equivalents, they’ve managed to make it even lighter than a simple 100cc engine.

The new model should be elegant above all else, they aspired towards something previously not seen nor imagined, to develop a highly attractive bike, that one day could be sold in large quantities. And so, accordingly, the team started to visualize its looks.

Multiple cooling fins and exhaust pipes were added to serve as a cooling fan and the flywheel previously used, now not needed was dropped. This new three-cylinder air-cooled engine with two-speed transmission was placed on the front wheel with all of its parts easily accessible for service and maintenance. With safety clutches added on both of the tires, all that needed to be done is unlock the safety mechanism and remove the front tire completely.

To achieve perfect balance, the team also invested time and thought into the riders seat and the rear suspension. Telescopic shock absorbers filled with oil were linked to the lower end of the tube frame, and a lid placed in the box frame allowed easy access to the seat.  So one who intended to ride this bike can easily change the settings of the seat’s suspension to his own preference.

So after three solid years of hard work and in 1938, everything was ready so they built their first prototype and decided to run some much-needed stand and field tests. After the test rides and as expected the Killinger and Freund Motorcycle showed remarkable results. The front-wheel-drive was much better than the Megola design. When tested the light-weight motor provided stable steering which meant better safety for the rider, and the new engine combined with the aerodynamic simplistic one-piece design allowed trouble-free engine starts and was faster for less fuel.

Due to the start of WWII and like many other inventions from that era, the Killinger and Freund Motorcycle never made it to mass production. One prototype was found covered in dirt by American soldiers in the spring of 1945, laying abandoned near a military base in Munich. Because this is the only model ever discovered, it’s not clear if this is the prototype built and tested in 1938 or is some another model which would imply that others like this might still lay hidden from the public eyes.

Read another story from us: The Spirit of Tomorrow: The Art Deco Glory of the 1938 Hispano-Suiza Dubonnet Xenia Luxury Car

We can only hope that someone excited enough by them will have a chance to continue where they left and complete their work.