The Simson (not "Simpson", as somebody wrote...although i risked to make the same error during the typing!!...) is a factory of the former East Germany, strictly connected to the MZ until the fall of the Berlin Wall. It produced mainly mopeds ands scooters, but also bikes of bigger displacement.
The beginnings: normal and racing machines
Founded in the city of Suhl in the second half of the '800 by Löb and Moses Simson as weapon factory, the Simson starts the motorcycle production in the 1934, with the "BSW" brand ("Berlin-Suhler Waffen", that means "Berlin-Suhler Weapon Factory"). One of the produced models was the BSW 100, classic two-stroke, in the first pic above. During the Nazism, the Simson family, of Jewish origin, was persecuted and forced to leave the country, while Hitler made the factory as one of the main center of weapon production. With the fall of the Nazist regime, the Simson was one of the German factories (besides other plants of DKW, BMW etc.) under the Soviet control. Therefore, several cars and bikes in the DDR were simply pre-war models of West-German brands (as well for the Trabant, Wartburg and MZ), and this situation involved also the Simson. In the second and third pics above, there is the first version of the AWO-Simson "425", substantially a pre-war single-cylinder BMW. This bike had all the features of the BMW model: 250 cc. four stroke engine (placed longitudinally), 4-speeds gearbox with final shaft drive.
In the first and second pics above, instead, the following "Sport" version, improved with new suspensions (rear swingarm) and a newer look. It had 15 hp, for 110 km/h of max speed. In the third pic, the sidecar version. The "425" is still relatively diffused in the former East Germany, and sometime it's utilized as base for...crazy bikes, as the chopper in the fourth pic (builted by the two "metal-guys" behind the bike!!)
From the AWO-Simson "425", also several racing versions were obtained. In the first and second pics above, two models of the 1951 and 1954, still derived from the normal "425" (the second with rear swingarm), with a power of 26-28 hp. In the third and fourth pic, instead, a version of the 1955, with the same crank, but with double head camshaft driven by chain: the power was 30 hp/9200 rpm.
The same engine was developed in the version in the first pic above, with shaft drive and conic gears. In the second and third pics, instead, an AWO-Simson derived from the "425" at the "Schleizer Dreieckrennen" of the 1954: the driver is probably H.J. Scheel, several times national champion in the former-DDR.
In the 1952/53, a new racing four-stroke motorcycle was realized, the "RS 250" (first, second, third and fourth pics above), with a new single-cylinder engine, double head camshaft driven by gears, six-speed gearbox and final drive with chain; this engine was called "the seven", because of the shape of the camshaft drive tunnel (visible in the fifth pic). The frame features an Earles fork with double shock absorber. The power was 33 hp. In the sixth pic, a group of Simson racing models in the Museum of Suhl: a modified "425" with fairing and the "RS 250" behind.
In the first, second and third pics above, instead, another beautiful racing bike: the two-cylinder model of the 1956, always 250 cc. and chain-driven DOHC, with a frame quite similar to the "RS 250" single-cylinder. Later the drive to the camshafts was changed to shaft and bevels to the inlet cam, and from there with gear wheels to the exhaust cam shaft (fourth and fifth pics). The power of the twin was not enough, 35 hp/10.200 rpm, and developer Werner Straugh (behind the bike in the fourth pic above) lacked the time and money to develop the engine. In the 1959, the factory tested a new 350 single, with a desmodromic valve gear, 40 hp (sixth pic; the driver in the pic is H. Weber, at the "Schleizer Dreieckrennen" of the 1959); but on Soviet orders, the development of racing machines was stopped. Anyway, these realizations were the demonstration that this brand realized not only utiltarian two-stroke models.
In the same period, the Simson began the effort in the Enduro competitions: in the first, second, third and fourth pics above, the "GS 350" in the enduro and motocross versions, strictly derived from the "425" road model, but with an engine increased to 350 cc, 20 hp. The last evolution of the Simson four-stroke models, was the prototype in the fifth pic, simply called "E-350", builted in the 1960 and never produced in series. A shame, because it had a quite elegant and modern look; moreover, it was one of the first bikes already equipped with turn-light (at least, i read so)!
Therefore, since the '60s, the Simson's production was converted to cheaper and smaller models, two-stroke, with a displacement of 50/70 cc. In the first pic above, the scooter "KR 50", subsequently called "Schwalbe" (second pic; "swallow" in German), with 2,1 hp and 50 km/h; in the third pic, instead, the moped "SR-2E" (1,5 hp, like the legal power of the Italian mopeds before the '90s), and, in the fourth pic, the "S3 Star", with a headlight cover very similar to the MZ "ES 175". All these models were produced between the '50s and '60s; the "Schwalbe" was produced in over one million of units.
Above, some model produced since the years '70s. In the first and second pics, the "S-51", the only moped available in the East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall (the exemplar in the first pic is probably at the end of career...). It was produced also in the 70 cc. version; the gearbox is with 3 or 4-speed, and the frame is composed by only one steel tube, with the engine suspended and fixed only in the part of the gearbox. In the third pic, the enduro version (70 or 80 cc), with the same frame of the normal version (only a strenghtening tube was added). It features a 5-speed gearbox, and a better power (7,5 hp). In the fourth pic, instead, the "S-100", an interesting 100 cc. twin-cylinder, remained as prototype.
The enduro bikes for the competitions, instead, were quite different from the normal models, and produced in very limited series. However, in the early '70s they had engines derived from the normal models; in the first pic above, the "GS 50" of the 1963, with Earles fork, still with three-steps gearbox; in the second pic, instead, the version of the 1967, realized also in the 75 cc. variant. These models competed with success in the International Six Days of enduro. Some of the enduro bikes of the '60s-'70s had a strange 8-steps gearbox, obtained simply putting a reducer on the normal 4-speed gearbox (third pic above); this system is present on the "GS 75" in the fourth pic, builted in the 1976. It was good for the enduro bikes, but it was used also on road-racing bikes (!), obviously with poor results!
Since the '80s, the Simson's enduro bikes became totally different: in the first pic above, the "GS 80" of the 1981, with a modern liquid-cooled engine, six-speed gearbox, 23 hp. In the second and third pics, the "GS 80 WKH" of the 1987, with 7-speed gearbox, and, in the fourth and fifth pics, the version of the 1990, World Champion with the driver Thomas Bierbach. These bikes with liquid-cooled engines -realized also in the 125 cc. version- had no parts in common with the normal Simson bikes, and they raced with success against the Italian TM enduro bikes. The effort in the competitions was stopped in the early '90, with the post-communist crisis; anyway, the Simson enduro bikes won also eight European Championships.
Above, instead, three beautiful racing exemplars (the pics were kindly sent by Martijn Stehouwer). In the first pic, a "private" racer bike of the 1975, with a 50 cc. derived from the "Schwalbe" scooter, but modified with 6-speed gearbox, liquid cooling system, rotary inlet valve, for a max power of 16,5 hp. Same features for the engine of the blue bike in the second pic (also this bike was realized by private team); in the third pic, instead, a factory bike (the driver was Peter Junghans), with an 80 cc. engine derived from the "S-51", and with a refined aluminium monocoque frame, complete with three disk brakes and monoshock suspension. It seems that the Simson realized also a road-racing bike with the liquid-cooled engine of the "GS 80" enduro; with a max speed of over 210 km/h! In spite of the lack of resources in the DDR, these bikes are a demonstration of outstanding effort.
About the "normal" Simson motorcycles, they were, also during the years '80s, a sort of... Trabant of the motorcycles, cheap and with a very simple (an dated) layout. In the two pics above, the Lambretta of the Eastern Germans: the Simson "SR-1", with a look enough similar to the early version of the Italian scooter. The engine is strictly derived from the Simson's mopeds, and makes this scooter enough "motorcycle", with the engine under the platform, the manual gearshift and the final chain drive (hidden under a sealed carter: this was a typical feature of other Eastern motorcycles, as Jawa, MZ, Izh and others). The frame is realized in stamped steel-foil, the max speed is 60 km/h. It's not a scooter for a "Roman holiday", but it was an honest vehicle!
After the fall of the Berlin's Wall, the Simson enters in an hard crisis, with a big and obsolete factory (first pic above), and a outdated range of vehicles. Some new vehicle was launched: in the second pic above, the Simson "AT 50", with an "african" style, similar to the BMW "R100 GS" Paris-Dakar! But the production of this vehicle remains stopped, and the old models were slightly updated in the look (Simson "S-53" normal and "enduro", third and fourth pics). During that period, the "S-53 Enduro" seems a sort of toy for childrens...!
Besides the old models, the production was updated with some new model. In the first pic above, the "Sperber 50", still derived from the old models, but with disk brake and monoshock suspension, at least. In the third and fourth pics (also in the police version), the "Star 50", strictly derived from the old "SR-1" (but called "Star Classic", second pic above). In the fifth and sixth pics, instead, two vehicles quite "funny": the "Spatz" ("sparrow" in German), and the three-wheeler "Albatros"...names taken from birds, but i think that it's impossible to fly with these vehicles...
But the Simson realized also new interesting motorcycles for the wide French and German market of the 125 cc. bikes. In the first pic above, the "Schikra 125", a sort of little Ducati Monster, with a similar tubular frame and a single-cylinder engine, 15 hp, four stroke, air-cooled. Also other version were obtained from the "Schikra": in the second pic, the "RS 125" with a complete fairing, and, in the third pic, the beautiful "Schikra Sport", with a reduced fairing. The range of the Simson motorcycles featured also the "125 SM" enduro/supermotard in the fifth pic, but it's produced by the French HRD, although with the Simson's brand. In the fifth pic, another 125 enduro four-strokes, called "Condor 125" and remained as prototype.
In the first and second pics above, two images of a prototype of the new "Schwalbe" (same name of the model of the years '60s), with big diameter wheels (16") and a modern engine with automatic transmission. In the third, fourt and fifth pics, another prototype, called "Insekt", with a quite original look...maybe too original: where is the protection for the legs? Unfortunately, these vehicles remained as prototypes, and there is no hope to see them in production.
Now, the Simson is another piece of the past history of DDR. The factory, although the efforts of modernization, closed in the 2002, and the production lines of the engines were sent in Russia (where the old two-stroke engine is now produced by Molot). Anyway, the Simson's vehicles never were original and particular, but they were cheap and useful vehicles for many Germans, in a nation ruined by the Nazism before, and humiliated by the Soviet oppression after. Indeed, during the '60s and '70s the level of these rugged and reliable Eastern mopeds was not far from similar Western vehicles. And, although the rigidity of the Communism, the Germans passed also their "Berliner holidays" (instead of "Roman holidays") on these vehicles!
Some pic taken from www.simsontuning.de , Suhl Museum , http://arecki13.republika.pl/ , Official Simson Museum, http://leo_keller.tripod.com/Gelandesport/, Joep's Homepage , www.simson-dienst.de