The Iron Pig: 1969 MZ Motorcycle
MZ motorcycles offered function over form
MZ motorcycles like this 1969 MZ ES250/2 offered function over form.
Photo by Kim Scholer
1969 MZ ES250/2
Claimed power: 19hp @ 5,350rpm
Top speed: 62mph
Engine: 243cc air-cooled 2-stroke vertical single
Weight (dry): 520lb w/sidecar
MPG: 28-42mpg w/sidecar
Price then: $2,000 (est.)
Price now: $2,000 - $4,000
In the late 1950s the role of motorcycles was changing. Not just utilitarian transport anymore, bikes were being ridden more and more just for the pleasure of riding. One of the few brands that kept making motorcycles that were about function first and foremost was East German Motorradwerk Zschopau, commonly known as MZ motorcycles.
In the former East Germany, there were few options if you wanted your own transportation: Trabant or Wartburg cars, or MZ motorcycles, all of them based on pre-war DKW two-stroke technology. Adding insult to injury, there was a 10-year waiting list for the cars, even if you had the money to buy one. Motorcycles, on the other hand, were somewhat easier to get, as long as you wanted one built in Zschopau, East Germany.
A fine working tool
Evolved from the previous ES250/1 model, the MZ ES250/2 was introduced in 1967. But where its predecessor was round, the ES250/2 was an angular beast, which may be one reason East German motorcyclists claimed the “ES” stood for Eisen-Schwein, or “Iron Pig.” Indeed, only a Communist Politbureau could have loved its looks. Yet MZ motorcycles were snapped up as fast as they were built, both behind the Iron Curtain, where few other vehicles were available, and in the West, where they could be bought at prices significantly lower than any other 250cc motorcycle.
There was more to it than low price, though. First and foremost, MZ motorcycles were a fine working tool and one of the few motorcycles designed primarily to ride with a sidecar attached. Practical details abound. The rear chain runs in separate rubber tubes, ensuring long chain life. The brake arm is placed on the inside of the front brake plate, and the ignition key has a position to the far right that lets you bypass a dead battery and draw juice for the spark plug directly from the generator. The bike also features a large tool kit, much like that of a contemporary BMW motorcycle.
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