Horex Motorcycles History: More than Singles

Horex motorcycles have been around since 1923 thanks to Friedrich and Fritz Kleeman.

By Jeff Alexander


January 2014

1952 Horex Regina 350

1952 Horex Regina 350

Justin Schmidt

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The Horex story began in 1923. Founded by father and son businessmen Friedrich and Fritz Kleeman , the fledgling motorcycle company developed a reputation for crafting spirited, single cylinder motorcycles. Early bikes were powered by German Columbus engines (Friedrich Kleeman was a majority shareholder of Columbus, which manufactures engines for use by other companies), and in the 1930s Horex brought Columbus in-house to focus on engines for Horex. These included new sidevalve and overhead valve singles, and overhead cam parallel twins, including a huge 980cc twin used for sidecar racing. 

The advent of World War II halted motorcycle production, but following the war Horex was the first German motorcycle manufacturer to be granted permission by the occupying forces to build a motorcycle of more than 250cc. Horex’s most popular postwar model was the 350 Regina, a single-cylinder 350cc first introduced in 1948. Horex made a 500cc double overhead cam and single overhead cam racing twin in the 1950-1952 period, and in 1954 it introduced a 398cc single overhead cam vertical twin, the Imperator 400 (also called the Emperor 400 in English speaking markets). It may seem the company was moving onward and upward, but Horex’s fortunes took a dramatic turn in the mid-1950s, and motorcycle production ceased in 1958. 

Horex seemingly became a footnote in motorcycle history until the name was resurrected by Friedl Munch in 1977. Munch’s Horex Motorrad produced an updated version of the legendary Munch Mammut called the 1400 Horex TI, but for the marque was sold to Fritz Roth in the 1980s. The name was sold once again to Berlin’s Bajaj-Motorfahrzeug-Vertriebsgesellschaft, and they produced MZ and Jawa-based motorcycles for eight years, ceasing in 1998. 

No motorcycles were produced bearing the Horex name after Bajaj, but a comic kept the marque in the limelight. Werner, a rebellious German comic character, rides a hot-rodded Horex while thumbing his nose at authority. Created by Rotger Feldmann, the biker has been regarded as the country’s most popular comic character. 

Horex received yet another shot at life when Clemens Neese and Frank Fischer secured the trademark rights to Horex in 2007, formally possessing the name and logo in 2009. “Horex is still today a very attractive, charismatic brand,” commented Neese in a press release. It was announced that a supercharged V6, the Horex VR6 Roadster, would be unveiled in 2011, available in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In August 2013, Horex announced the 2014 Horex VR6 Classic, a mildly retro version of the original VR6 Roadster featuring spoke instead of cast wheels and detuned to produce 126 horsepower versus the Roadster’s claimed 161. Horex (horex.com) hasn’t said whether it will sell bikes in the U.S.

For vintage Horex owner Victor Costanzo (click here to read about his incredible 1952 Horex Regina 350), news that that Horex is alive once again yields mixed reactions. “Well, I suppose it can be a good thing to have the name out there, but it’s not the same company.”