2011 Van Veen OCR 1000 Rotary Engine Motorcycle
Back to the future
The 2011 Van Veen OCR 1000 rotary engine motorcycle.
Photo by Hans Koopman
2011 Van Veen OCR 1000
Claimed power: 100hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 135mph (claimed)
Engine: 996cc oil/water-cooled two rotor Wankel
Weight (wet): 647lb (294kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 5.8gal (22ltr) / 24mpg (est.)
Price: $125,000 (est.)
Four slightly faded snapshots in my oldest photo album bear silent witness to my first encounter with the Van Veen OCR 1000 rotary engine motorcycle in 1974. On the same page is a picture of a red Honda Gold Wing. They were two world firsts I photographed as an adolescent motorcycle enthusiast at that year’s Cologne exhibit, not realizing how much influence both machines would have on motorcycle history.
The Gold Wing created a new class of touring motorcycle, and 37 years later it’s a familiar face in the motorcycle world. The Van Veen, on the other hand, was gone almost before it appeared, but in European circles it was a style icon of unprecedented magnitude. There, it still fires the imagination of a generation of motorcycle enthusiasts.
Inspired by the promise of emerging rotary motorcycle technology, the Van Veen was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it never got the chance to prove how good — or bad — it really was. Even today, the OCR 1000 looks contemporary and familiar. In Europe, any motorcycle enthusiast 50 years or older knows the machine, but hardly anyone has ever seen one in the flesh, let alone ever ridden one. That’s hardly surprising, given the fact that only 38 were built before production ended after supplier Comotor stopped building the Van Veen’s rotary engine.
Van Veen history
Dutchman Henk van Veen earned his money as an importer of the German 50cc Kreidler. As owner of the Van Veen Racing team he achieved great success with multiple 50cc world championships. A man of vision, van Veen saw a great future for bigger bikes and Kreidler couldn’t deliver them, so he decided to build one himself. His would be no ordinary motorcycle, but a Wankel-engine powered Superbike.
In the late 1960s, several car manufacturers explored the rotary engine as an alternative to conventional piston engines. Comotor in Luxembourg built a two-rotor rotary engine used by Citroën and Audi/NSU. Compact by design, it was perfect for van Veen’s needs. For motorcycle use it was equipped with a special clutch, oil pump, transmission, ignition and starter. The gearbox was redesigned by Porsche just for the OCR 1000.
The overall design was entrusted to Van Veen employee Jos Schurgers, a former 50cc and 125cc Grand Prix racer. Working from a clunky Mazda rotary-powered prototype based on a Moto Guzzi V7, he penned a design that still looks modern today. The prototype Van Veen OCR 1000 was introduced at the IFMA in Cologne in 1974 where it was a sensation, garnering far more interest than the Honda Gold Wing that was baptized on the same occasion.
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