1937 Zundapp KKS500
South American survivor
1937 Zundapp KKS500.
1937 Zundapp KKS500
Claimed power: 24hp @ 5,200rpm
Top speed: 87mph
Engine: 498cc OHV, air-cooled horizontally-opposed twin
Weight: 386lb (175kg)
Fuel capacity: 3.3gal
From road racer to plodding sidecar hack, this 1937 Zundapp KKS500 has led quite a life.
Found languishing in the South American country of Uruguay, hooked to a Steib sidecar with a pillion saddle and rack over the rear fender, the Zundapp had at one time traveled the area’s dusty hills under the control of a Mormon pastor.
Enter Florida resident Marco Palmer, the current custodian of the KKS. Born in the United States, Marco was raised in Argentina and Uruguay. Educated by Brits and Scots, he speaks English with a Dutch accent! Regardless, he’s a really decent chap with a penchant for air-cooled, flat-twin motorcycles (namely BMWs) that can be traced back to when he was just 11 years old and saw a local newspaper ad for a 1943 BMW R75. “It was $80, and I had the money, but my parents wouldn’t let me buy it,” Marco says wistfully. “I had a fancy for old motorcycles with sidecars, and that’s when my passion really started.”
While he didn’t get the vintage BMW, he did get a French Velo Solex moped, black with red tartan saddlebags. He rode it everywhere, and then graduated to a 1973 Honda CB360. After that, school and then work saw Marco moving back and forth between the U.S. and South America, and he was 25 when he bought his first BMW, in Argentina, an ex-police model R50. He restored that bike, and from that point on, vintage BMWs and Steib sidecars just rolled in the door. He had the R50, then bought two R60s and an R67 — all pre-War BMWs.
South American connection
How could there be such a concentration of old machines in Argentina and Uruguay? From the mid-1930s through to the mid-1940s, South America had a very strong economy. The U.S. was in a depression, and Argentina was the breadbasket of the world for grain and beef production. “You could find incredible cars and motorcycles in South America,” Marco says, adding, “In the past 30 years, though, things have changed. They’re not as easy to find as they once were.”
In 2000, Marco was looking for a sidecar for one of his BMWs. Through a friend in Uruguay, he heard about a group of vintage motorcycle enthusiasts, and he met up with them and started talking about old bikes. Marco mentioned he was looking for a sidecar when somebody said they knew of a BMW that was for sale. He wasn’t interested in another motorcycle, but he called the owner anyway.
“He said he wasn’t selling the BMW, but he did say he had a sidecar hooked up to a Zundapp,” Marco recalls. “I said I’d just bought a motorcycle, and wasn’t interested in another. He persuaded me to come see it, though.” As if Marco really needed to have his arm-twisted.
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