PAGE 46. German Cyclemotors: 1953 Adler with 1954 MAW engine


1953 Adler Cycle with 1954 MAW cycle attachment engine


A 1955 Adler MB250 was one of my first vintage motorcycles when I started collecting more seriously around 1980. Its registration was ‘8 FMT.’ I rode it for a while and was impressed by how well it was made.


I sold it in the early 1990’s – but discovered it again a few years ago when I was on a local vintage motorcycle run, the ‘Engineerium Run’ which started and finished at the Engineerium Museum in Hove (see photo below). It’s now owned and much loved by Bernie and I was happy to see it again …and in such good hands too.


I decided that as MB250’s are now very expensive bikes I’m unlikely to buy another. But I did jump when this very much smaller (and cheaper) Adler came up for sale. It’s a 1953 Adler bicycle with a German MAW clip-on engine attached. As you can see, it’s in lovely restored condition.


It has a BOSH dynamo and light, and a Dürkopp saddle.



East German MAW Hilfsmotor


MAW engines were manufactured between 1954 and 1959 in Magdeburg, in what used to be East Germany. They were quite common in rural areas, still being used up to the end of the Communist regime.


The MAW (pronounced ‘MAV’) was, like all Eastern Bloc cyclemotors, a knock-off Western machine. The original German ‘hilfsmotor’ (‘help-engine’) was called an AMO (see advert below). The 50cc Amo FM 50 was manufactured between 1949 and 1950, and the 60cc Amo FM 60 from 1949 to 1951.


Here’s a comparison so you can see similarities and differences.


A 1950 AMO FM 60 is pictured above; this one was for sale, for restoration, in Germany. My MAW is below.


And below is the AMO again from the other side.


We can’t simply write off the MAW as just a bootleg East German version of the AMO. Because the AMO sold poorly. As we can see in these reviews, there was a lot of competition for cycle-attachments in the early 1950s in Germany, and there were plenty others with well-known names, as well as good advertising, distribution and after-sales support.

In East Germany, however, the MAW sold very many thousands of units – it was a complete success. The poster below illustrating various applications for the MAW engine provides an interesting insight into East Germany in the fifties. So perhaps it’s more realistic to look at the MAW as a well-made updated version of the AMO?




I’ll be driving over to Paris at the beginning of October to collect the Adler-MAW.


Tha Adler is now back home safe and sound after a mad dash around France.


It’s in really good running order, having been restored by my friend Pat – ‘le Professeur de Cyclomoteurs’ – and I’ve not needed to do anything to it.


Nevertheless, when it comes to ‘les cyclomoteurs’ need is not necessarily the emotion that rules the day. I must admit to spending an unnecessary amount of money buying an original Adler ‘klingel’ to accessorize the Adler/MAW; this Adler bicycle bell cost the princely sum of €62.77 on German ebay.


[Parts of the above article first appeared on the Free Moped Magazine website]


Adler History


The Adler company started in 1896, and as well as making bicycles, motorycles and cars, they were famous for their typewriters and, later, office equipment. They eventually merged with Triumph. The photo above is of a 1903 Adler motorcycle.


Adler built cars with de Dion-Bouton engines and from 1902 its own four-cylinder engines. Driven by Erwin and Otto Kleyer sons of Heinrich Kleyer, founder of Adler, and by Alfred Theves (founder of the ATE piston-ring works), these cars won many sporting events.

Popular models of the 1920s were 2298cc, 1550cc and 4700cc four-cylinder and 2580cc six- cylinder cars. Gropius and Neuss coachwork was seen on many models, built between 1927 and 1934. They had 2916cc six- cylinder and 3887cc eight-cylinder engines. The front-wheel- drive Trumpf models of the 1930s with 995cc (Trumpf Junior), 1494cc and 1645cc four-cylinder engines, gained many successes in races, including the Le Mans 24 hours.

Among rear-driven Adler cars were the 1943cc “Favorit”, the 2916cc six-cylinder “Diplomat” and the 1910cc four-cylinder and 2494cc six-cylinder models with partially streamlined bodywork built until the Second World War.

Adler cars were commonly used by the German army. The photo below, illustrating an Adler staff car, is from my photograph collection.


Interestingly, as well as their normal motorcycle models, Adler also has a history of cyclemotors: from 1932 they produced lightweight motorcycles using Fichtel & Sachs engines (see picture below). These pedal-assisted machines were similar to what we called autocycles in Britain.


After World War 2, all German motorcycle plans were requisitioned by the Allies, and in Great Britain Adler’s 250cc motorcycle engines were adapted by Ariel to become the Arrow and Leader. Japanese motorcycles were also often direct copies of original German machines.



Adler Typewriters


The Adler company built it’s highly successful line of thrust-action typewriters on an original design by US inventor Wellington Parker Kidder. they were marketed in Germany as the Adler 7 beginning in the 1890s.

Adler soon developed the thrust action typewriter. They introduced a small portable version (the Klein Adler and the Klein Adler 2 – see photo below) and a full sized office machine, the Adler 8, followed by several adaptations, including the Adler 11 with two double shifts and six characters on each type bar, so that it could write two different typefaces.

The Adler 15 shown in the photo above was introduced in 1909 and was built until 1923. With four rows of keys and a single shift, this machine was only one huge step away from the introduction of the regular front strike typewriters that Adler (or Triumph-Adler) would continue to produce until it went out of business in 1995. An interesting detail is that despite the many improvements that were made on the machine, Adler stuck to the clumsy line space and carriage return system on the side of the carriage.

On the front of this machine is a dealer stamp from an Amsterdam based company with a 6-digit telephone number that shows that this machine was still in use in the early 1970s, 50 years after it was built.



MAW advertising brochures




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