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Vintage Motorcycle, DKW (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen).

Updated on October 7, 2013

Motorcycles of the Past

Looking back at the old days of racing out in the desert and wondering what happened to some of the motorcycles that I or others used to ride. Many have gone into oblivion and never to be seen or heard from again. We all remember the bikes we saw sitting around camp or being ridden by fellow riders. After time we noticed that some are not around. If a bike we rode was a favorite you usually knew right away about its demise and thought about the days of glory with fond remembrance. We all seem to remember the bikes we loved and we all remember the bikes we hated. That motorcycle you hated because it seemed that you were constantly working on it, and using colorful words that little kids should not hear. One motorcycle that seemed to be a favorite and one that I never owned was DKW. I do not know much about this bike and can’t seem to remember if I had ever ridden one. We all test ride someone’s new ride but for the world of me I cannot think if I had ever swung my leg over a DKW. Where did these bikes come from and when did they disappear? So I set off to discover a forgotten motorcycle that someone once loved or hated and to see what I could dig up.

19? DKW
19? DKW
1939 DKW US 250
1939 DKW US 250
1972 DKW 125 Enduro
1972 DKW 125 Enduro

DKW Motorcycles

DKW’s were from Germany and they not only made motorcycles they also made cars. The DKW stand for Dampf-Kraft-Wagen which I understand to mean, “steam driven car”. The company got its start in 1916 making steam fittings and that same year was unsuccessful at producing a steam driven car. By the 1930’s DKW was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. In 1931 DKW started building split-engines singles designed by Ing Zoller and this concept made them a contender with the racing community. It was also at this time that they introduced a super charged racing motorcycle that made them a racing force to be reckoned with. DKW produced motorcycles to suit any rider whether on or off road there was a motorcycle for you, or one of their scooters. Looking at their vintage bikes I can see why some of these would make any collector happy. The look is classic European/German and to top it off they made a good motorcycle that was advanced for their time.

Trying to find out the history of when DKW made dirt bikes that showed up here in the states has made me dig in and do some research. DKW 125 was here in the US in the early 70’s and was winning races such as the Baja 1000 and the Mint 400. Even today riders that had one back then still have one in their garage today, and some are ridden in vintage races. They popular years for DKW dirt bikes here in the states were in the years of 1971 and 1972. DKW’s history is long and was an innovator for other's in the motorcycle industry. For vintage motorcycle buffs you must check out the DKW Wankel which headlined on many motorcycle magazines in 1974. Today the trademark 'DKW' is still held by AUDI AG, and they have no plans to reactivate this name on any new motorcycles.


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    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 

      6 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear mkott,

      I never had a dirt bike, mine were always cafe racers. The last bike I had (the one I had my serious smash on) was what was known as a Triton. This was a Triumph 650cc engine in a Norton featherbed frame which I built myself using specially made engine bearers. It was a state of the art machine in its day with clip on handlebars and rear set footrests but probably wouldn't hold a candle to a modern bike. It was a typical British machine - noisy and dropped oil all over the driveway, however it was great fun.

      Kind regards Peter

    • mkott profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Had it in my research notes but for some reason the final draft I did not include it. Why? I am not sure. Silly me! Did state though that they were an "innovator" to the industry.

    • profile image

      DKW Fan 

      9 years ago

      you should have mentioned how the RT125 which the designs were "acquired" by various companies after wwII making it basically the most copied motorcycle ever


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