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Is this Britain’s most unusual motorcycle collection?
A look inside the bike shed of a motorcycle eccentric
There’s nothing unusual about collecting motorcycles, but there’s something very unusual about Peter Frost’s eclectic stash of bikes gathered from across Europe.
The haul of 10 bikes, from England’s Midlands to Russia, Poland, East Germany and Italy, complements an equally impressive collection of obscure, unconventional and rare cars.
With a passion for cars and bikes produced behind the Iron Curtain, Peter has amassed probably an unrivalled collection of motoring curiosities, with bikes including models from Ural, WFM, MZ, Voskhod and DMW to add to the four-wheeled Trabant, Tatras, Wartburgs and Zaporozhets.
It all began in 1973 when a 19-year-old Peter bought an ex-Police DMW Deemster scooter he still owns today.
That kick-started the building of a collection of unusual and rare vehicles initially sparked as a youngster reading The Observer’s Book of Automobiles, which would include cars that came from behind the Iron Curtain.
Here we take a closer look at Peter’s collection of bikes.
DMW Deemster (Police version)
- Year: 1966
- Place of origin: Dudley, England
- Engine: 250cc Villiers 2T, twin-cylinder, two-stroke
The Deemster is the sole British bike in Peter’s collection, and it’s the one that started it all off back in 1973 when he bought the scooter after seeing an advert in Exchange and Mart.
“It was pretty much the bike that introduced me to weird and wonderful machinery because back in those days when I was riding it around no-one had seen one and people used to stop me and ask questions about it,” he says.
“That got me into researching the history and finding out things about them. I could never bear to part with it.”
A small British manufacturer based in the Birmingham area, DMW had some success producing bikes for competition, and the curious Deemster was introduced in 1962, featuring a 250cc Villiers 2T, twin-cylinder, two-stroke engine.
“It was a peculiar sort of cross between a scooter and a motorbike, neither one nor t’other,” says Peter.
“Though there was a civilian version, most of them were sold to the police. This one was used by the Surrey Constabulary and then the Sussex Constabulary.”
They were never successful sellers with the public, but many rural police forces paid the £380 asking price – Wolverhampton police had eight, all fitted with radios and blue lights.
“The whole concept is something that’s far too big to be a scooter, the petrol tank is where a motorbike tank would be, but the wheels are a bit small, so it’s a bit different.
“It’s quite nice to ride – it’s comfortable as long as you don’t want to go very fast.
“It will be renovated. It’s on the list of things to sort out so I do hope I will be riding it again some time in the not too distant future.”
Ural 650 model IMZ 8.103-30
- Year: 1991
- Place of origin: Irbit, Russia
- Engine: 650cc twin cylinder, horizontally opposed 4 stroke
When Stalin feared a Nazi invasion in 1940, he ordered the production of a motorcycle up to the task of helping to mobilize the Red Army.
Using the BMW R71 motorcycle and sidecar as a blueprint, a Russian-made motorcycle was produced out of painstaking reverse engineering, although there is a school of thought that suggests BMW licensed their manufacture.
But with the Moscow Motorcycle Plant quickly feared to be within range of German bombing, the factory was moved out of harm’s way to the Ural mountain range town of Irbit.
Initially, the Ural-Irbit Motorcycle Works (IMZ) only supplied the military, but in the 1950s the entire plant was turned over to produce non-military vehicles, mostly producing sidecar motorcycles designed for rough, rugged Russian terrain.
Later, Ural produced customised bikes to the specifications of various importers all over the world.
Peter’s 650cc model was, he says, “built to the specification of Neval, who were one of the many importers of Russian bikes that have sprung up, then faded away, in the UK”.
“Neval sold the bikes under their own brand name, with various different models being built by IMZ-Ural to their specification,” he adds.
“My bike was originally a Neval Soviet Knight. The Soviet Knight was quite highly customised with lots of chrome, silly high handlebars, an upswept exhaust and individual ‘tractor’ saddles.
“I’ve changed the handlebars and exhaust for the standard items so that the bike would work properly with the sidecar, and changed the saddles to a dual seat because the ‘customisation’ removed the ability to adjust the saddles, making them very uncomfortable for a lightweight like me.”
MZ Trophy ES250/2
- Year: 1974
- Place of origin: Zschopau, East Germany
- Engine: 250cc, single cylinder two-stroke
Built in East Germany, the MZ Trophy was nicknamed the “TV lamp” thanks to its unusual, enormous square headlight.
The ES family of bikes was produced from 1956 to 1974 in the VEB Motorradwerke Zschopau, with Peter’s being on the last of the line of the Trophy models, named as a result of its success in the International Six-Day Trials.
With a flat out speed of 75-80 mph and a fuel consumption of over 70 mpg, this very torquey 250 seemed proved a willing workhorse.
WFM Osa M52 (UK spec)
- Year: 1964
- Place of origin: Warsaw, Poland
- Engine: 175cc, fan-cooled two-stroke
Just like Vespa means wasp in Italian, so Osa means the same in Polish.
The little scooters had quite a reputation at home, becoming the only scooter to earn a gold medal in the off-road International Six-Day Trials, ultimately accruing four gold and six silver medals in international events.
Peter’s M52 model is a rare beast indeed.
“This particular one is a very rare, probably unique, UK-spec machine that was brought over for the 1964 Earls Court Motorcycle Show,” says Peter. “After that WFM went bust and stopped making the things and, as a result, it never got sold in the UK.
“There were only two UK specification Osa scooters made. One was a model M50 fitted with a 150cc engine, imported a few years earlier than mine, and my M52 which has a 175cc engine.
“The M52 eventually got given away as a prize in a competition, and I acquired it from the brother of the lucky prize-winner many years ago.
“He rode it a few times and crashed it, so it’s got some accident damage down the side and, at the time I acquired it, getting spare parts for something from Poland was close to impossible.
“But in more recent years I drove an old Skoda over to Poland and managed to pick up a bootful of spares parts.
“They thought I was crazy when I got there. They didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Polish. I just pointed at the pictures to show what I wanted. He kept going away and coming back with people and saying ‘England, England’.
“It’s ready to be renovated now when I can find the time.”
Benelli 900 Sei
- Year: 1981
- Place of origin: Pesaro, Italy
- Engine: 906cc air-cooled inline 6-cylinder OHC four stroke
The Benelli Sei was masterminded by Alejandro de Tomaso, who intended it to be Italy’s premier sporting motorcycle.
De Tomaso also owned Moto Guzzi (and Maserati) and used some Moto Guzzi parts, such as lights and switches, on the Benellis. Some of the smaller bikes, but not the Sei, were sold with either Benelli or Moto Guzzi badges on them.
At launch in 1973, it overshadowed all other Italian bikes of the year, and started the trend of angular-designed bikes.
Capacity was increased from the initial 750cc to 900cc in 1979, with less than 2,000 made over four model releases.
Dubbed “outrageous” and a “flashbike”, the definition of which was “rare, expensive, European, quirky, handsome and high performance”, Peter had long hankered after such a bike when he finally bought his in the early 1980s.
“When the Benelli 6-cylinder came out I thought ‘wow, that’s amazing’ and I was very lucky to be able to buy one,” he says.
“The previous owner had put a really ugly black fairing on it with square headlamps, which was out of character with the rest of the bike.
“It was sat in a showroom and no-one bought it. I watched it for months, and every now and then the price went down. It got to a price and I thought ‘I’m never going to get another opportunity’, and bought it.
“I removed the fairing and brought it back to close to standard.
“I used to go to the Isle of Man TT racing every year, and for a few years it was my Isle of Man bike. It’s quick, and makes a delightful noise. I’m probably going to sell it though, as I struggle with the weight of it now.”
- Year: 1975
- Place of origin: Kovrov, Russia
- Engine: 175cc, single-cylinder, twin port, two-stroke
The Voskhod 2 was universally panned by the motorcycle press in this country.
“They were imported into the UK, but not in huge quantities,” says Peter. “Mine was a British import and they were rated as pretty dire by the magazines at the time they came out.
“This one’s hardly been used and is sitting waiting for me to find the time to fettle it and get it running again. It does run and I’ve ridden it up and down a yard, but I haven’t used it on the road yet. There’s not a lot wrong with it so it shouldn’t take too much work to get it roadworthy again.”
Despite the bike’s critical reception, it was an improvement on earlier models, both more powerful and reliable, with improved shock absorbers, riding and position and wheels.
WSK M21 (UK spec)
- Year: 1974
- Place of origin: Świdnik, Poland
- Engine: 175cc single cylinder two-stroke
To give it its full title, the Wytwórnia Sprzętu Komunikacyjnego M21 was produced in Poland from 1972 to 1984, the first 175cc motorcycles produced in the town of Świdnik.
The bikes were only imported into the UK for up to a year, with on a handful of the low numbers sold remaining.
Peter says the UK bikes “differed quite a lot from the home market machines, and some British components were fitted, for example the Polish carb was replaced by a British Amal unit”.
His bike is a very rare survivor among these UK-spec imports.
Simson Schwalbe KR51
- Year: 1984
- Place of origin: Suhl, East Germany
- Engine: 50cc single cylinder two-stroke
A popular machine in its native East Germany, the Simson Schwalbe (which translates as swallow) was the first bike produced in its manufacturer’s new “bird series”.
It was followed by the Spatz (sparrow), Sperber (sparrowhawk), and Habicht (hawk).
Although the KR, which stands for klein roller (small scooter), has the body-styling of a scooter, it featured larger, motorcycle-style wheels.
Power came from a 3.4bhp, 50cc engine, and by 1965 the Simon factory in Suhl was employing 4,000 workers to churn out 200,000 small motorcycles a year.
“It’s quite nicely styled and faired in so it gives you a bit of weather protection, and keeps your clothes fairly clean when you ride it,” says Peter. “It was aimed at the ride-to-work market.
“Unusually, it’s got a towing ball on the back and you could get little trailers to tow behind them. But it’s not legal to tow with something that small in this country.”
MZ Saxon 301
- Year: 1994
- Place of origin: Zschopau, East Germany
- Engine: 291cc single cylinder two-stroke with auto-lube
MZ, which has stood for various names over the years, most recently Motorrad und Zweiradwerk, has a long and proud history of motorcycle manufacture since 1922.
The global leader in two-stroke development, under the leadership of engineer Walter Kaaden, their engines were nearly unbeatable in motorcycle racing.
MZ famously came close to beating Soichiro Honda’s four-stroke engines to the 1961 world championships in the 125cc class, and was foiled a year later by one of the biggest spy scandals in motorcycle history when factory rider Ernst Degner fled East Germany, taking Kaaden’s secrets with him to Suzuki, who won the title in 1962.
MZ sold the rights to make their two-stroke motorcycles to Kanuni in Turkey, and some time afterwards stopped making two stroke machines so that they could concentrate on new ranges of four stroke motorcycles.
After 1993 MZ went through various periods of financial difficulty and changes of ownership, while producing some well-regarded four stroke machines, and eventually faded away.
- Year: 1992
- Place of origin: Strakonice, Czechoslovakia
- Engine: 176cc single cylinder two-stroke
In the 1950s and 1960s, CZ was Europe’s second-largest motorcycle manufacturer, and competed in Grand Prix road racing alongside powerful Italian factories like MV Agusta, Gilera and Mondial.
The Czech firm’s Type-860 GP model was beaten only by Jarno Saarinen’s Yamaha in its home Grand Prix in 1971, and was leading the Austrian Grand Prix in 1972 when mechanical failure struck.
Switching its attention to motocross, CZ became famed for its powerful, two-stroke, off-road bikes, winning seven Grand Prix Motorcross World Championships and dominating the International Six Day Trial.
As with British bikes, CZ lost market share to Japanese imports, which copied many of the innovations the company had successfully pioneered.
Taken over by Italian manufacturer Cagiva, motorcycles including the CZ 180 (sometimes called the Jawa-CZ) were made in the Strakonice factory.
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