Military motorcycles are the most extreme. They need to be usable in all kinds of weather and terrain, not to mention reliability and resilience. The most significant military motorcycles served in the army during the two major world burns, World Wars 1 and 2. The American, British and German brands are the most significant.
The story of the American Harley-Davidson is closely related to military engines. In the 1910s, the 17 F and 17 J models were dominant, with which HD began mass production. The engine received the factory’s first V2, the F-Head block, and the models were proven first in the Mexican Revolution and then in World War I. HD has produced more than 20,000 pieces for the U.S. military. The 987cc block had 14 horsepower and its sidecar version was also equipped with a machine gun. In World War II, HD received an even bigger order from the U.S. military. Nearly 100,000 pieces of WLA developed from the WL type were produced. The 740cc Flathead block engine was capable of 25 horsepower. It was produced primarily in the solo version, but also served in the U.S., Canadian, and Soviet armies with sidecar WLA engines on which machine guns were placed. The WLA also became popular with the civilian population, as the appearance of the engines meant liberation, the end of the war as well.
HD’s ancient rival, the Indian, was also a prominent member of the U.S. military. The brand’s most famous military motorcycle was the Powerplus, with 50,000 units made from the V2’s 1,000cc machine. The speed and maneuverability of the 16-horsepower engine was legendary.
British Douglas was present in World War I with its 350, 544 and 964 cc boxer engines, producing more than 70,000 engines for the British army. In World War II, Norton developed the military version of the legendary 16H, the WD16H, of which more than 100,000 served in the British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand armies.
In World War II, the biggest rivals to Harley-Davidson and Norton were the box-powered German BMW and Zündapp engines. The first war BMW was the R71, manufactured between 1938 and 1941. It was originally a high-performance touring engine, but it also endured in the German army. Its block was a 746 cc, 22-horsepower boxer engine. The significance of the R71 is well illustrated by the fact that it has been copied around the world. Based on this, HD designed the XA model, as did the Soviet Dnieper M72 and the Chinese Chang Jiang 750, the successor to the R71. Between 1941 and 1956, more than 300,000 of the Dnieper M72 rolled off the assembly lines. However, the top models of German military engines were the BMW R75 and Zündapp KS750 sidecars. Both models are designed specifically for military purposes. They could carry a load of up to 500 pounds, armament at a speed of 80 km / h, and climb up a 45-degree incline. The R75 had a 26-horsepower and 745-cc block, while the Zündapp’s 751-cubic heart was also capable of 26 horsepower. More than 20,000 units of the BMW R75, manufactured between 1941 and 1945, were made, while nearly 19,000 units of the Zündapp KS750 left the factory between 1939 and 1948.
Tricycles, so-called trikes, have become increasingly popular since the 1930s. The best known trike machine was the Harley-Davidson Servi-Car. The military capabilities that exist in trikes were soon discovered by manufacturers. The most famous Belgian brand, FN, started out as a weapons manufacturer, but sold motorcycles to the Belgian army even before World War I. In 1936, the FN began production of its sidecar military motorcycle, the M12, which was also made in a three-wheeled trike version. The M12-T3 trike provided a much wider use than its sidecar relative. It was a true self-propelled machine gun, the most maneuverable engine of its time. Driven by a 992cc two-cylinder block, its four-speed transmission is also equipped with reverse gear. The engine weighed 550 pounds empty.
The Italians had two trikes in World War II, the Moto Guzzi TriAlce and the Benelli M36. Both were powered by a single-cylinder, four-stroke powerplant, the Guzzi 498, the Benelli 493 cc.
In the 1950s, the French army ordered a military version from Piaggio, the manufacturer of Vespa. The French army needed an engine that could be dropped with a parachute and also equipped with heavy weapons. Piaggio fulfilled the order, making the Vespa 150 TAP, which was used by the French as anti-tank scooters in both the Indochina and Algerian wars. The single-seater British Excelsior Welbike Mark1 and American Cushman Airborne models were also designed for parachute paratroopers. These scooters served as special units for quick deployment. The 32-pound Welbike Mark1 was foldable and could be assembled in 10 seconds after landing. Driven by a 98 cc, two-stroke block, its transmission was stepless. The tires of the Cushman Airborne were aircraft tires, the engine had no lighting, but it was also equipped with a trailer.
One of the strangest military motorcycles of all time is the German NSU HK101 Kettenkrad. The vehicle was an alloy of an open tank and an engine, manufactured between 1939 and 1949. It was originally a light tracked towing vehicle, but was later fitted with the first chassis of a motorcycle for easier cornering. The Kettenkrad was powered by a four-row, water-cooled Opel engine with 36 horsepower, and its transmission with three forward and one reverse gears. On the 1560-pound giant, two could sit behind the driver’s back, facing the direction of travel. It was especially effective on difficult terrain and inclines.
The new alternative, electric propulsion, has already reached the military motorcycle segment. California-based Zero Motorcycles has built an enduro machine to order for the U.S. military. The lithium-ion battery MMX has a maximum output of 46 horsepower and a peak torque of 106 Nm. Its range is 127 kilometers or 175 minutes. The noiseless, agile and assembly-free engine is perfect for rescue operations, reconnaissance and covert operations.
Source: Autó-Motor by www.automotor.hu.
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