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Orphaned Stepchild: Universal PDF Print E-mail
Written by BMWVMCA NEWS   
Friday, 26 June 2009


Hi Richard

I had promised a few years ago to write up an article for the VMCA newsletter about the Universal, and so FINALLY here it is! If you wish, you can enter the commentary with some of the photos I sent earlier.

The Universal motorcycle, made in Switzerland, was produced from the late 1920’s to the early 1960's. Before the war, a variety of fairly generic models, some using proprietary motors, all poorly documented, and all quite rare were made.

During the war, (WWII) Universal made an inline V twin, possibly in concert with Condor, for military use, with 1000cc displacement and with sidecar mounted.

The Universal of interest to us in BMW-land is the post war, civilian, “Kardan-Boxer”, made from 1947-8 to about 1962. These were sold mostly in Switzerland, occasionally in the Netherlands, South America, and possibly in Germany, rebadged as a Rabenieck.

They were quite expensive, but appear to have been well regarded, and were often used as police mounts. A confusing combination of models with different names for very similar
motorcycles depending on production year was used. Also, both OHV and SV models, and both plunger and rigid rear suspension versions were available.

Although most were mono carbureted, a few very late production dual carburetor models were made. The Universal on display at Barber Museum is one of the rare dual carburetor “sport” models. The total number made of the boxer version was around 1000. They are thus quite rare except in Switzerland. Mark Huggett has told me that there will often be at least one Universal at any large Swiss bike meet. I know of three others in the US, have two myself, and there are a few in Germany, and South America. As for “value”, I’m hard pressed to say, but would image that they go for less money than a BMW, and might be comparable to a  Zündapp KS601.

My particular Universal is a 1953 580cc OHV Model “2B”. It came from ebay-land, having sat in a dealer’s garage for many years after a trade in. The bike was about 75% complete, and low mileage but in very abused state: rattle can candy apple red over rattle can turquoise over factory black, with extreme ape hangers, HD throttle, low grade 70’s era British controls.

My motorcycle had thrown a connecting rod, but the rods are aluminum and so the rod more-or-less exploded without damaging the case. As I mentioned, I have another Universal, an ex Bill Kuhlmann and later Ed Van Rossen bike from 1951-2.

I knew where to get those parts I needed, from one of two dealers still having stocks left in Switzerland. I had a good reason to go both to Veterama AND Switzerland a few years ago!

I've very recently finished up the bike, and it's a pretty correct restoration. The tank pinstripe is still to be done, and as well the final mechanical dialing in next spring. My other bike is an original unrestored runner, and is very similar in performance to an R51/3 or KS601. The Universal build quality is a bit better than the BMW or Zündapp. Personally, I find the BMW much more attractive than the 2B, which itself is a lot prettier than the Zündapp.

I hope you folks enjoy  the  pics!

Stephen Ascherl

Editor’s Note: I had the pleasure of riding this bike when Bill Kuhlman owned it back in the 1970s
RS








 
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