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Now this is also old-skool

September 14, 2007
Heinkel Tourist

Orin O'Neill photos

The Nickerson Street Saloon attracts old-skool scooters, for some reason.

This little beauty is a Heinkel Tourist, a German scooter built between 1953 and 1965 by the company that supplied the German Luftwaffe with bombers and reconnaissance planes.

As with companies like Piaggio and Saab, Heinkel’s management realized they needed to find another line of business when the end of World War II seriously reduced the demand for airplanes. A Europe clamoring for inexpensive personal transportation was seen as an excellent opportunity.

Heinkel not only made the Tourist, it produced a car called the Trojan. While similar to the Isetta, the Trojan was more stylish, and in this writer’s opinion, generally cooler. I had a Corgi diecast model of the German “bubble car” which was painted a garish pastel lavender color.

There are clubs for both; a group of Tourist owners rode up from San Francisco to attend Amerivespa this summer.

The Tourist employed a gearchange mechanism similar to a PX 150’s, except you twisted the handgrip in the opposite direction… and gear engagement was a bit more, well, iffy. Michael McWilliams, who runs, let me ride his briefly on Vashon Island, but the gravel road made me nervous so I cut my ride short. It’s different, certainly. Sometime I’d be curious to take another spin on a paved road.

A side view of the Heinkel Tourist

There are those who decry the loss of quirkiness, and I have to admit I’m one of them. But unlike many who say the world’s become homogenized, I think it’s really more of a case of engineers all coming to the same conclusions. Favicon

  1. the dude permalink
    September 14, 2007 10:12 am

    Whatever happened to German scoot manufacturing? Certainly there’s still a high demand in central Europe for fuel efficient small scale motorized urban transit.

  2. September 14, 2007 11:26 am

    German scooter manufacturing withered on the vine when Germans became prosperous enough to afford cars. Piaggio managed to prosper by licensing production of Vespas to companies worldwide, in much the same way Fiat did to car companies in the Communist Bloc in the 70s.

    Heavy traffic, difficult parking and congestion charging have caused a resurgence in scooter ownership in many of Europe’s major cities outside of Italy. Of course, Rome teems with scooters, as it has since the end of World War II. However, most of those scooters are Hondas…

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