1969 Munch Mammoth 1200 US
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Freidl Munch grew up the son of a garage owner and went to work for German motorcycle manufacturer Horex in the 1950s. He was unsuccessful as a racer, but found his calling as an expert tuner, developing the Horex Imperator works bikes.
Munch wanted to build a true superbike, a large and powerful machine that could take on the world. In 1965 he realized his dream at the Cologne Motor Show. His bike was powered by an overhead cam four-cylinder NSU automobile engine of 1,000 cc. Remarkably, the whole bike weighed only 500 lbs, but you had to have serious leg strength to kick-start it, as it didn’t have an electric starter.
A year after the prototype was introduced, Munch sold his first production bike, dubbed the Mammut – or Mammoth – to a German buyer. Over the next 14 years he built an estimated 478 highly individualized machines, a decent number of which are in the U.S. Production of the bikes stopped in 1980, but Munch continued to do service and repair work.
The Mammoth attracted considerable attention when new, and Soichiro Honda inspected the first bike at Cologne, crediting it with inspiring the Honda CB 750 of 1969. Munch also piqued the interest of eccentric American magazine publisher Floyd Clymer, who had Munch build him a 750 cc Indian Scout V-twin, which still exists. Clymer thought the Mammoth would be ideal for America’s wide-open spaces and ordered 50 bikes from Munch.
Performance of the Munch Mammoth was spectacular, with even the early bikes capable of a top speed of 155 mph The engine grew from 1,000 cc to 1,100 cc, 1,400 cc, 1,600 cc, 1,800 cc and finally a full two liters. Later models gained Kugelfischer injection and turbochargers. Munch lost the rights to the Mammoth name in 1980, but he built a special order bike called the Horex Titan in 1981 for an American collector. It had an 1,800 cc four-cylinder with a Wankel-designed supercharger, generating 160 bhp.
The twin headlights of the Mammoth were unmistakable, as was the humped gas tank. Detail work was superb, from custom gauges to the trick Elektron magnesium rear wheel, as spokes couldn’t handle the horsepower. No two bikes were alike, with nine frame variations on the original Norton Featherbed concept. The Munch Mammoth was proof of the value of “running changes”. When Munch had a better idea, it went onto the bike he was building. Even in the late 1990s, Munch had one more design in him – the monstrous 260-bhp Munch 2000. Only 15 were built, and were electronically limited to 150 mph.