By Pim van den Bergh – In 1982, I graduated from high school in Medellin, Colombia. Three months before I returned to Holland, my native country, I traded my Bultaco Metralla for a Zundapp basket case. All I knew was that it was cool looking and bigger that any Zundapp I had ever seen before, I had no clue what I had gotten myself into.
It would take two years before my parents followed me back to Holland and I was reunited with my Zundapp in my hometown of Velp.
In 1984, I was in my second year of university, trying to become an automotive engineer. I could not wait to get started on my KS601. Yes, by then I had figured out what it was I bought, a Green Elephant, the Zundapp KS601! I also learned it was a 6-volt system and then realized why the charging system was not working. I probably fried it jump-starting the bike’s dead battery from my mother’s 12-volt car battery. I had a lot to learn!
Eager to start my project, I started taking things apart.
My dad thought it would be a good idea to take some pictures of the “before” on this project. I never got these pictures until a few years back after his passing. He wrote on the back: “The proud owner!” Followed by the words: “Will this ever be a nicely restored bike? “
Knowing my dad, he was skeptical! I quickly was faced with the harsh facts of owning a KS 601. Getting parts would prove to be a challenge. The people I met that had parts seemed to not very willing to share. Through magazine contacts and swap meet ads, I found out about a meet in Germany called “Zundapp Treffen”.
This is where I will find my parts! KS Club invitation from Thomas Strieder fellow Zundapper! Meeting in Miltenberg, Germany 1985.
Official “einladung” (invite) to attend the meet in Miltenberg.
I can’t believe I still have this document.
It was my belief that this would be the El Dorado for Zundapps, the place to find parts… I finally found it! I still remember how exited I was on my way down to the meet. I also remember the sobering experience upon arrival. Most of the people I spoke to all had parts: “Ich habe”, “Ich habe”, “Ich habe”… I have, I have, I have — the typical German expression that stuck with me. They had it all, no one was willing to sell. Then when I would find a willing seller they had prices I could afford. No one was in the mood to help a poor Dutch student. It felt like a cold shower!
The meet was great, beautiful bikes, some shared more than others, but I came home empty handed, in regards to parts.
Below a few shots of the 1985 Treffen.
The only thing I ended up buying and could afford was a club sticker:
I quickly realized that restoration on a student budget is unrealistic. Taking the advise of my parents the bike was packed up again and stored in the attic. Focus on your studies was the advice. Learn a trade, earn money and then restore!
In 1989, the last year of college, one of my professors discovered my passion for old bikes. I had told him about my KS and its location. He asked me if I would be willing to part with it. At the time, still the poor student, I agreed to sell him the bike.
I still remember walking in to the kitchen of my parents house and telling my mom that I was going to get the Zundapp from the attic to sell it. She looked at me and said, “Are you nuts!! Over my dead body! You are not selling the Zundapp. Why would you sell it? How much money do you need? I’ll give you the money you need, but the Zundapp stays!” That is when the front doorbell rang it was my professor.
I still thank her for that intervention. My professor seemed to understand (my mom won’t let me sell it) and the KS remained in the attic for another 10 years.
In 1999, four jobs, six moves, three countries and two continents later, I was living in Kearney, Nebraska USA. A fellow Dutchman and friend had just started a dairy farm in a neighboring town. He told me that he was bringing over a container with milk machines and mentioned that he had space left in the container. He asked if I wanted to bring anything over from the old country? Me…YES! My Zundapp!
My dad, by then retired, spent hours packing my bike in crates making sure nothing would get damaged during the journey to the new world.
Each part was tightly packed in the crates and loaded in a van to bring the total of two crates and five wooden boxes to the container company.
Pictured above, my dad (on the right) and his friend, Ruud de Sla (left) ready to drive the crates to the container company. My dad had to bribe the freight company guy with a bottle of Dutch Jenever (gin) to have them take the crates and not to ask too many questions. Truth be told, my KS made it into the US as a milk machine component.
So, let’s recap… this KS601 was born in Nurnberg, Germany in 1953-55 (still unclear), somehow ended up in Colombia, South America in 19??, brought back to Holland in 1984, only to end up in Kearney, Nebraska USA in 1999, then from Nebraska to Zeeland, Michigan, only to end up in Winona, Minnesota.
Before I jump too far ahead, we need to go back to Michigan.
In 2000, just moved to Michigan, I had a steady job and finally time ( still no money) to start working on my KS. Craigslist and eBay were unknown to me and Zundapp-fool was still not around. In general, Zundapp was a big mystery for most of the people I knew in the US.
With my new job as international sales manager my traveling days started in 2000. The job had me travelling all over the world, visiting machine shops and preaching cylinder head rebuilding techniques, selling equipment and tools.
In 2002, I was working in Turkey and had built a good friendship with my agent Sevki. On one of my many trips I asked him if he knew if there was someone who had old BMW or Zundapp parts? Zundapp? What is that? It’s Like a BMW! Aaah OK !
Well, Sevki came through for me on the next visit. He told me about a Souk (typical Middle Eastern market, pronounced Suq) in Bursa that specialized in old stuff for cars and bikes. We were traveling by van visiting customers from Konya to Istanbul and he had made plans to make time to see if we could find some Zundapp stuff.
Once there, the Souk really sucked! Old washing machines, bicycles and worn tools — a lot of useless junk. There were also some used engine parts, etc., but no Zundapp. Then,..Sevki found “the guy” — a man that had Zundapp parts. He took us to a small side alley of the Souk.
I was skeptical since “the old guy” seemed somewhat off, but to my surprise, behind an old wooden door … parts, parts, parts! Poor Sevki did not know the animal he had unleashed in me. By finding this “old guy” he had opened the gates and there was no stopping me. In no time, the alley had turned into an extension of the Souk, a junkyard to the untrained eye to me a treasure of Zundapp parts.
I can still hear the desperation in Sevki’s voice asking me, “What are you doing?!?” My answer, “Getting Zundapp parts!”
Sevki: “How are you going to take these home?!?”
Answer: “You are going to send them to me!”
After loading the van, we drove the parts back to Konya via a small detour called Istanbul. It took Sevki 18 months to get the crate out of Turkey on a boat to the US.
Small little detail: used old motorcycle parts are a hard sell to any customs agent and any freight company! Not being able to produce a legal invoice is also a big problem! But it all made it back home to Zeeland, Michigan. And now I was in a position to finish my project. Or, so I thought… it was the end of 2004.
Looking back, I took a lot of good parts from the Bursa guy, however, also left a lot of the good parts behind in Bursa, Turkey. I never made it back to “the old guy” who had the small stuff that you later realize you need and still had to search for. Believe it or not, it would take me another 8 years before I would be able to enjoy the sound of my Green Elephant.
In 2012, after two more moves and a divorce, 31 years after the last time I drove it, I was finally able to start my KS.
Work in progress
The color is not correct for a KS; I just happed to like this better. It grew on me and it stuck. It’s mine; that really is all that matters! With these projects we own for years, we are the custodians, eventually we too pass them on to the next generation.
My dad was able to see pictures of the finished project before he passed away. I don’t think he remembered what he wrote on the back of the picture in 1984, but I know he was impressed.