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Travel guide for Thuringia, Germany

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Thuringia, Germany
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A visit to the Vehicle Museum (Fahrzeugmuseum) in Suhl, Thuringia, Germany

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Contact Information:

Vehicle Museum Suhl
98529 Suhl
Phone: 011 49 3681-705004
Fax: 011 49 3681-807950
We recommend to use e-mail or fax if you do not speak German

Hours of Operation:

April to September Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm October to March Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Important information:
A move of the vehicle museum to the "CCS-Congress Centrum Suhl" has taken place. The "CCS-Congress Centrum Suhl" is a landmark of Suhl in the downtown area and can not be missed. The same contact information apply.

>My interest started after I owned a bicycle with an attached two stroke engine.
Thuringia and especially Suhl was for many years known for manufacturing cars and motor cycles. The "Fahrzeugmuseum Suhl" is mainly dedicated to the former local manufacturers "Simson" and was established in 1995. It is divided in different sections. Our brief web site does not follow these sections. We just selected a few vehicles and hope that this will achieve our task to attract your attention and to visit this museum when you are in Suhl.
I always was interested in motorized vehicles and I became also a motor bike fanatic.
When I started as an engineer I did this as a designer for engines at NSU in Neckarsulm. It was a very innovative company and my last work there was the 4-cylinder air cooled engine for the Prinz 1000.

Suhl, Thuringia, vehicle museum, Schwalbe
The "Schwalbe", a well known vehicle in the former GDR, Today it is a collectors item!
During my first visit of the "Fahrzeugmuseum" (vehicle museum) in Suhl I had a very hard time to find this place. Heavy rain and the traffic distracted me and I could not see any more the signs which should lead me to the museum. In addition the museum was hiding in an industrial building. No problems the second time! Now the museum is easy to find in the centrally located "CCS-Congress Centrum Suhl". This is a big improvement not only for finding the museum but also for the downtown area. The revitalization of the impressive congress center was more than overdue.

If you call, please do not expect that anybody speaks English. Russian was the second language under the communist system. Use the e-mail or fax and you may get an answer!
Please do also not plan a visit on a Monday. Many places are closed on Mondays including this museum.
The picture below shows the prototype of a 250 ccm 4-stroke bike from the year 1949. According to my information it was originally developed for the Russian market. Many improvements were introduced and you still can see some of these bikes on the road.

Later, the GDR was known for manufacturing mostly vehicles with 2-stroke engines. This is ok for mopeds and small motor bikes, but the cars were a nuisance. Poor fuel efficiency and severe pollution made them obsolete after the wall came down.
Naturally, this was no secret to the East German manufacturers as samples of converted 2-stroke engines show. Obviously, political reasons or pressure from outside hindered the development of modern engines.
Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
A prototype from the year 1949

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
You still saw one of these bikes for sale in the adjacent store
Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
A replica of an AWO 425 R which was used in 1953 for street races

I found so many interesting details in the museum. My advantage was that I could read all the displayed documents which showed how the development or testing of certain vehicles was ordered. I wish somebody would translate some of them into other languages. Where are the volunteers?
I also saw familiar bikes from NSU and BMW. However, many of the displayed motor bikes and mopeds came from a company called "Simson" which was located in Suhl. The production of vehicles has a long tradition in Suhl. It goes back over one hundred years.
Simson was founded in 1854. The company stated with the production of handguns.

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
The famous Simson Supra SS
The production of bicycles began in 1896 and employment rose fast to 1200 people.
Already in 1908 the company started developing cars. The "Simson A" went in series production only three years later.
During WWI Simson had naturally to change production to feed the German army. But as early as 1924 the Simson "Supras" were very successful in car races. The economical fall down in the production was dramatically reduced and many employees received a lay off notice.
The Nazis forced themselves into the company and changed production again. Because the owner Mr. Simson was Jewish and they did not want to use the Jewish name any longer their production line was stopped completely.
Luckily the Jewish family could safely escape in a foreign country.
It did not take a long time and the "Berlin-Suhler Simson & Co Waffen- und Fahrzeugwerke" which was the new name was again in full operation for Hitler's war machine.

One of the most well known products of the former GDR is the "Trabant". It was powered by a two cylinder two stroke engine and had front wheel drive. The engine developed 20 hp and a unique smell.
The "IFA F9 Typ 309/1" was built between 1950 and 1955. I was also powered by a 2-stroke engine and made 110 km/h.

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
Sample of a converted 2-stroke engine
Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
A modern bike

GDR motor cross bikes and their drivers where always very successful in international competitions.

Naturally, the museum displays also cars.
I must admit that I never heard anything about the racing car shown on the left side. I learned that it was famous and I started to feel stupid.
Maybe, I had seen it in an old documentary film without realizing it.
However, I knew the cars from former GDR production which are also lined up in the museum. You hardly can see them any longer on the road.
They do not meet any longer the tough pollution control standards and are penalized with high taxes. Many people consider them to be collector items.
Certainly, you will find them also on antique car shows.
Whenever I come back to Suhl I certainly will visit this museum again. Elizabeth can enjoy the spa (Ottilienbad) during this time. She is not interested in technical things.

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
An old racing car, called "Greifzu"

Shortly, after the wall came down, a small company was founded in Suhl which manufactured about 150 electrical powered cars with the name "Hotzenblitz".
It had a maximum speed of 120 km/h and a range of 80 km. It took 5 hours to charge the batteries.
In 1996 the company went bankrupt.
Electrical powered vehicles were not anything new. Postal cars used this technology already in the thirties and just think about fork lifts and all the vehicles used in airports and for transportation within companies.
Without doubt, the "Hotzenblitz" looked very attractive and I was wondering whether its design inspired the designers of the little "Smart" car which is manufactured today by Mercedes-Benz.
On the other hand similar 2-seater cars very already popular in the fifties. just check the Internet and look for the "BMW Isetta", the "Heinkel Kabine", the "Fulda Mobil" and others.

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
An electric powered car from the year 1991

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