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Travel guide for Thuringia, Germany

This travel guide was prepared by:
Helmut Ebert, international trading company
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Thuringia, Germany
flag Thuringia

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

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 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 design of the 4-cylinder air cooled engine for the Prinz 1000. I got t this chance after another attempt based on what Porsche and VW did. I did not follow this concept and used what we already had. I kept close contact with production planning and control to reduce the costs for special tooling and labor. I prepared most of the detail drawings by myself. The first draft was for a 800 ccm engine use the push rods for the camshaft drive. After our chief engineer Albert Roder retired the engine size was increase to 1000 ccm what allowed more commonality with existing special tooling. I got also approval by Ewald Praxl the successor from Albert Roder to replace the push rod drive for the camshaft by a duplex chain to reduce costs.

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.
As early as 1924 the Simson "Supras" were very successful in car races.
Then world wide economical problems forced the company to reduce production and to lay off many employees.
The Nazis gained power and 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 until the end of the war.
Germany was divided as a result of the lost war and Suhl became part of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) under communist leadership which was controlled by Russia.

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
The "Schwalbe", a well known vehicle in the former GDR, Today it is a collectors item!

During my first visit after the reunification of Germany I visited the "Fahrzeugmuseum" (vehicle museum) in Suhl. I had a very hard time to find the 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.
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.

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

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

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
A modern bike

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 also known by the East German manufacturers. They built even samples of converted 2-stroke engines. Obviously, political reasons or pressure from outside stopped the development of modern 4-stroke engines.

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

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
East and West German mopeds - both were good

Simson had a difficult start after the end of WWII.
The Russians took machinery out of the plant and shipped it to their home country - similar to what the British did in West Germany.
Nevertheless production started again already 1945 - but I believe not for German customers. The following years the name was changed several times and production was always affected by the decision making government.
In the fifties and early sixties the production of motor cycles with 4-stroke engines and also of bicycles was stopped.
Instead the development of mopeds and related products was enforced.
However the responsible ministry stopped numerous projects. Examples were the motor scooter "Supra" and the two cylinder two stroke engine.
In 1997 the "Schikra" was developed and a year later introduced to the public.

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
An electric scooter which was built between 1994 and 1995

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
Simson 125 RS from the year 2002

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
A failed project. Simson built this racing bike for young people already in 1987. But only six of them. I believe kids should make their first experience with dirt bike in the proper environment. That is less dangerous and still lots of fun.

Suhl, vehicle museum, Thuringia, tourism, travel guide
I started after riding a bicycle with something similar

The "Krause Duo 4/1" was used by many handicapped people. It seated 2 people. The maximal speed was 50 km/h. (31 miles/hr)

A Russian snowmobile - Buran C-640 A1

I was excited what I saw and sad because all the efforts to save the company and its newer products failed after the unification of Germany. However, the same things happened also to well known West German companies.
I run for and back in the museum and did not follow the sections in which the different vehicles were located. I always discovered something which I had missed before.
Elizabeth would have got crazy. She is not interested in technical things, but she likes to have them. She went on this day in then "Ottilienbad" the local spa and had a great time there. Using the public transportation system of Suhl was another fun part for her.

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

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 an 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

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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