E. George Stern and his motorcycle - in his own words!
E. George Stern wrote the following story about his motorcycle:
Soon, I bought a better motorcycle, one of only nine prototype racers with two cylinders in horizontally opposite directions, a rotor axle, and the speedometer built into the headlight, the most up-to-date motorcycle of its time. It was so fast that I lost my girlfriend, Hilde Sussman, on the back seat while traveling between Kitzingen and Ochsenfurt. Only after a few kilometers of travel, did I become aware that I was alone on the motorcycle. I quickly drove back and found her waiting for me to climb back onto the motorcycle and continue to travel with me.
With the motorcycle, Biris, a Greek graduate student in Architecture at Munich’s Technical University, and I traveled via Austria, Northern Italy, and Southern France to Spain, and back to Germany via France. With only limited foreign exchanges available to us, Biris paid for travel in Italy and France, while I was able to buy Spanish currency to pay for our expenses in Spain. Yet, when we arrived in Barcelona, the money was not there. A Spanish architect, to whom we had an introduction by Brigitte Hetzer, a friend in Munich, and to whom I offered to sell my Leica camera to fund our trip to Spain, told us “You cannot make such a trip without a camera.” Generously, he advanced the pesos needed for our trip. With our luggage fastened to the motorcycle, we had to walk next to it when we crossed the then-roadless mountains from the Mediterranean coast to Granada. In addition, we had to take the train from Karlsruhe back to Wuerzburg because the motorcycle could not make it any further. I ended up shipping it to the factory in Nuremberg for a much-needed overhaul of the motor.
One sunny winter day, I drove the overhauled and well-running motorcycle from Munich to the foot of the Zugspitze, with my skies under my arm. I parked the motorcycle in some woods in the middle of nowhere, slept under a tree covered by my black overcoat until I awoke rather chilled in the early in the morning, and skied up the mountain to its top and back down, to ride back to Munich on my motorcycle late in the afternoon. It was lots of fun, and I never worried that I wouldn't be found in case of an accident on the way.
In 1936, when I told the manufacturer of this motorcycle, Zuendap in Nuremberg, that I wanted to take this motorcycle back with me to the USA, they tried to discourage me from doing that, since it was a prototype for which they had no replacement parts. For a relatively small payment, they exchanged that motorcycle with a new one of the series and gave me spare parts for routine replacements. While on the five-day boat trip to the USA, I got permission to go into the hold where the motorcycle was stored and I installed all the new spare parts, to make sure that I would not have to pay duty for the new parts upon arrival in the USA.
The motorcycle was, of course, a most convenient means of transportation while I was at Penn State … Afterwards, I bought a new Chevrolet for $560.00, and I sold the motorcycle to the local taxi driver who bought it on behalf of Harley Davidson for examination and study, as I was told subsequently. As it turned out, the Zuendap factory was taken over by BMW.
His son Roby wrote about George's motorcycle too:
The motorcycle that Grandpa is sitting on in the photos was an opposing piston made by the company that is now BMW. It was an experimental cycle and Grandpa had to write reports on its performance. When he told the company he was going to the USA, they made some changes and gave him some spare parts that he would not be able to get in the US. He eventually traded the cycle for a car at Penn State. He was riding the motorcycle with his skis under his arm and crashed breaking his arm so bad that the doctors took a bone from his leg and screwed it into his arm. The screws were stainless steel. The repair work was done in St. Louis. At one point he sent a letter to the Jewish hospital in St. Louis and asked if they wanted the screws back after his death.