Bitza Me Mucho
I must admit that I was greatly surprised by the feedback that followed my article on the Zund Hard & Lev bitza combo from my friend Pascal Bouculat.
As I mentioned, this article was not originally on my reporting agenda. It was simply a combination of circumstances that sparked the desire to write about this interesting machine made entirely of parts as diverse as they are numerous.
Following publication, your kind emails confirmed that the article was not only appreciated, but that the subject of bitzas, and more precisely those shown in meetings of the 1960s and 1970s, seems to particularly fascinate younger rallyists.
Perhaps being born too late makes them more nostalgic for this period that they never experienced.
Fortunately, I have more bitza photos from those years in my archives. I'm sure I have enough left to pique your interest once again with the photo compilation below.
Let's start with this fantastic shot showing two bitza combos, presumably built in the UK. It would be great if someone could shed some light on either their owners if they recognise them, or the machines themselves.
The one on the left in a sporty version is powered by two engines. A closer look reveals that they seem to come from different brands. It's as if this bitza creator had sought to surpass himself by overcoming the mechanical difficulties that such a challenge must generate.
I'm no expert in the matter of identifying them with any degree of certainty, but it seems to me that the front one could be an Ariel engine with a BSA engine behind.
Any other educated guesses?
As for the bitza on the right; I think I've already seen that in another photo taken at the Elefantentreffen 1967, it's probably a Lloyd engine.
A fascinating photo, as I understand it, taken in 1969 at a sidecar rally in Somerset.
It would make sense for this bitza to be called a 'Norvolk', but it would just be too confusing if its owner was from 'Norfolk'.
Another Volkswagen engine powers this combo bitza, but this time fitted in a Douglas chassis. The front brakes look as if they come from a Triumph.
This shot was also taken at one of the popular British sidecar rallies of the 1960s.
Most readers will recognise this.
This image was taken by Jean-Marie Debonneville at one of the 1960s Elefantentreffen meetings and loaned from his vast collection. It shows the well-known shape of the famous flat-twin Bayerische Motoren Werke.
On the other hand, I think very few of you will know that this engine is not from a motorcycle, but actually from one of the very first cars produced by BMW in 1957, intended for the baby boomer generation. It's the BMW 600. This car, with a production run of only a little over two years, sold 34,318 units. Its engine developed a modest 19.5 hp ensuring it could reach 100 kmh. (62 mph).
This paints a picture that makes it hard to think that we are dealing here with a bitza rather than a motorcycle straight off the production lines of the German factory. Incidentally, one other significant innovation was that this bitza was started with an electric starter.
Tandem two-seater tricycles built by Fritz Fend under the brand name Messerschmitt in the early 1950s were particularly sought after by DIY enthusiasts. They made excellent sidecars to be mounted on machines of their choice, transformed in the owners own workshop.
We have seen more beautiful Messerschmitt sidecars than this one whose nose has been truncated, seen here at the Elefant 1969. The engine of the motorcycle is not identifiable since it is hidden behind this DIY protection against rain, snow and mud.
This compilation offers a showcase for all types of bitzas, even the smallest. I hope that its designer didn't have to come too far on this mini combo, also seen at the Nurburgring in 1969. Apparently the owner had been a regular at this rally since 1966, as evidenced by the inscriptions on the elephant lifting its trunk in the air.
This photo reminds me of the time when I took part on a similar machine at the Ambazac rally near Limoges in 1976. Not on a combo like this one, but on a mini moped bitza in chopper version that I had bought second hand from a mechanic friend who'd built it. This bitza had been made from bits of everything, mainly Peugeot and powered by a Flandria 49.9cc engine.
Back in the day, when the distance to take part in a rally was less than 200 km, the tradition in our group of rallyists from Montlucon was to leave our motorcycles in the garage and go there by moped. Not only were the various adventures on the road epic, but we could also abuse the local wine a little more at the rally vin d'honneur without risking serious problems on the way back if we were stopped by the gendarmerie.
The engine seized up at the rally site whilst I was doing the sightseeing tour organised on Sunday morning by the local club. To be able to return home with the machine, I had to hang on to the arms of Joel 'Jojo' Genneviaux and Christian 'Coco' Kozdeba who took turns towing me. When I arrived in Montlucon, after having travelled 160 km this way, I think my arms were totally 'gibbon like'.
This combo isn't bad either! These two guys came from Belgium, braving the cold and the snow, to reach the Nurbrurgring in early January 1969.
I take my hat off to the passenger who faced the elements over such a long distance sitting on this type of sidecar. For protection against the elements he only had his rocker outfit!
Still on the famous Eiffel circuit and still in 1969, once again a combo bitza whose engine is difficult to identify; DIY rubber cladding hiding its motor.
The very same bitza photographed in the parking lot at the Elefantentreffen, but this time two years later in 1971.
By comparing the two photos, you can see some changes made to the machine, such as the original wheels being replaced by car wheels.
A bitza must be improved and undergo transformations if necessary. It evolves like the mechanical knowledge of its owner and through the experience acquired riding it.
Returning to the Eiffel in 1969 with a traditional bitza using a Ford Taunus V4 engine as its propulsion of choice.
Taunus production started in 1939, lasting a total of 55 years.
In 1970, in a very competitive European car market, with Opel, Audi and Volkswagen all gaining larger shares of the customer base, Ford of Germany joined forces with Ford of England to streamline production, while at the same time cutting costs.
With the last Taunus P7b produced in December 1971, the name and brand ended in Germany, however production continued elsewhere around the world, notably in Argentina.
Also at the start of January 1969, a bitza combo powered by a DKW/Auto Union three-cylinder two-stroke post-war car engine.
In spite of some advantages over the Volkswagen car, such as a quieter interior and better visibility, performance and heating, the DKW/Auto Union never enjoyed the VW's popularity. Among the reasons were the two-stroke engine, a price a few hundred pounds higher than the VW and a less extensive sales and service network.
Almost a decade later, in 1977, at the Elefantentreffen's last Nurburgring meeting before the rally moved to Austria. This image shows another purely German DIY mechanical achievement from head to toe, once again using a DKW three-cylinder two-stroke engine powered bitza combination.
Same place and same year, probably a Lloyd engine
Elefantentreffen 1977; another bitza combo powered by a Ford Taunus V4 engine.
Those with a keen eye for detail will have recognised the first white sticker of more or less oval shape seen here on the tank. It is indeed that of the famous Dutch gathering Paaseitreffen organised by MC Z.E.O Holland near Zwolle.
Seen on the Salzburgring circuit this time, at the 1982 meeting, a less frequent achievement combining pieces of an Italian 'tractor' with a Ford Taunus V4 engine.
Photo also taken in 1982 at the Salzburgring. Another bitza 'a la Bocu' apparently made with pieces from various makes and models of motorcycles and cars. The aesthetics of this trike suggest that it might have escaped from the post-apocalyptic action movie 'Mad Max' ...
While not 100% the type of bitza belonging to the same family as any seen above, this colourful and eye-catching combo photographed at the Zijspantreffen 1988 in Oostende still qualifies for inclusion on this page, if only for its originality.
Here is a bitza that has class! A modern-day Cinderella would certainly have no shame in being driven in such a stylish coach to the prince's royal ball.
This remarkably elegant trike which perhaps deserves to better share its story by interviewing the designer, attended the Estonian Winter Rally 2017 in Janeda, a small village in northern Estonia.
Let's finish this page with an Asian touch with this unique mini combo made by a Thai resident in Mae Sarieng, in the Golden Triangle.
I stumbled upon it by chance in 2015 while going to Karen territory for a fishing expedition that I was leading on the Salween river flowing from the Tibetan Plateau within southwest China and eastern Burma.
Out of nostalgia for the time when I was riding an MZ 250 combo, of course I couldn't resist borrowing it from its owner for a ride that reminded me of the good old days ...
- Jean-Francois Helias