4/5 January 1964

The first Elefantentreffen commemorative badge appeared on the occasion of the 9th rally in 1964. The all metal badge depicted an elephant riding a flat twin Zundapp motorcycle with the Nurburg castle that dominates the circuit shown in the background.

The winter of 1964 had been mild. There was almost no snow and ice and the temperature remained above zero, much to the anguish of 'Klacks' and those close to him. Bad weather had unexpectedly given way to a warm Spring.

An estimated 2683 machines

Although it was impossible to count the exact number of participants, it was estimated that on Saturday January 4th at 8.00pm there were 2683 bikes registered within a 10K radius of the Nurburgring.

Elefantentreffen 1964 -The vast majority of machines were once again made up of sidecars.

English rallyists had arrived in force, numbering some 274 rallyists. Among them were the then legendary Oxford Side Car Club, with nearly 60 outfits, (by far the largest contingent), and headed by Jack Gibbs aka 'General Hannibal'.

Elefantentreffen 1964 - On Friday morning in Dover, 'General Hannibal' heading the Oxford Side Car Club contingent en route for the Nurburgring

Amongst the large contingent of motorcycles, there was an abundance of Vincent models, but the two most noticed 'exotic' DIY constructions were probably a respectable Brough-Superior engine mounted within a 1960 BSA frame and an old R67 with a 4-cylinder car engine belonging to Mr. Petermann, a police chief from Michelstadt.

Elefantentreffen 1964 - The Motor Cycle's journalists Peter Fraser and passenger David Dixon on their Royal Enfield combo

Familiar faces in the pack

Many well know riders from the world of motorcycle racing had once again responded to the call, including: Max Deubel, Hans-Georg Anscheidt, Heiner Butz, Ernst Hiller, and Florian Camathias.

Matti Viro from Lapland had made the trip once again, still on a solo machine, this time accompanied by a friend on the back of a Pannonia 250cc.

Elefantentreffen 1964 - Matti Viro on his Pannonia 250cc

And of course the venerable Robert Sexé, now 74 years old, arrived from his native Poitou, riding solo on a DKW 125cc.

Elefantentreffen 1964 -Robert Sexe in conversation

For once though, he was not the oldest taking part, beaten to the wire by Opa Lehmann a 76 years old, arriving on a 1926 Rudge.

Left: Opa Lehmann and his 1926 Rudge. Right: Tiny Tanner, then President of the Federation of Sidecar Clubs

As for the youngest, Jurgen Knabbe, just 3 months old arrived in his parents' outfit.

Elefantentreffen 1964 - The Knabbe family with the young Jurgen in his baby carriage

A German racer arrived by car with a motocross outfit on a trailer. The rallyists told him in no uncertain terms that he'd obviously got the wrong address.

Elefantentreffen 1964 -Happy campers

A survey for the future of motorcycling

In the hustle and bustle of Saturday afternoon, more than 1,400 motorcyclists were questioned for a survey and all responses were carefully recorded.

Elefantentreffen 1964 -Thanks to the absence of snow, those camping were around triple the normal number.

This survey was a representative study on motorcyclists, their needs, desires ambitions. This survey was conducted to collate data and opinions in order to better represent them and thus defend their interests.

Elefantentreffen 1964 - Some machines...

Asking for more reliability

In the welcome speech, Klacks and his team called on European motorcycle manufacturers, some of whom were in the crowd, to produce newer and more reliable models.

Motorcycles with a much-improved lifespan and not motorcycles which, after 20,000 km, break down with broken crankshafts or damaged cylinders. We refuse to believe that the progress of current technology does not allow the production of much bigger motorcycles. Has Japan overtaken us so much that this country cannot prioritise reliability for 100hp motorcycles and more?

Elefantentreffen 1964 - ...and their owners

A 'caterpillar of light'

Come nightfall, the torches were lit for the now traditional tour of the circuit. A trumpet sounded and then there was silence. A roll call of fellow motorcyclists who had passed away in 1963 was read out and due reverence was paid to them.

Elefantentreffen 1964 - Their clothes attest that it was not cold this year

Another blow of the trumpet followed by the countdown.

Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Go!

Elefantentreffen 1964 - Behind the stands

The 'caterpillar of light' comprising some 600 motorcycles immediately set off into the night, the cortege being clearly visible from the villages of Nurburg, Adenau, Quiddelbach and Dottingen.

Elefantentreffen 1964 - The traditional slalom for children

Will the Elefantentreffen become a victim of its success?

On the evening of Sunday 5 January, after all the participants had gone 'Klacks' and his friends assessed the 1964 meeting.

Drawing about the Elefantentreffen published at the time in the German motorcycling press

The influx of riders had been barely contained, so great were their number, that the organisers were worried about the future of the gathering. Will the Elefantentreffen become a victim of its own success? Questions were raised and the concerns were very real!

- Jean-Francois Helias