Elefantentreffen

7 January 1967

7310 machines... over 12000 people

In 1967 the 'Bundesverband der Motorradfahrer', aka BDVM, (Federal Association of Motorcyclists), became the official organiser of the rally; taking over the order and smooth running of the rally. As you can imagine, the task facing them was enormous especially with attendances growing year after year.

Elefant 1967 - More than 7000 machines took part

Overwhelmed by growth as word spread

Much to the despair of Ernst 'Klacks' Leverkus, the man who had created this rally from scratch, and whose personal philosophy of motorcycle tourism meant that he was the last person to have wanted it to become a mass gathering; that is exactly what happened.

He would have so much liked to return to the original spirit of his first meeting in 1956; the original rally that brought together twenty dedicated 'dyed in the wool' motorcyclists. Ten years later in 1966, against all expectations the number of participants had exceeded 10,000... definitely not what he would have wanted.

Elefant 1967 - An ever-increasing attendance of more than 12,000 people

For many years 'Klacks' and his entourage had been asking themselves the same questions, without ever really finding an answer: What to do to be able to avoid the mass gathering that they dreaded most? How could they restrict the ever-growing number of participants?

Elefant 1967 - How could they restrict the ever-growing number of participants?"

'Klacks' even considered the possibility of abandoning the Nurburgring circuit as the rally meeting place and finding a new venue in a remote part of Europe to effectively reduce the number of participants and allow more control and predictability.

Elefant 1967 - 'Klacks' thought of finding a new place in Europe more difficult to access than the Nurburgring circuit

The snow is falling just in time

As the 1967 meeting approached 'Klacks' and his friends prayed that the winter would produce extremely harsh conditions with tons of snow and icy roads that would prove difficult to navigate in early January. That way they figured this would undoubtedly force the less motivated to stay at home in the warm.

Elefant 1967 - Snow and ice were at the rendezvous to welcome those who loved riding their machines in winter

However, by Christmas 1966, their hopes of having a 'white hell' to reduce the numbers had dissipated. Mother Nature it seemed did not wish to paint the Eifel region in white, but against all the odds, she finally decided to give 'Klacks' an unexpected and welcome surprise.

A well-deserved 'nod' to Karl Fischl of Birmingham who rode to the 'Ring' in 1967 on his trusty BSA Spitfire 650cc solo despite the very harsh winter conditions

Wednesday before the long awaiting weekend, it started to snow gently at lower levels and more thickly the higher one went. This continued all day Thursday too. A miracle!

The snow became thicker and deeper the further one ventured into the Eiffel region. Those mad men who rode solo in such conditions, with the main aim of challenging themselves and having fun were inevitably going to suffer.

The last 60km of snowy and extremely slippery road on two wheels, even at very low speeds markedly increased the risk of falls and skids and would undoubtedly be a real hell.

Despite this obvious handicap, together with the cold, the fog, the snow and the ice, on Friday there were hardly any beds left available in village lodging houses within a radius of around 20km from the 'Ring' and parked in front of each such house you could see their owners machines.

Elefant 1967 - An oil leak like this in 2020 would cause environmentalists to be up in arms!

It was clear that even the harshest winters, like that in 1967, would never stop a horde of fanatical 'elephants' arriving on two or three wheels from all over Europe or further afield, all eager to participate in this celebrated weekend.

Elefant 1967 - Being forced to carry out repairs when the mercury is at its lowest is certainly not a pleasure even if you are a keen mechanic

Two frozen Englishmen resurrected by a German doctor

Early on the Friday morning, a doctor from Hamburg found two English motorcyclists in a pitiful state; covered in snow, half frozen and lying outside in front of their tent.

Elefant 1967 - The owner of this combo may not have repatriation insurance in the event of a breakdown, but he has much better ... a spare engine!

These two representatives from Blighty had arrived there, on their BSA combo, in the middle of the night around 3.00am. They had wandered around in circles looking for the reception area where the rally participants were welcomed.

Elefant 1967 - A typical British combo of the 60s. Respect to all those 'die-hard' motorcyclists from Great Britain who did not hesitate to venture on the roads of Europe seeking the great international rallies of the time!

As we know, there was then no signpost at the rally. They hadn't slept for two nights and had ridden all day. Dead tired and freezing, they gave up their search collapsing on the spot... after having nevertheless made the effort to pitch their tent. They had fallen asleep in their wet clothes.

Elefant 1967 - A Vincent owner who likes to ride in all weathers rather than spending his time in the garage polishing the chrome on his machine

Luckily, the German doctor happened to be passing and had a thermos of hot tea with him. He 'resuscitated' them with the tea and immediately took them to Drees where they were able to warm up and dry their clothes in front of the stove of a local villager who took them in.

Elefant 1967 - A venerable Ardie solo. Ardie was a German company in Nurnberg that manufactured motorcycles from 1919 until 1958. The company's name derives from that of its founder, Arno Dietrich.

More youngsters taking part on mopeds

In his traditional article published in the magazine 'Das Motorrad' about the Elefantentreffen, it is interesting to note 'Klaks' words about the 1967 meeting:

What's great is that younger and younger people are coming to the Elephants. And a lot of them come from far away on 50cc mopeds.

Elefant 1967 -The rally was then the biggest motorcycle show in Europe where one could see the most subtle DIY mechanical achievements of the time, like this 'bitza' Arabella-KS...

Once again there were bikers from all over Europe apart of course from Eastern Europe. All the enthusiast newspapers were there as well as TV cameramen. But how can you really understand the spirit of the Elefantentreffen rally when you are not a biker yourself, or you don't live with bikers the whole weekend?

...but also the craziest creations, some of which were designed 'a la Frankenstein'

Mass for believers and slalom for kids

Elefant 1967 - Camping in such cold weather is not recommended for the faint- hearted

After Saturday evening's traditional torchlight retreat, most of the participants returned to the villages around the 'Ring' to be with friends and acquaintances, in guest houses and restaurants, barns and attics, just spending time together and of course chatting about motorcycling and rallying, and singing and laughing until late into the night.

Those camping were doing much the same thing at the track campsite, their tents pitched under tall pines, warming their souls as much as their bodies around gigantic campfires.

Elefant 1967 - "Light a campfire and everyone's a storyteller." (John Geddes)

Behind the grandstand, in the main square, once again the traditional Sunday morning motorcycle slalom intended for children was prepared. That slalom was done on a mini circuit set up for the children who rode in the sidecars of their biker parents.

Elefant 1967 -The traditional Sunday morning motorcycle slalom for children

It was always a funny and warm spectacle appreciated by the many spectators.

Elefant 1967 - As Pierre Corneille put it: "In souls nobly born, valour does not depend upon age."

Generally, the first lap was done with the young son or daughter riding the combo and their father as a pillion, then each child would ride the combo on their own.

...then each kid would be riding the combo on their own

- Jean-Francois Helias

Addendum

Choosing the most representative photos in my vast archives to support a report is for me always a dilemma. Every piece of documentation seems so interesting to me that I feel it frustrating to have to leave any photo out.

Nothing should be put aside, but rather shared with all those of you who may appreciate these documents of the past testifying to the atmosphere of the rallies of yesterday.

Here is therefore a compilation of various photos, all taken during the 1967 meeting of the Elefantentreffen, to complete this report in even more in depth.

Start of quotation Fanfan, given your obvious talent for writing, your photographic archive, and your innate ability to recall the events of yesteryear, LPMCC.net is for you the ideal partner to ensure the history of touring motorcycling rallying can be brought to a wider audience, rather than lost to anecdotal evidence.

My wife Karine and I are absolutely amazed by your archives. It's incredible that you've collected so many documents and photos relating to the world of rallying over such a lengthy period.

I'm afraid though that your passionate work as a 'historian of touring motorcycling' will interest, alas, only a few motorcyclists, but it's good to do it so that our common passion is not lost to time.

I don't want to flatter you, but frankly, I do feel that everything you do on LPMCC.net is very worthy and brings back many memories. End of quotation

- Patrick Servanton
Secretary of the Confrerie Motocycliste des Gueux d'Route