Polish Motorcycles

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Podkowa Motorcycles

In the second half of the 1930s, several domestic factories started producing small-engine motorcycles, popularly known as Setki (hundreds). Vehicles of this type were cheap, economical and quite durable, and were favorably received by motorcyclists.

This is how the public treated the light motorcycles Podkowa, manufactured by Zaklady Przemyslowe "Podkowa" SA in Poniatowo (today Legionowo near Warsaw) The factory, founded in 1921, produced small iron products and ran an optical glass grinding shop, and its specialization - hacele, i.e. nails for horseshoes, was reflected in the name of the plant (in the 1920s - "Pierwsza Polska Fabryka Haceli "Podkowa" Sp. z o. o.) and ... a motorcycle.

Preparations for the production of motor vehicles, requiring e.g. of increasing the production potential of this rather average - according to the then criteria - industrial plant (in 1937 - 220 employees) had been carried out since 1937, however, it was only in the last months of 1938 that an agreement was concluded with Villiers Motor Comp. in Wolverhamton in order to use one of the company's small-volume models for domestic production.

"Podkowa" was thus modeled on the technical solutions of an English motorcycle, and the Villiers single-cylinder two-stroke engine with a capacity of 98 cc and a power of 3 HP is a very important underlining of this relationship. The drive unit of this type and its accessories were discussed in more detail in the description of the Niemen 98 motorcycle. The creator of the motorcycle, or rather the person adapting the English construction to Polish production and operating conditions, was probably Adam Skalski. Several test "Podkowas", built immediately after the conclusion of the agreement, were subjected to comprehensive field and road tests, and the experience gained was used in serial production, which began at the end of January 1939.

The strongly built motorcycle chassis was adapted to a more powerful 150 cc engine. The frame (tubular, single, closed) and the front fork made of pressed steel were therefore very durable, but also relatively heavy. Despite the low-performance engine, the Podkowa 98 proved very useful both as a two-person touring machine and as a sports motorcycle, as proven by the results of many competitions. Among these, the results of two events are especially worth mentioning: the average speed of 46 km/h was achieved in the six-kilometre off-road race near Jablonna and the average speed of 41 km/h obtained on the 385-kilometre route of the Warsaw - Gdynia - Warsaw rally, with strong side wind and rain. The motorcycle had another very important advantage - the price in Poland was 15% lower than imported machines of this class. The purchase price of the "Podkowa", as well as all other vehicles of domestic production, could be spread over up to 12 installments.

It may be assumed that the price of the motorcycle would have dropped significantly if the negotiations started at the turn of 1938 and 1939 with Huta Ludwików SA in Kielce on the supply of SHL - Villiers 98 engines, whose license production was prepared there, were finalized. It is difficult to determine which of the other elements of the vehicle were of domestic origin. One may be absolutely sure only about tyres from Poznanski "Stomil" and headlights from Wytwórnia Zyrantów Elektrycznych "A. Marciniak" SA in Warsaw, used from the beginning of serial production.

The Management Board of Zaklady Przemyslowe "Podkowa" SA also intended to launch motorcycles with four-stroke engines with a capacity of 250 and 350 cc, initially assembled and then manufactured under a contract license. For this purpose, contacts were established with two well-known English motorcycle manufacturers, BSA and Royal Enfield. One of them - the Royal Enfield with a 350 cc side-valve engine - already marked "Podkowa" on the fuel tank - was shown at the Poznan Fair in May 1939 and advertised as a home-made product. This was not in line with reality, as no preparatory practical activities aimed at their domestic production had been initiated before the outbreak of the war.

During the war, and especially as a result of the actions of the local occupation authorities, the factory was destroyed and its archives were dispersed. Therefore, the number of motorcycles produced is unknown today. It should be assumed that slightly more than 100 vehicles with 98 cc engines were sold before the outbreak of World War II. However, the company had very ambitious plans, envisaging the production of 1,000 of these motorcycles in 1939, but with the use of engines from the Ludwików Steelworks in Kielce.

It should also be noted that the management of the plant showed a highly patriotic attitude as the threat of war grew stronger, handing over to the army (the Warsaw National Defense Brigade) - in the spring of 1939 - five Podkowas 98.

Engine: two-stroke, single-cylinder, drives the rear wheel by means of a chain
Bore x stroke / displacement: 50x50mm / 98cc
Compression ratio: n/a
Power: 3 hp
Clutch: wet, single disc
Transmission : three-speed, hand change
Ignition: magneto
Generator: Villiers magneto 6V - 18W
Frame: tubular, single, closed
Front suspension: trapezoidal fork
Rear Suspension: rigid
tyres: Polish Tyre"Stomil" 3.00 x 19"
Length Width Height: 1950/670/880mm
Wheelbase: 1350mm
Empty weight: approx. 70 kg
Maximum speed: 60 - 65 km/h
Fuel consumption: approx. 2.5 l/100 km
permissible load: 2 - people (after mounting an additional saddle on the trunk)

Source: Polish History Archive

Fri Aug 19 2005
podkowa98 at podkowa98.pl
Podkowa - Polish bike
I send You photo of Polish bike Podkowa 98
All the best from Poland

16th January 2005
subject: Polish old bike
Email: podkowa98 at podkowa98.pl
message: 'PODKOWA 98' are a very old Polish motorbike (from 1939) with the Villiers 9D engine.

The Podkowa is listed at peacock.au.poznan.pl/~garaz (404)

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