Europeans have long understood that even inexpensive
necessities should reflect a sense of style, and nowhere is that more apparent
than in personal transportation. Most German motorcyclists of the late '50s and
early '60s with 995 deutschmarks to spend—about $1,650 in current
greenbacks—desired an eye-catching ride with a distinct style.
Enter the DkW Hummel ("Bumblebee"). With a sleek, science-fiction shape and
well-placed brightwork, it was a definite step up from the humble moped. Its
stamped-steel frame was gracefully sculpted, the engine sat concealed under a
stylish shroud, and the fuel tank hid beneath the back of the extravagant
Underneath, the Hummel was all practicality. A 49cc two-stroke single and
four-speed transmission sent five small horses to the rear wheel via an enclosed
chain. With a little help from a following wind, it might have attained 50 mph.
Sadly, the Hummel—dubbed "Tin Banana" by owners—was not a success for DkW, which
retreated from the motorcycle business at the end of the 1950s. Production was
taken over for a time by Victoria/Fichtel & Sachs, which sold DkW-branded bikes
into 1970s. By then, however, the futuristic Bumblebee had long since buzzed
into the past.