Balloon Repair Station

Ist das ein Vivi old chap? – What’s in Trev’s Shed? Part Deux

Already its quite obvious that the planned whizz-bang-pedal trips on the mopeds not only hasn’t happened but are now looking well dodgy anytime in the near future. A string of minor catastrophes and shortage of spares has slowed things a tad, right across the board. The Mercette is behaving like the Forth Road Bridge, remarkable for something so small, but having got it going very well on its refurbed magneto it decided that it would spit and spat and then chuck fuel everywhere. Disillusion creeps in. Then the New Hudson’s paperwork got caught up in the legislation change-over for older vehicles, oh, and the petrol tank sprung another leak. Then Trevor got sent the wrong exhaust for the Vivi, found another in Germany that the bloke never sent but hey, never mind, we are not easily put off and things are still moving forwards albeit slowly. We’ve set a target of 7th April for the 10th Radar Run and Mopedjumble at Bromeswell so here we go again!

Despite the lows there has been some amazing progress on the Vivi, it even resembles a bike again and almost all the bits are now there including the carb. Be amazed. Deadly Dick finally freed the engine off and cleaned up and repaired most of the internals. Getting it all back together proved rather tedious especially aligning the selector in the gearbox which took the best part of a day! The badly damaged nacelle he whittled together using a Buzz Lightyear raygun along with mixture of fibreglass, plastic metal and filler. We were all impressed with the result. Starlings, a robin and a few shrews were evicted from Trev’s shed and plastic sheeting erected ready for the respray. Trevor has chosen a rather fetching metallic silver offset by a vibrant red as the colour scheme and very fetching it looks too although we doubt if they were ever painted that way. Sadly the metallic went a bit bonkers when the lacquer was applied so had to be redone. Looks great now and won’t go rusty that’s for sure.

Following our trip out to the wilds of Ipswich and the Emporium of Mark Daniels, to get some spares and drop off the mag for the Mercette, the Tizztub of new and more historic spares various were opened and reassembly commenced. Cables were made up of bits and pieces left over from the Mercette and Hudson rebuilds and what was left of the originals. Most of the levers and switches were salvageable and once cleaned up actually looked alright and worked. The missing engine side-panel was found on eBay in the States and a carb was sent over from Germany. The other missing cover is being moulded by Mr Daniels from an original he has but won’t part with (quite understandable as its part of his Vivi which is intact).

The heart of the Vivi is obviously its neat little engine so I fear a bit about the company that built them is in order. There isn’t that much out there history-wise about the Vivi and not much more about its closest relative the Victoria Vicky-L but the engines for both were produced by Victoria and used quite widely across Germany and Italy by other companies in their mopeds. It was a relatively powerful little 48cc two stroke which proved to be very reliable and it’s a shame more wasn’t made of it. After much searching of records and ignoring Wikipedia entries (well some of them) we have found out a fair amount about the Victoria Company but nothing really definitive about the development of the 48cc Victoria two-stroke unit that they produced.

The Victoria Company, it appears, started life as a bicycle business in 1886 in Nurnberg, Germany, run by Max Frankenburger and Max Offenstein, or the Max brothers to their mates. The business was very successful and they began to develop an early motorcycle fitted with single cylinder Zebel or Fafnir (great name for engines, I’d like one of them!) four stroke which sold until 1918. After the War they built a 493cc model using a fore and aft horizontally opposed BMW engine but in 1923 BMW went into manufacturing complete motorcycles and the supply of engines dried up. Undeterred Victoria engaged their former designer Martin Stolle who spent the next two years designing 498cc and 598cc overhead valve twins of similar design to the BMW engines. Gustav Steinlein then joined the company and proceeded to build the first ever supercharged German racing machine based on the 498cc model which went out and broke the German speed record in 1926 reaching 104mph, a brilliant achievement for a small company. Then new single cylinder models were introduced in 1928 using Sturmey-Archer engines (built by Horex-Columbus under license) ranging from 198cc to 498cc. There was also a range of 98cc to 198cc two-stroke models using triangular pressed steel frames and unit-construction engines which sold quite well. In 1934 the National Socialist government banned the import of engines so Victoria took to designing and manufacturing their own once again, which wasn’t without its drawbacks, however by now the Second World War had almost totally halted production and in 1945 the main Production Hall was seriously damaged.

After the war production was initially focused on a new 38cc auto-cycle engine (power pack engines fitted to bicycles) which proved a great success. In 1948 came the KR25 Aero model, which had a 247cc single cylinder two-stroke engine giving 6bhp, through a four speed gearbox in a rigid frame, later upgraded to plunger suspension, and with production a respectable 14,000 units a year by the end of 1950 in 1951 it was upgraded to become the KR25HM now producing 9bhp however the new KR125 Bi-Fix with a 123cc engine giving 4.5bhp and three speed box was released in its place. Sales were disappointing. Meanwhile, on the back of the auto-cycle success, the unit construction M50 48cc 2 stroke engine (as fitted to Trev’s Vivi) was designed and fitted to the very stylish Victoria Vicky-L Luxus and launched in 1954 in an attempt to capture the popular moped market. The Nurnberg-built engine proved to be cheap and reliable and many units were sold to other moped manufacturers. Despite this things were about to start going wrong for Victoria.

The early fifties were boom and bust for many motorcycle manufacturers but as they progressed the market was becoming ever more competitive and many companies were simply trying too hard. They were forever trying to build better and bigger and trying to get something into every part of the market and, despite having a good existing product range, in 1954 the V35 “Bergmeister” (Mountain Master) with a 346cc V-twin ohv four-stroke engine producing 21bhp and fitted with shaft drive was released. It had taken the company three years of continual re-designing and testing to eliminate the serious engine vibration it suffered from and the delay in the launch virtually ruined the company. Despite the modern design, featuring telescopic forks and plunger rear suspension, it never really caught on even when a swinging arm model was released in 1955. It was probably just too expensive in a fiercely competitive market.

By 1956 Victoria were well and truly in the doldrums so in an attempt to combat this they did a deal with the Italian Parilla company to produce a range of machines using 175cc ohv engines. It was far too late and in 1959 Victoria was absorbed into the Zweirad-Union along with DKW and Express. Despite continuing with some mopeds and 50cc motorcycle models into the sixties production of Victoria models ceased in 1966 when the Zweirad-Union Group was taken over by Hercules and by 1968 the brand had vanished completely. It was a sad end to what had once been a forward looking company producing some pretty advanced designs.

The Vivi was an Italian copy of the reasonably popular Victoria Vicky-L, or perhaps the Italians had designed the Vicky anyway, who knows, the Vivi was introduced as a badge engineered model to supplement the British Dot range in 1957. It was built in Turin, Italy, by Viberti and fitted with the two-stroke sweet compact 48cc Victoria M51 engine and integral two-speed gearbox, good for 35mph, that was still being built in Nurnberg. We have found out that Bruno Muller designed the Vivi and Viberti were well known as bus and coach manufacturers in Turin. It was launched at the 1956 Milan Bicycle and Motorcycle Show and caused quite deep Italian-type concern amongst rival manufacturers who claimed that the low price was a blatant attempt by FIAT (Viberti’s owners) to capture an unfair share of the thriving moped market. The first model produced was the Vivi 50 Turismo, which was followed by Gran Turismo, Sports, Scooter and an intrigueing Delivery Van versions. It would sem Trev’s is a Turismo model.

Despite the plucky little engine and groovy styling the Victoria Vicky-L didn’t make much of an impact on the British marketplace when it was introduced in 1956 and the Dot Vivi fared no better. Dot dropped the Vivi in 1962. The Vicky-L engine can still found across the world and parts are still reasonably easy to obtain but complete running Vicky-Ls (sometimes referred to as the VickyIII) and the Vivis are becoming quite scarce. The pressed-steel frame incorporating the fuel tank is their main weakness being very prone to rust as they succumb to the status of ‘barn finds’. Still they are pretty, make no mistake.

So where were we on the progress with Trev’s Vivi? Hopefully the exhaust will turn up soon and the missing cover will arrive in due course. Once the weather warms up and we can coax Dick out of his fireside chair with a cup of hot milk and a new set of Whitworth spanners we’ll see if it will run. Best get a bottle of bubbly in the fridge ready. Meanwhile Trevor has informed me that apart from the Saab convertible he bought before Christmas he seems to have acquired an early Scirocco that won’t run and the remains of Norman Nippy which we have made him promise not to renovate as it is beyond it. Its worrying, he’s nearly got more bits of junk than me.

If you are wondering why there is a pile of photos its because images of the Vivi are pretty scarce and if you are trying to find out what the various bits look like, or how it may go back together, these should help.
Chris January 2013