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Drivability, Comfort and Reliability of a Messerschmitt

?I?ve been driving a ?schmitt (KR200) for 32 years now and have covered around 70,000 miles in this time. In the early years the ?schmitt was my only means of transport.

High winds do blow it around and I find that when overtaking a lorry (truck for USA) or bus you do hit a bow wave as you draw alongside the cab, which can throw you off line. Cross-wind gusts are the worst thing and they can make a motorway (freeway) journey quite tiring as you have to stay very alert and are constantly correcting the steering. Having said this it is not dangerous and in fact there is no danger of the driver falling asleep, which I do sometimes find is a problem on a refined modern car. On the other hand the stability in terms of not tipping over on corners is extremely good for a three-wheeler - in fact the handling is quite sporting and I find it really fun to drive even after all these years. The best fun can be had in the wet when it is possible to make the tail slide a long way out of line but still maintain excellent control thanks to the direct steering. Conversely, I can also get it up on two wheels and drive in a circle in a large car park!

As far as extended road trips are concerned, probably the longest I?ve done is London to Munich which was completed in two stages. This was part of a two week continental tour covering 2500 miles. The longest mileage I?ve done in a day is 550. I did Calais (France) to Heidelberg (Germany) only last year in one day and that is about 440 miles. I find it quite comfortable thanks to the optional Tg500 seat fitted to my car. I have to say that I can?t bear the standard KR200 seat after more than two hours. Noise level is quite high although it helps a lot if you?ve stuffed the back full of sleeping bags, soft bags and a tent. Fuel economy is usually 55-60mpg but that is obtained driving flat out (i.e. maintaining 65mph on a level road). My engine is tuned up a bit with a high compression cylinder head and altered porting. I have achieved up to 80mpg on rare occasions.

There are no maintenance headaches. It is all very easy to work on thanks to easy access and mechanical simplicity. The most frequent job is adjusting the brakes, which are really too small and wear out quickly. Also the dynastart?s carbon brushes wear out every 10,000 miles or so and to change these it is necessary to take out the engine. Original crankshafts tend to blow up after 50,000 miles due to the big end bearing breaking up seizing and breaking the aluminium con rod. We can now use steel con rods with an improved bearing from a Yamaha motorcycle engine and these seem to be very reliable so far. Gearboxes can be a pain as there is an inherent tendency to jump out of top gear and this is very hard to resolve. New gears help and these are of course available now from the MOC in the UK. You do need some special tools for some jobs but these are all available from the MOC too. Parts availability is very good and I can get whatever I need posted to me by the MOC within 48 hours of making an order. The only parts of the design I would wish to see improved are the brakes and engine power. Hydraulic disc brakes and 20bhp would make all the difference. The Tg500 answers these problems but has some other drawbacks. It is not as nimble due to its greater weight and rear (i.e. behind the back axle) engine location and suffers from an appallingly slow gearchange.?

Andy Woolley in Regensburg

Andy at the Regensberg Rally in September 1999 - preparing for the long haul back to England!