Fritz Neumeyer, the son of a forester, was born in Egloffstein Germany in 1875. He completed his education at a trade school in Nuremberg and in 1890 he began an apprenticeship with Armaturenfabrik Amag Hilpert, a fittings manufacturer in Nürnberg. By 1894 he had been promoted to representative of the Zurich branch which he chaired for two years.
Neumeyer was eager to begin his own business, and in 1897 he founded a company for construction of water treatment plants in Zurich. In October 1903 he registered "Fritz Neumeyer, Nuremberg" and purchased the Köllisch game and hardware factory, initially producing classic products such as toy steam engines and trains.
After meeting Dr. Fritz Singer who had developed a process to produce seamless brass tubing, the factory was redesigned and began manufacture of tubing for car and aircraft radiators as well as ballast containers for airships. By September 1917 the Köllisch facilities had reached capacity and production was moved to a new plant on Lobsingerstraße in the Herrnhütte district of Nürnberg, where they were joined by Friedrich Krupp AG and the Gebr Thiel company to produce artillery fuses for the defense industry under the name "Zünder und Apparatebau G.m.b.H." (Zünd-app).
After the 1918 armistice ended World War I and military contracts ceased Neumeyer became the sole proprietor of the company. Through the early 1920's he made various manufacturing ventures ranging from metal cable to hydropower turbines; the Zündapp factory itself was turning out a variety of products including typewriters, nuts and bolts and vehicle alternators.
In 1921 Neumeyer visited the Berlin Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition and saw the potential German market for an inexpensive, reliable motorcycle. He immediately founded the "Zündapp Special Machinery Works mbH."
The first 1921 Zündapp model was the Z22 and was touted as the "motorcycle for everyone" (Motorrades für jedermann). The machine was powered by a half horsepower 211cc two-stroke engine using belt drive, and it was designed with a focus on ease of use and handling. At first production was spread over four sites, but in 1924 the factories were converted to American style assembly line production and by the end of that year 10,000 units had been sold. In 1927 company director William Wittig rode the 25,000th Zündapp machine off the line, and in 1929 75,000 motorcycles had been produced.
In 1928 architects John and Karl Kröck were commissioned with the construction of a new factory and the resulting concrete structure was heralded as "the most modern motorcycle factory in the world." Despite an encroaching global economic crisis Neumeyer continued to invest and upgrade its machinery as his son, Hans-Friedrich, took over management: in 1930 the first four stroke model was brought out, powered by a British Rudge Python engine.
At the 1933 Berlin International Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition Zündapp presented eight new machines with engines ranging from 200 to 800cc. The new K series (K standing for Kardan or shaft drive) was designed by Richard and Xaver Kuchen, and consisted of both two stroke and four stroke models characterized by pressed steel rigid frames and girder forks with the fuel tank being housed within the upper frame rails. The smallest model in the range was 198cc two-stroke single and the largest was a 797cc side valve flat four (K800); in the middle were a pair of 500cc flat twins, offering a choice of side or over head valves housed in a block similar to the 797cc four. The K500 transverse twin and K-800 transverse four were very successful: more than 15,000 K500s were built between 1933 and 1939. In 1935 Zündapp employee Adolf Liebergeld invented a new process for cold extrusion of hollow steel which further enhanced production.
|1935 K800 797cc 4 cylinder|
|Porsche/Zündapp Type 12, 1931|
In 1935 Zündapp also developed a quadricycle delivery car also designed by the Küchens. The company had tried several times to break into automobile manufacture: as early as 1924 they had talked to the British company Rover about a small car license but the negotiations collapsed. A renewed attempt followed in 1931 to develop a small four passenger car, the Porsche/Zündapp Type 12, and the name "Volkswagen" appeared for the first time. But after only three prototypes the project was abandoned: problems had developed in the engine cooling and transmission during trials and Fritz Neumeyer subsequently decided not to proceed with the development. All three prototypes were lost during the war, the last in 1945 in Stuttgart during a bombing raid. A Zündapp automobile was finally released after the Second World War, but it was not well received.
Dr Fritz Neumeyer died on 10 September, 1935.
Fritz Neumeyer biography (in German)
The Zundapp KS601
Zündapp models at databikes.com