The Opel Raketen Motorrad: Emphasis on the RAD Part


What has two wheels, six rockets, and was built by an heir to a German automobile dynasty?


Fritz von Opel was the grandson to Adam Opel, and just like Zach Reynolds of Reynold’s Tobacco fame, Fritz decided to translate his wealth, and adrenaline addiction, into a series of monuments to his genius. Genius, that is, in both in commissioning rocket-powered vehicles and in the publicity they generated for the company. There were rocket cars, a rocket plane, and the little beaut above – von Opel’s rocket-powered motorcycle.
Opel Motorclub, courtesy

In 1928, von Opel modified an Opel Motorclub (which was a Neander SS, built under license, and a respectably sporty motorcycle) for his devious purposes to create the Raketen Motorrad, and left the conventional running gear intact so he could get the bike up to about 75 mph. At that point, the solid-fuel rockets that von Opel’s men had grafted onto the sides of the rear wheels kicked on via a foot lever, delivering a total of 66 ft-lbs of boost, allowing the little bike to reach a theoretical top speed of nearly 125 mph.

Unfortunately, the Weimar Republic’s government had enough to deal with, and they decided that a von Opel’s fiery death in a blaze of rocket-powered glory wasn’t good for anybody. Von Opel was forbidden to ride it, and lost interest in the project in 1929, focusing instead on rocket-powered airplanes and generally being awesome. So while the Raketen Motorrad never really got to show its full potential, we in the modern era have folks like Mr. Leno, who hopefully will realize someday soon he has to have one and make a video of it so we can all share in its glory. Until then, drool liberally.

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  1. Alff Avatar

    If it were mine, I would purposefully leave a series of red skid marks at the entrance to my driveway.

  2. dustin_driver Avatar

    The Motorclub is absolutely stunning, especially with the red tires. Just a warning, I may have to re-post this on RideLust . . . . It's awesome. 😉

  3. RetroRCR Avatar

    When I first saw it I thought it was a modern interpretation of a classic. But no! This is a classic!

  4. facelvega Avatar

    emphasis on the Rad part? You mean the wheels? Because of the red tires I guess.

  5. CptSevere Avatar

    Even without the rockets, that's one fine looking motorcycle. Good lord, these early hoons had a pair. Can you imagine lighting those rockets up at 75 miles per, knowing that there's no way you can shut them down? And, your bike has brakes that today's spandex wearing mountain bike weenie would laugh at? And, it's a hardtail. With some weird bouncy-looking fork. Unsane.

  6. engineerd Avatar

    Rockets are to vehicles what deep frying is to food. It just makes everything better!

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