Accidental Tourist

by Michael McWilliams

Note: This text originally appeared in the Vespa Club of America's member magazine American Scooterist, Autumn 1998.

Accidental Tourist.

Peter Crowl (VCOA #379) and I used to compete with our scooter hobbies. Each tried to find better deals or stranger scooters than the other. I think we evened out on the deals, but Peter continually led finding unusual scooters.

Apart from typical Vespas and Lambrettas, he uncovered a pristine Zundapp Bella, a few NSUs, a Moto Rumi, and a Heinkel Tourist 103 A1. Over time, Peter's scooter addiction lessened and he settled on a sweet Lambretta, Li 150 Series I, a Rally 200, and a 1962 Sears Allstate. Ultimately, he sold all his weird scooters. (I think he regrets selling of Rumi.)

I bought the Heinkel Tourist. Until then I knew nothing about Heinkel scooters. The first one I saw was in Springfield, Missouri, at the 1993 VCOA rally. Steve Mounce (VCOA #320) brought his beautiful 103 A2. I didn't ride his scooter, but I remember not hearing it pass me on our big rides. It was very quiet.

As with any new purchase in uncharted territory, I began my journey into the great unknown. I've owned many Vespas and a few Lambrettas, but never a piece of German machinery. Fortunately, I knew a VCOAer who was a tremendous resource on all topics Heinkel-John Gerber (VCOA #5). John sent me a few "must have" photocopies that got me well on my way into Heinkel enthusiasm.

Like many other European scooter manufacturers, Heinkel's roots were in wartime airplane construction. The Ernst Heinkel Company manufactured aircraft for the German forces. Following World War II, the company was restricted from building airplanes. Like Piaggio, Heinkel decided Germans needed low cost transportation. Heinkel produced six scooter styles between 1953 and 1966.

Since the Heinkel motorscooter hasn't been in production for over thirty years, you might think getting parts would be hard. Luckily, Heinkel owners have a resource-the Heinkel Club Deutchland. Founded in 1983 for the preservation of old Heinkel motorscooters, mopeds, and microcars, the club has over 3,600 members in twenty-three countries, who receive a wonderful quarterly magazine, Heinkel Info. Members can buy thousands of parts from the club store that has sent 300,000 parts to members since 1983.

The Heinkel club requires DM60 (approximately $40.00) for initiation fees and DM36 (approximately $24.00) for yearly dues. If you're interested in joining the club, send the dues and your name, address, and your Heinkel model information to:

Heinkel Club Deutschland e.V.
Im Vorderen Burgfeld 12
D-74348 Lauffen

I haven’t joined the Heinkel club yet because my Tourist is relatively complete. Besides it is extremely reliable. I've taken it on many one hundred-mile trips without hesitation. I will admit, though, I’m worried about breaking down. So far I've only replaced batteries, tires and tubes. This leaves cables, seals, valves and many more 4-cycle engine parts (which I know nothing about) that could fail. For this reason I will join the club this winter.

The Heinkel Tourist is an exceptionally comfortable scooter. It is easily the quietest scooter I've ever ridden. Two other points differentiate it from a Vespa or Lambretta. First, a 4-stroke engine powers the scooter. You can toss your 4oz-baby bottle away; this machine runs on pure gasoline. Additionally, you and your passenger arrive without smelling like two-stroke smoke. This, for me, is a huge plus. The second difference that still bothers me is that the shifting is vague. Unlike a Vespa, you don't have a "snap" that means you're in gear. The Tourist runs best when eased into gear. It took me six months to get used to this odd behavior.

Obviously there are many more features that differentiate the Heinkel Tourist from the Vespa and Lambretta. In a future article, I plan to compare the Tourist with a Vespa GS 150 and the Lambretta TV175 Series II.

If you'd like to contribute a story about your Heinkel motorscooter, please let me know.

Other Stories: