"Rare As Kangaroos": A History of Heinkel in the U.S.
by John Gerber
In the U.S., which had a much smaller scooter market than Europe, the Heinkel never fared well. Even during the Golden Age of Scootering in the late 1950's and early 1960's, Heinkel had, at best, a minor presence, which even to most hard core scooter enthusiasts was just barely visible. Peter S. Beagle perhaps summed up the situation best when he termed them "rare as kangaroos". Yet the story of Heinkel in the U.S. is a compelling one. It is a complex tapestry of many strands, a series of small, but almost epic, mini-dramas. It is an immensely human panorama--a full parade of humanity in all its varied forms--of dreams and aspirations, comedy, and tragedy. And it is a drama in which the lives of many of the main actors briefly intersected with my own. At its most human level, it is a story of Ernie and Helmut stranded in a strange new land repairing washing machines, of Marsh and the pistol, of a stoic new England Yankee accomplishing the impossible, of a flashy entrepreneur in a limousine, and the colorful and quirky Marc Stern.
Like most other European scooters, Heinkel first entered the American market in the mid-1950's. The Heinkel first made its appearance in America in 1956, when Nobel Motors of London, England, the English Heinkel distributor, was given distribution rights for the U.S., Canada, and South Africa. Nobel Motors was controlled by the flamboyant York Nobel who had grandiose plans for developing an international Heinkel empire. His main interest appears to have been Heinkel bubblecars. An office at 205 W. 57 St. was set up with Jacques Elmach as the North American representative. Glitzy press releases were sent out and a series of ads were placed in various American and Canadian publications announcing the "forthcoming arrival" of the Heinkel. A minor stir was created when the bubblecar was referred to as the "Cabin Cruiser," which prompted a number of persons to conclude that it was some kind of battleship and write angry letters of protest to the editor. But Nobel's efforts soon came to nothing and not one scooter or car was sold in either the U.S. or Canada. Shortly afterwards, it became clear to Heinkel that Nobel was more style than substance and he lost his Heinkel distribution rights in both North America and England. Later he went on to build his own bubblecar, the Nobel, which looked like a cross between a Heinkel and a Messerschmitt. By a strange coincidence, the last vehicles to use the Heinkel engine, the Greek made Attica microcars, which were produced from the mid-1960's to 1969, used a Nobel body.
In 1957, East Land Motors of Brooklyn, New York, began importing a small number of Heinkels. Like Nobel, their main interest appears to have been bubblecars, but some scooters were brought in. This was the era when BMW was selling several thousand Isettas a year in the U.S. and was reportedly the second largest selling foreign car after the Volkswagen Beetle. East Land Motors, however, apparently sold few of either the scooters or bubblecars. East Land developed an impressive dealer kit filled with classy promotional materials, but it is doubtful whether they organized any other dealers--even in the lucrative New York scooter market. East Land also seems to have had little sense of public relations When Mechanics Illustrated and Popular Mechanics did write ups on the scooters available in America during this period there was no mention of Heinkels. East Land did, however, manage to get a Heinkel AO road tested by Scoot magazine and a write up in Car Life in 1958, which marked the introduction of the Heinkel to the American scootering community.
In late 1958 or early 1959 East Coast distribution rights passed to International Scooters Corporation, a "division" of Foreign Motorcycles Corporation of Long Island City, New York. In reality, Foreign Motorcycles Corporation was a small motorcycle shop owned by Marc Stern and, for at least part of the period, a business partner named Barry Kulick. The shop itself was a tiny storefront with only a couple scooters and motorcycles on display. In the early 1950's, Stern established a small niche market importing German Horex motorcycles. His most profitable model was the Imperator, a neat 450cc parallel twin that far surpassed the British twins in quality. Horex, however, was having serious financial problems and decided to let Joe Berliner, the American Zundapp importer, market the Imperator as a badge engineered Zundapp Citation. Foreign Motorcycles was soon embroiled in costly litigation against both Joe Berliner and the Horex factory. Financially strapped, Stern had no choice but to expand into other brands. Shortly after obtaining East Coast Heinkel distribution rights he also took on such forgettable makes as the Hungarian Pannonia and Dannuvia brands.
Schleichler Motors of Oakland, California soon took on the role of a West Coast sub-distributor. Schleichler Motors was founded by Ernst Schleichler, a genial German immigrant and mechanical engineer with a passion for waltzes and polkas (many of which he wrote himself). A German perfectionist with a disdain for shoddiness, Ernie had a particular fondness for the Heinkel and felt it exemplified German quality and the high standards of craftsmanship he had grown up with. A native of Frankfurt, Germany, Ernie had worked servicing aircraft for the U.S. Airforce during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49. Through his work, he developed a friendship with a MacDonnell Douglas aircraft engineer. His friend encouraged him to come to the U.S. and told him he could easily get him a job with MacDonnell Douglas. In 1955, Ernie, his wife, and stepson Helmut Jacobi, took his friend up on the offer and headed to the U.S. to pursue the California Dream, naively shipping all their household furnishings with them. But when he went into the MacDonnell Douglas personnel office for an interview, he was told that for security reasons only U.S. citizens could work for the firm. Badly in need of jobs, Ernie and Helmut began repairing washing machines on a freelance basis. Helmut was also attending the University of California-Berkeley with the intention of becoming a dentist and needed transportation. His original intention was to purchase a 1950 Buick, but when he discovered that insurance was $900 a year he balked. At about the same time, he saw a billboard advertising Vespas. The Vespas were being sold by an auto distributing firm called Novi, which had recently been granted West Coast Vespa distribution rights. Helmut purchased a Vespa and soon discovered how difficult it was to get parts and service. Both Helmut and Ernie sensed an opportunity and became Novi's first Vespa dealer in 1956. A later West Coast distributor, Western Scooter Distributors, once awarded them a plaque proclaiming them the first U.S. Vespa dealer. I think this distinction, however, is open to question, since by every indication, Boston's F&S Motors was founded much earlier. It is probably correct to term them the first Vespa dealer on the West Coast. During the early years, Ernie and Helmut did all the servicing alone, with Ernie working a second night job as well. Schleichler Motors was also one of the mainstays of the Vespa Club-USA on the West Coast. Helmut, one of the founders of the VC-California section and the head of the local Oakland branch, spent many of his weekends organizing club events. In many cases, local events drew as many as 300 scooterists. This was the beginning period of the first great scooter boom and few locations were as good as the San Francisco Bay area. Within a year they were selling 200 Vespas a year, which made them one of the largest Vespa dealers in America. However, a year later the West Coast distributorship changed hands and the new distributor, A.G. Baylin Inc., established two new dealerships in their area, which caused their sales to suddenly drop to 80 Vespas a year. Ernie and Helmut decided they had to take on other makes of scooters and immediately added Lambretta and NSU to their lineup. In 1959, when Marc Stern became the national distributor, they added Heinkel and became West Coast sub-distributor. A year or two earlier they had earlier discussed with Stern the possibility of taking on Horex, but by then Horex was out of production. Their decision to become involved with Heinkel was probably motivated as much by personal reasons as business considerations. Schleichler Motors had modest success in organizing dealerships in the San Francisco Bay area and Washington and Oregon, but was less successful in organizing dealerships in the booming Southern California market.
The late 1950's represented the high water mark of the first American scooter boom and Marc Stern initially had high hopes for the Heinkel. He felt he could establish the Heinkel in a prestigious niche among scooters similar to what BMW enjoyed among motorcycles. A small man with a pronounced--almost stereotypical--Yiddish accent, Stern was an highly astute and capable small businessman (although with a strong disorganized streak) who was well-connected in the American motorcycle industry. But Stern was never a visionary and unfortunately lacked the capital and other resources necessary to make Heinkel a major player on the American market. His customer relations skills were often quite poor. Prospective customers were sometimes charged a dollar for a brochure (the equivalent of $7.00 in today's currency!). In this pre-Honda era, many European scooter and motorcycle manufacturers disdained the American market and distributorships were often given to small, marginalized firms. Foreign Motorcycles was only one of a number of such firms. During the great scooter boom of the late 1950's, Stern nonetheless made an effort to connect with the scootering community. Regular ads were placed in Scooter and Cycle. Special advertising copy hyping the Heinkel was developed for the American market, including this colorful Eisenhower era prose gem: "Gets underway with a vigor that would shame a scalded tomcat and climbs hills like it was born on a launching pad." Most of us who have experience with Heinkels, of course, would feel otherwise. More pertinent was the slogan: "So, stop your kicking." A major Heinkel road test was arranged for Scooter, and Cycle featured a two part article on a Heinkel trip around America by an English scooterist. Both pieces brought a lot of favorable publicity that was not translated into sales. With only limited resources and virtually no support from the Heinkel factory, there was little that International Scooters Corporation could do to market Heinkels except for small ads and appearances at motorcycle shows. A sales representative sometimes went on the road to recruit dealers. But at its highpoint, the Heinkel dealer network never numbered more than 20-25 dealers at any given time, with the largest concentration in the Northeast. Most dealers were either German motorcycle specialists or scooter shops. In many cases, dealers would take on a Heinkel dealership only to quickly find out that the scooters sold poorly, and then quickly drop the franchise like a hot potato. Peter S. Beagle spoke of his friend Phil's newly purchased Heinkel as sitting on the showroom floor so long "as to have cobwebs in her carburetor and something that seemed to be cookie crumbs in her gas tank." Many of the Heinkel dealers were dealers in name only. A large dealership was one which actually had a Heinkel on the showroom floor. By the end of 1960, it was clear that Heinkel was not going to establish a major presence in the American market and Stern stopped advertising entirely and imported only on a perfunctory basis. The A2 was never advertised in the motorcycle and scooter press. When Scootourist began publication in 1962, another opportunity was offered to market the Heinkel as a high quality luxury upgrade among hard core scooter enthusiasts, but Stern--perhaps disillusioned by lack of support from the factory-- failed to seize what was clearly a golden opportunity and no ads were forthcoming.
Stern did make a major but ill-fated attempt to strengthen his marketing position by setting up Triangle Motorcycles in Chicago as a Midwest sub-distributor. Since Triangle had a parts and accessories wholesale division and many contacts in the motorcycle industry, Stern initially saw many possibilities with this arrangement. But these hopes were soon dashed by reality. Of all the Heinkel distributors, Triangle is the most colorful and bizarre.
Triangle was an old line Chicago motorcycle dealership that had started out selling American motorcycles in the 1920's and 1930's. The shop was owned by Pete ("Triangle Pete") and Maize Zellany, and their son Francis Marshfield Zellany (more commonly known as "Marsh"). "Triangle Pete," whose mount of choice was a 1941 Indian Four, was a legendary figure among Chicago motorcyclists for two generations. In the 1930's, Triangle set up a subsidiary firm known as Chicago Motorcycle Service (CMS), which became one of the first and largest manufacturers and wholesalers of Harley-Davidson aftermarket parts and accessories. But by the late 1940's, the glory days of American motorcycles were over and Triangle entered into a long slow decline. Its wholesale division was reduced to selling the parts and accessories stock for American motorcycles that it had accumulated during the 1930's and a large stock of Harley-Davidson war surplus parts and engines that it had acquired just after the end of the Second World War (for 20 years, Triangle's ads offering new war surplus Harley 45 engines for $79.50 were a permanent fixture of American motorcycle magazines). Triangle's response to this decline took on two strikingly different forms. Like Foreign Motorcycles Corporation (with whom it had a long business relationship), Triangle became a dealer for various obscure European brands such as Horex, TWN, Jawa, Puch, DKW, Maico, Pannonia, Dannuvia, and, of course, Heinkel. Tom Phillips, a former Triangle mechanic, has told me that he felt they handled oddball makes mainly to maintain their status as an authorized dealership rather than a repair shop, which made it much easier to obtain parts, accessories, and other supplies from the manufacturers. Having a letterhead listing the various makes they represented gave them much more credibility and clout. The other direction the firm took was to specialize in Harley-Davidson modifications (which the factory disdained). Since choppers were definitely not mainstream in these pre-Easy Rider days, most of Triangle's clientele was drawn directly from Chicago's many outlaw motorcycle gangs. Triangle was not your average scooter shop! By the time Triangle became the Midwest Heinkel distributor, "Triangle Pete" was aging and in ill-health. Most of the management of the firm had passed to Maize and Marsh.. But Marsh, a hard-core alcoholic, had the rather unfortunate habit of spending much of his time in a nearby tavern. Small and wiry--the very antithesis of the macho biker--Marsh was notorious for coming back to the shop in drunken rages and waving his Lugar pistol at customers. Great entertainment, to be sure, but less than wonderful customer relations--particularly in an era when Honda was just beginning its "You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda' campaign. Like many others of the era, Marsh looked with greedy eyes on the enormous profits being made on scooters and hoped to cash in on it with Heinkels (at one point Marsh was angling for national distribution rights for Puch scooters and fantasized about selling 10,000 a year). But by the early 1960's the firm, in complete disarray, was only a pale shadow of what it had been during the heyday of "Triangle Pete", and had almost no capacity to mount a serious marketing effort for Heinkel.
Several factors account for the poor showing of Heinkel in the U.S. One of the most often cited is the relatively high cost. At $625 the Heinkel was about $100 more than a Vespa GS or Lambretta TV 175 and was comparable to motorcycle prices. Triumph had similar problems selling its 250cc Tigress twin, which was also priced over $600 (and despite its network of several hundred dealers Triumph probably sold fewer Tigresses than Heinkels). Yet, $625 was a fairly nominal sum considering the Heinkel's larger size, exceptional quality, and many luxury features. The question remains open: could the Heinkel have developed a niche market as a luxury touring machine such as BMW had among motorcycles at the time or as the Honda Helix (the Heinkel's spiritual descendent) has today? While this was a possibility that was never realized , it was one which the small number of serious U.S. scooter enthusiasts made extremely difficult. Even during the largest boom American scootering has ever known, hard core enthusiasts were few and far between. As surprising as it may seem there are probably far more serious enthusiasts today. During the 1950's, scooter ownership was often a passing fancy. Owners were enthusiastic about their machines for a few months, but eventually, as the novelty wore off, their scooters became halfway houses to car or motorcycle ownership. In the absence of a market base, dealers had little incentive to take on Heinkel franchises. And this, in turn, created something of a vicious circle. With few outlets for sales or service, almost no customers could be enticed into buying a Heinkel, which entailed a major risk of being stranded without parts or service (Peter S. Beagle once said it "would be easier to get parts for a flying carpet" than parts for a Heinkel in the U.S.). Even in New York, where thousands of scooters a year were being sold, there were no dealers other than Foreign Motorcycles Corporation.
In general, the Heinkel appealed to an older and more affluent buyer desiring either a larger scooter more stable than a Vespa or Lambretta, or an exceptionally high quality product. Many were bought by wealthy individuals who ended up putting only a few hundred miles on them. But the majority were bought by scooter owners seeking an upgrade. Hard core scooterists were well-represented. David Whitworth, a Hartford, Connecticut enthusiast, for instance, put over 100,000 miles on his. On one occasion Whitworth covered 1027 miles in 24 hours on his Heinkel. On another occasion he covered 939 miles in 22 hours. Whitworth was so enamored with his Heinkel that he had 800 leaflets printed to give to interested onlookers. His dealer offered him a ten percent commission on any machines sold as a result of his leaflets, but there were no takers. Another enthusiast, a Massachusetts college student, drove one to Oregon and back five summers in a row for a summer forestry job. The uncle of a current Heinkel enthusiast drove one from Washington, D.C. to the Yucatan peninsula and then on to California and back. Peter S. Beagle and his friend Phil turned their Heinkel trip across America in 1963 into a minor literary classic. A Chicago enthusiast liked them so much that he purchased a new one every year until his doctor forced him to stop. And a circus in Florida featured two bears with Heinkel and Steib sidecar act!
The Heinkel factory seems to have made some minor efforts to improve the Heinkel marketing situation in the U.S. At one point, negotiations were held with the Clinton small engine manufacturing company about marketing Heinkel products in the U.S. Trojan Limited, the manufacturer of the Heinkel Trojan bubble car in England had also been manufacturing a go-kart known as the Trokart with Clinton engines. Trojan Limited used this connection to sound out Clinton about marketing Heinkel products. Several Heinkel bubble cars badged as Clinton Trojans were brought in to test the market., but nothing came of the venture. Later Heinkel acquired the rights to distribute West Bend outboard motors in Germany and tried to get the company to reciprocate by distributing Heinkel products in the U.S. But once again their efforts came to nothing.
The final effort to breath life into Heinkel in the U.S. came in 1963, when the factory announced its intention to appoint a new distributor and contacted Schleicher Motors. Ernie and Helmut journeyed to Stuttgart and entered into negotiations with Heinkel's export manager. Noting the rapidly rising Japanese motorcycle sales in the U.S., the factory tried to pressure them into buying an initial order of 500 Heinkels. Ernie just laughed and politely turned them down. "We won on that one", Helmut later noted, "but we were offered a Honda dealership at the same time and we turned that down too!" At about this time, a flashy American entrepreneur named Victor Brimcat, in a brazen act of showmanship, drove up in a limousine with a lawyer in tow. His gambit worked, and Brimcat was awarded U.S. Heinkel distribution rights. Brimcat had been distributing Ulma Vespa and Lambretta accessories under the name Accessory Supply Company and running several other small businesses out of a tiny storefront at 65 Page St. in San Francisco. He termed his new Heinkel distributing firm Scooterama. But like many others who thought the American scooter market was plated with gold, Brimcat soon discovered that the gold was, in reality, fool's gold. Tom Velasquez, the publisher of Scootourist, requested a Heinkel for a road test, but was turned down. When Velasquez asked if he could photograph one for an article, he was again rebuffed. "Strange but true", Velasquez later noted. Except for a couple of small ads in Scootourist offering dealerships, no advertising was done and Heinekls continued to be sold in infinitesimally small numbers. Within a year, Scooterama called it quits and Schleichler Motors became the de facto U.S. distributor. Although Schleichler was extremely capable and exceptionally well organized, there was little that could be done at this point. Japanese motorcycle dealerships were readily available and few dealers had even the slightest interest in taking on an expensive and obscure German motor scooter. A dealership could sell more Japanese motorcycles in a day than Heinkels in a year. Even the appearance of Peter S. Beagle's I See By My Outfit in early 1965 failed to make a dent in Heinkel sales.
A total of only 350 Heinkels were sold in the U.S. (approximately 200 A1's and 150 A2's). By comparison, over 200,00 Vespas and Lambrettas were sold during the same period. About 15-30 bubble cars were sold as well. The 150 two stroke was never imported, although it is possible one or two were brought in to test the market since International Scooters distributed brochures for it and listed it as available for $559.50. Other Heinkels were brought in by military personnel stationed in Germany. With the exception of the first kickstarter model and the two stroke, all models have been seen. The largest number of Heinkels--about 100-- were sold in San Francisco, followed by New York and Chicago. The largest number per capita sales were in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, part of the Springfield metropolitan area, (population 100,000), where an amazing 50 Heinkels were sold by Walter Johnson and his Bircham Bridge Cycle Shop. In reality, the Bircham Bridge Cycle Shop was nothing more than a small shed on Walter's front lawn, but Walter (who perfectly fit the stereotype of the folksy, laconic, self-contained New England Yankee) seems to have had particularly good rapport with the local scootering community and sold most of the Heinkels through personal relationships with enthusiasts, getting many Vespa owners to upgrade. Occasionally he would place ads promoting the Heinkel as the "Cadillac of Scooters". He also appears to have managed to purchase new Heinkels direct from the factory. David Whitworth reports seeing about 15 crates of Heinkels stacked on his front lawn at one point. Clearly, his success shows that the failure of Heinkel in the U.S. was not foreordained. Ultimately, it was a question of failed marketing strategies--of roads not taken.
Foreign Motorcycles continued as a small, marginalized motorcycle shop that falls into the more colorful than profitable category. Located in a declining neighborhood of garment sweatshops, and subsisting mainly on repair work and sales of obscure machines, the shop had only a handful of customers. The shop was probably the only place in North America where a new Pannonia could still be purchased. Marc Stern alienated many of the remaining Heinkel owners by charging exorbitant prices for parts. A critical part such as a muffler, for instance, would be sold at several times cost. Stern would try and justify the price by telling by claiming how hard it was to order from Germany. Once a pioneer figure in the importation of European motorcycles in America, Stern became increasingly quirky as the years passed by. It always amazed me how he could stay in business. He remained particularly bitter at what the Horex factory had done to him and considered it the watershed event of his life. His life was another case study in missed opportunities. In 1977, the shop was destroyed by a mysterious fire. Stern then worked for several years as a parts manager for a New York Honda dealership until his death in the early 1980's.
Triangle also continued as another marginalized motorcycle dealership until it went out of business in the 1980's. During the 1970's, a trip to Triangle was like a trip through a time warp to the 1930's. The shop, located in a decrepit nineteenth century building with creaking wooden floors, was often in total disarray and filled wall to wall with vintage accessories, parts, and exotic machines in every corner. Yet it was a feast of wonderful eclecticism, resembling a cross between a motorcycle museum and a junkyard. Parts and accessories of every description were to be found, from exotic Indian feathered accessories to 1920's American motorcycle parts. Marsh, sober and in a good mood, once pulled out two boxes to show me. One contained hundreds of Heinkel stick pins; the other was filled with Heinkel owner's manuals. Owing to Marsh's drinking, the shop's outlaw clientele, and chaotic organization, Triangle had no chance to obtain a lucrative Japanese motorcycle franchise and thus prosperity passed it by. This was an era when Japanese motorcycle franchises routinely turned "grease monkeys" into millionaires. Throughout the 1970's, Triangle maintained several storage facilities filled with vintage European and American motorcycles and scooters (at a time when vintage machines had virtually no value). The storeroom across the street was almost too much to believe. To start with, the door was propped open with a Pope motorcycle engine. The dimly lit room was filled wall to wall with motorcycles and scooters. Among them were several Indian Chiefs, with and without sidecars, a couple of Indian Fours, a military shaft drive Indian, a Henderson, a Horex, and numerous Jawas, Victorias, Maicos, TWNs, NSUs, and Zundapps. Many of the European makes were unsold new machines. The storeroom was astonishing even on my first visit in 1967. I suspect today it would send off a collector or enthusiast with a heart attack. Next to a batch of Zundapp Bellas and a TWN Contessa, sat a beautiful low mileage, virtually mint condition, two tone gray Heinkel A2 selling for $400 (at a time when Heinkels could not be given away). The scooter remained unsold from 1966 until 1974. A Zundapp remained on the floor for a full 22 years before being sold. Marsh continued to insist to potential customers that the Heinkel and other makes were still being manufactured. Triangle also owned several nearby tenament buildings containing several hundred 55 gallon fiber drums filled with various motorcycle parts. Like many alcoholics, Marsh had serious paranoid tendencies and chose to be as secretive as possible about the parts. The barrels was numbered and Marsh drew a map showing what was kept in each barrel (his associates called it the Long John Silver Map). Marsh kept the map on him at all times until one day, during one of his drunken rages, he flushed it down the toilet! I went to Triangle with a non-enthusiast in the early 1970's and he found the place as fascinating as I did.
During the shop's last years, Marsh spent more time in the tavern than in the shop and the business was run largely in a drunken stupor. Triangle's problems were further exacerbated by Marsh's legendary dishonesty. Repairs were seldom done properly and customer's machines were routinely pillaged for parts. Tom Phillips, the former Triangle mechanic, notes that when rebuilding Harley-Davidson generators, Marsh would turn the bearings around to have the shiny side show instead of replacing them, although he had a barrel containing thousands of the bearings (enough to last for a hundred years ). Given the nature of much of his clientele, it was not too surprising that Marsh--despite the pistol he carried with at all times--frequently found himself being beaten up. One Chicago motorcyclist recalls seeing a burly Indian owner at a swap meet slamming Marsh against the wall demanding his speedometer back. In 1983 Marsh was killed--not surprisingly--in a drunken driving accident. Triangle's famous hoard of motorcycles and parts--including "Triangle Pete's" beloved Indian Four-- was auctioned off at bargain basement prices. Much of the parts and accessories stock is still available on the vintage market (even the Heinkel stickpins and owner's manual's surface occasionally). An equally large portion still remains uncataloged.
Alone among the Heinkel distributors, Schleichler Motors experienced the transition to prosperity as a modern motorcycle and scooter shop. Unlike many scooter dealers who turned to motorcycles, Ernie's heart was always more with scooters. During the 1980's, he was considered something of a scooter sage by much of the Northern California scootering community. His treasure trove of vintage parts and accessories (which included Victor Brimcat's huge stock of Ulma accessories) was legendary. Although Ernie died in the 1995 (still writing waltzes and polkas up to the end), the firm is still owned by Helmut and is considered one of the best BMW dealerships in America. Any northern California scooterists wanting a new BWM would be well advised to give them a call. Vespas were handled until the early 1990's and Schleichlers helped countless generations of scooterists keep both Vespas and Lambrettas on the road.
In the years after 1965, used Heinkels were almost impossible to sell. In 1970, a classified ad in the New York Village Voice touted one as the "best theft insurance in the world"! As a consequence, many remained unsold in garages and basements. Of the 350 Heinkels imported into the U.S. over 100 are known to have survived, and more continue to turn up. Many others are undoubtedly still kicking around. It remains paradoxical that there are far more hard-core Heinkel enthusiasts today than there were during the 1950's and 60's. Although Heinkels only rarely come on the American market, there are still enough around so that most persons who want one will eventually find one. And for those who can't wait there are always European sources where they can easily be obtained.