Nothing to do with the long-running cartoon family, this Simson was a multi-faceted German company which produced a range of different items, including firearms, automobiles,bicycles and motorbikes and mopeds. The story begins in 1854, when the brothers Löb and Moses Simson buying one third of a steelhammer works in Suhl, Germany. The production of carbon steel began and the firm Simson & Co. was founded in 1856, which produced guns and gun barrels. In 1871 they built their first steam engine and the enterprise established production of bicycles in 1896, which was followed by the start of car production in 1907.
Simson built cars from 1914 to 1915 and from 1919 until 1934. Its 1914 models had four-cylinder engines and in 1925 Simson introduced its first six-cylinder car, the model J. Car production continued until 1934 and in 1936 Hitler's government forced the Jewish Simson family to flee the country. A trustee took control of the firm, and so by merger with other factories the Berlin Suhler Waffen- und Fahrzeugwerke (BSW) was formed. In the same year the factory produced its first motorcycle, the BSW 98, which had a 98 cc engine and two-speed transmission. Weapons production also increased; from 1939 the company was called Gustloff-Werke-Waffenwerk Suhl, named after assassinated Swiss Nazi Wilhelm Gustloff. As well as the main works in Suhl, the Gustloff-Werke had branch factories at Greiz in Thuringia and at Łódź in Nazi-occupied Poland. Sachs-engined motorcycles from 47 cc to 123 cc were made within the Gustloff group from about 1934 until about 1940. Gustloff-Werke products included 7.92 mm calibre Panzerbüchse 39 anti-tank rifles, 7.92 mm calibre MG 42 machine guns, gun carriages for 20 mm calibre Flak 38 anti-aircraft guns, and various calibres of small arms ammunition. The firm continued to build bicycles, weapons and cars until 1945, production stopping with the end of the war.
Between 1949 and 1962 the Suhl factory produced more than 209,000 four-stroke motorcycles; the motorcycles were branded AWO (an abbreviation of Awtowelo) from 1949 until 1955, when the Simson name was revived. Some had Stoye sidecars fitted, and a Stoye Campi luggage trailer could also be specified.
Production of the plunger-suspension 425 T model ended in 1960, and in 1961 Simson planned a 20bhp, 350 cc, swing-arm model for the general market; however, during the development of this model the DDR introduced a policy of Kapazitätsbündelung ("capacity concentration"), under which the production of larger motorcycles would be concentrated at the MZ works at Zschopau and from January 1962 all new private cars and motorcycles would be two-strokes. The DDR's Volkswirtschaftrat ("People's Economic Council") terminated Simson four-stroke manufacture on 31 December 1961.
The two bikes shown here are a 1964-68 Simson Star SR4/2 (the candy red & white moped) and a
1964-86 Schwalbe; its hard to be more specific than that about the exact year, as in typical Eastern Bloc fashion, external styling changed little over their respective production runs, although myriad detail changes were made under the skin. They have gained cult status in Germany and its not hard to see why; they have a simple style that endears the more you look at them. I'd happily give either a place in my garage.