What a Wankel!
Motorcycle auctions are a good source of weird bikes, and here’s one of the weirder ones we’ve seen in a while. Up for auction is a 1977 Hercules W2000, featuring a Wankel rotary engine. This super-rare bike is part of the Elkhart collection and should fetch a high price from some lucky collector.
Felix Wankel first began to conceptualize his rotary engine in the late 1920s and 1930s, but was unfortunately unable to begin practical development on it until after the end of World War Two. In February, 1957, he finally had a working prototype, but it still needed work before he could put it into production. Even so, several companies purchased licenses to develop and manufacture his invention. Among these companies was Fitchel & Sachs.
Fitchel & Sachs was a company specializing in industrial, marine, and agricultural engines. It was with an eye toward those purposes that F&S licensed Wankel’s invention. That is, until they acquired the Hercules motorcycle company in 1963. It was a smart investment, considering many Hercules motorcycles already used F&S engines.
The next natural step was to combine their two new acquisitions and thus, the Hercules W2000 was born. F&S first unveiled the W2000 at the 1970 West Cologne Autumn Motorcycle Show. It featured an air-cooled 294cc Wankel engine making 27HP, a shaft drive, and a four-speed transmission from a BMW R27. The W2000 generated quite a bit of interest.
The W2000 finally hit showroom floors in 1974, now with a five-speed transmission and a chain drive. Unfortunately, due to insurance companies lack of understanding as to how rotary engines work, the W2000 was classified as 882cc, the size of all three chambers, rather than the size of just the 294cc combustion chamber. This misclassification made insurance costs way too expensive for most people, especially since, by that time, there were other options which were faster and much cheaper to insure. The majority of the buyers were simply interested in the novelty of the bike.
In 1977, after making only 1784 units, F&S discontinued production. The good news is, their limited number makes them highly collectible now. Insurance companies have a better understanding of rotary engines now, so they’re much cheaper to insure.
The W2000 up for was made in 1977, the final year of production. It features a 32HP engine, a luggage rack, and only 8,550 miles on the odometer. It looks to be in great condition.
The auction is scheduled for May 1-2, 2020, with a preview on April 29, 2020. For more information, please visit Sotheby’s.