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Abridged excerpt from the Victoria IG's Victoria book, published in 2016.
© Manfred E. Sprenger

As early as 1885 a pedal cycle club emerged in Nuremberg where the sport of cycling was actively fostered and it was Max Ottenstein, an enthusiastic member of this club, who established his first business dealings in England. At the time, Britain was the world leader in the manufacture of bicycles, but all these enterprises lacked commercial management beyond artisanal production, so in 1886, Max Ottenstein and merchant Max Frankenburger founded the Frankenburger & Ottenstein Unlimited (OHG from German: meaning unlimited company). Then, Max Ottenstein's plan to create bicycle production was born out of his ability to obtain raw materials for bicycles from England through trade.

Max Ottenstein immediately implemented his plan. Next, in a rented workshop in Gleishammer, a suburb of Nuremberg, 20 workers produced the first bikes. After that, the company built a barrier-free site where customers could become skilled in handling the new vehicles safely and proficiently.

In 1888, with the rapid expansion of production, the rented premises in Gleishammer were soon unable to accommodate 150 workers and more than 40 machine tools. At this point, the owner of a large machine shop in Nuremberg bought a large building site on what would later become Ludwig Feuerbach Street on favorable terms and took an equity stake in the company on the condition of providing production premises, which allowed the company to secure production space. The following year, 1893/94, saw a sharp increase in sales for the Victorian company. Then, on 15 November 1895, the company was transformed into a joint-stock limited company under the name "Victoria Fahrrad-werke AG", with a registered capital of DM 1.25 million.

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1886 - 1895

In 1896, Victoria Fahrrad-werke AG set up a stand at the Bavarian State Fair in Nuremberg to showcase its products to great acclaim. Later, in 1897, the company's bicycle production temporarily reached a peak of 11,300 units, but with a total of nearly forty companies in Germany engaged in the bicycle production industry at the time, the five main factories in Nuremberg alone had already produced around 50,000 bicycles that year and supply far exceeded demand, resulting in a nationwide overproduction that led to very low bicycle prices.

At the turn of the century, electrification experienced an unprecedented boom. One reason for this was the gradual increase in reliability and thus suitability for everyday use; another new and important reason was the use of the high-pressure magnetic ignition system and spark plugs developed by Robert Bosch. Taking this as an opportunity, on 29 December 1899, the company changed its name to Victoria Walker and began developing the Victoria brand of motorbikes and cars.

In 1900, the newly designed Victoria motorbike won a gold medal at the Nuremberg Motorcycle Exhibition. Next, in 1901, the first Victoria motorbike was built. Although not mass-produced, this made Victoria one of the pioneers of German motorbike manufacture. However, the basic concept of the first Victoria motorbike, like most of its competitors, was simply a bike with a reinforced frame and a bought-in engine.

In 1903, Victoria began small-scale production of motorbikes with engines purchased from Fafnir in Aachen, one of the leading suppliers of built-in engines at the time. 1907/08 saw the economic crisis in Germany once again dampen the upward momentum of motorcycling, and production of Victoria motorbikes was gradually discontinued around 1908 due to the economic impact. Production of cars continued for some time, but from 1912 onwards, production was also phased out. After the First World War, Victoria manufactured bicycles mainly for the German army.

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1896 – 1914

In 1920, Dr. Rudolf Ottenstein, the son of the company's founder, was appointed to the company's board of directors during this time and was responsible for technical development. Under his leadership, the K.R. series of motorbikes was introduced and continued as a Victorian feature for a long time. K.R. stands for Kraft-Rad (power bike) and the first model was succinctly named the K.R.I. The engine was the M2B15 designed by Martin Stoller of the Bavarian motorbike factory in Munich, a two-cylinder boxer with a volume of 494cc, with side-controlled valves. At 2800 rpm, the K.R.I motorbike produced an average of 3.8 hp and a maximum output of 6.5 hp.

In January 1922, Martin Stoller moved to Sedlbauer in Munich and just six months later his new OHV engine was ready for use. Victoria and Sedlbauer were officially in business together. In the same year, the new K.R. II was fitted with the new OHV engine. In September 1923, production of the Sedlbauer engine was transferred to Nuremberg; in the meantime, Victoria took over the factory. In 1924, the KR III was launched as a further technical upgrade with an output of 12 hp, a sports touring motorbike.

Martin Stoller's successor as a chief designer was Gustav Steinlein. He ushered in a new era of engine development and made history. (The use of a supercharger based on the British Roots supercharger principle led to a significant increase in the engine's output to withstand competition in road racing). Next, in the first Freiburg kilometer record attempt in 1925, the factory Victoria with a supercharged engine averaged 146 km/h, beating the competition. In the 1926 season, the Victoria was designed with the compressor mounted above the front cylinders, enhancing the engine's heat dissipation and improving the engine's relief from overload on climbs and tours, and with this, the technology was used to achieve the Freiburg kilometer record in 1926, with an average speed of 164 km/h achieved by Victoria factory driver Adolf Brudes from Breslau. Interestingly, precisely at the time when Victoria stopped developing supercharged engines, BMW in Munich, with Rudolf Schleicher in charge, began developing supercharged engines.

On 18 May 1927, the German Imperial Patent Office issued patent No. 444 229 (Class 49, Group 25) to Victoria Walker (relating to a method and arrangement for making brazed joints in which metal sheets are inserted into each other). The patent remained in use for frame production until the 1950s.

To extend the displacement class, the new KR 35 was equipped with a 350cc engine. These powerful engines were first ordered from Sturmey Archer Gears Ltd. in Nottingham, England, and later purchased directly from the company's German branch in Nuremberg. Sturmey Archer, a branch of the Raleigh Group, had over the years acquired a reputation for excellence in the field of engines and gearboxes. Victoria's 200cc KR 20, which went into production at the end of 1928, was also equipped with a four-stroke engine from Sturmey-Archer, which was very popular as it did not require tax or a driving license. With this opportunity, Victoria's total sales rose to 7,100 units, up from 4,200 the previous year.

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1919 – 1928

Hans-Peter Müller, a multiple German DKW racing champion and the 1955 NSU racing world champion, began his racing career with Victorian vehicles from 1931 to 1934, both in the 350cc and 500cc classes. His racing vehicles were built by the British firm Raleigh and bore the Victoria tank logo. In 1932, after Josef Möritz from Munich won the European Mountain Championship and the German DKW Championship, the KR6 became the first Victoria to be given a name: Bergmeister, in addition to its model designation. The KR6 continued lasted until 1939, but in terms of total sales figures, it played only a minor role.

The future belongs to smaller models. At the height of the recession, Victoria introduced a small motorbike called the V75, which was more like a bike with an auxiliary engine. Victoria Walker then moved quickly to hire again Martin Stoller, who had left the factory ten years earlier and now ran his design studio. In 1934, Stoller designed an attractive-looking side-controlled twin-cylinder engine mounted behind the side plate of the new KR8 Fahrmeister. However, after a short test phase, thermal problems soon arose because the valve train was located in the slipstream of the cylinder, which was covered by a metal plate on the side. A year later, the valve train was converted to a conversion control system and fitted to the successor to the KR 9. After that, the Viennese designer Hans Lachler was brought to the Victoria factory to provide an alternative for the 350 class. For the new KR 35 B/G he developed a side-controlled engine with compact combustion chambers and cylinder heads drawn down well above the valves, which allowed it to produce even one more horsepower than the OHV engines currently on sale. The G model was used off-road, and the B model was used on-road.

In 1934, the supervisory bodies throughout Germany imposed legal restrictions on the chrome and nickel plating of two-wheeled vehicles. In the financial year 1934, all the Jewish members of the supervisory board were dismissed, except Max Ottenstein. His brother (Franz Ottenstein), Franz Ottenstein, was forced to leave Victoria Werke on 1 June 1934.

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1929 - 1934

During this less ideal period, Victoria remembers its relationship with Horex of Bad Homburg, which, like Victoria, had purchased the 500 cc engine from Sturmey Archer of Nottingham, England, prior to 1933. Chief designer Hermann Reeb designed a 350 cc OHV engine for his employer, Horex. This new OHV engine was fitted to the almost unchanged Victoria KR 35 B and was given the new model name KR 35 S.

In 1937, Victoria's two-wheeled vehicles had a market share of 6% of sales in the German Empire. The market leader was DKW with 33%, followed by NSU with 20%. The distribution of competitors from Nuremberg was as follows. Zündapp 14.3%, Triumph 7.3%, BMW at 5.9% and Ardie 4.1%. In order to increase its market share, Victoria duly launched a model range that is popular with its customers. Richard Küchen presided over and launched the K series. As stated in the contemporary brochure newspaper, under his auspices the "New Victoria Collection" was born. This included three beautifully designed two-stroke motorbikes, economical: the KR 20 EN Lux, the KR 20 LN Luxus, and the enhanced version, the 247 cc Aero, which had 9 hp. The new models sold like hotcakes and demand soon outstripped supply.

In June 1938, series production of the highly acclaimed 350 Pioneer series began at Victoria. Its engine was developed and built in collaboration with Hermann Reeb and Richard Küchen at Horex-Columbus. The modern OHV-block engine with a foot-operated four-speed gearbox is capable of reaching a top speed of 125 km/h in SS-class Super-sport with a "guaranteed" 20 hp.

In the meantime, it is clear to the Victoria managers that the company facilities in Ludwig Feuerbach Street, which are now enclosed by development in the Nuremberg city area, are not sufficient for the future development of the company. In 1938, 10 hectares of land were acquired on the southern outskirts of Nuremberg in Gibitzenhof. This is where the new Victoria production halls are to be built, and construction of the first factory halls with an area of 2400 square meters begins in 1939.

The strong power, combined with a fairly reasonable price, made the KR 35 SN Pioneer very popular. At the same time, it was clear to Victoria that the company's facilities on Ludwig Feuerbach Street were already surrounded by developments in downtown Nuremberg and could not accommodate the company's future growth. So, to meet capacity requirements, in 1938 the company acquired 10 hectares of land in Gibitzenhof, a southern suburb of Nuremberg, and in 1939 began construction of the first of the new 2,400 square meter Victoria factory workshops.

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1935 - 1939

Most of the production of the Victoria was immediately taken over by the Wehrmacht. A large number of units were produced, with almost 6,000 KR 35 Pioneers alone being produced to supply the army reserves. Subsequently, the KR 25 Aero was also produced as a reserve model for the Wehrmacht's army. Today, Pioneer motorbikes left over from the war are once again found in Norway, France, the Soviet Union, and the countries around the Baltic Sea.

From 1942 onwards, the so-called "Liddell starter" was produced in Victoria, which was used to start the newly developed jet engines of the Luftwaffe. In Victoria, pneumatic motors to drive submarine torpedoes were also built.

During the first air raid in August 1942, the Victoria Factory No. 1 on Ludwig Feuerbach Street was badly damaged. Later, in the massive RAF bombing of Nuremberg that began in 1943, almost three-quarters of the Victoria factory's facilities were destroyed.

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1939 - 1945

In 1946, 28 men and two women started the reconstruction work in Ludwig Feuerbach Street. A new building in Noptisch Street had previously been unable to be completed due to the turmoil of the war and these premises could now be occupied, so from then on Victoria Werke's business address was: Nopitsch Street 70. Victoria Werke slowly began to resume production. Next, under very difficult conditions, the Victorians succeeded in accomplishing the almost impossible. By the end of 1946, they were able to offer for sale the auxiliary bicycle engine developed by Albert Rode. For just 160 marks you could buy this economical 38cc engine with 1 hp, which could be fitted to any bicycle and came with a fuel tank. In an era when scarce petrol could be purchased almost exclusively from the black market, this engine was just the thing for the time.

Production of the KR 25 Aeros resumed again in early 1949 in Victoria. They were indistinguishable from the pre-war machines. There was also the V 99 Fix, a 98cc, three-speed model, and no plans for a new version of the Pioneer series.

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1946 - 1949

The Victorian industry then flourished and in January 1951 the 10,000th KR 25 Aero left the factory. On 12 April 1951, Georg Dotterweich set two world speed records on his FM 38 moped with fairing and performance-enhanced engine on the Munich-Ingolstadt motorway.

At the IFMA (International Cycle and Motorcycle Exhibition) in Frankfurt am Main in 1951, the Victoria stand presented a new 350cc series model bearing the traditional Bergmeister name, with a V-twin OHV engine producing up to 21 hp.

In 1953, the company moved into a new production hall of 6,000 square meters and a new administration building on Nopitsch Street. Siegfried Rauch then became the new customer service manager, and later the editor-in-chief of MOTORRAD magazine also arrived in Victoria.

From 1946 to 1953, 150,000 Vickys, 35,000 Aero-mopeds, and about 225,000 bicycles were produced in Victoria. Exports were to 60 countries around the world, with Vicky mopeds accounting for 70% of exports.

In 1954, Harald Oelerich arrived in Victoria as a test engineer from Horex, where he converted the V35 race bike to a rear swingarm and increased the power with twin carburetors and a special gear ratio. On July 21, 1954, Victoria factory riderRudi Ebert and lubricator Herbert Tegge crossed the finish line in the long-distance Liège-Milan-Liège race with the V35 Bergmeister named team winning the long-distance class of 2400 km in 48 hours. The vehicle, known as the name of Swing, was in production since 1954. It featured some revolutionary technical innovations, a 198cc two-stroke engine with 11.3 hp, an electromagnetic four-speed gearshift, a transmission swing arm, and a left shock absorber that was visually stunning.

By 1954, sales of the Vicky series had reached 400,000, but a last attempt to bring the motorbike to market failed and the pioneering model with the 175cc OHV engine bought from Milan found few customers. Although 10,000 Victoria motorbikes were sold in 1953, only 700 were sold in 1957.

At the beginning of 1957, looking for a way out of the two-wheeled crisis, Victoria fell for Friedrich's offer to take a stake in Bavarian Motor Company (Bayerische Autowerken AG) to enter small car production. Victoria then took over the production of the Spatz and after a thorough revision of the model in mid-1957, the company began production of the small car (Spartz), which eventually became known as the Victoria 250, a three-seater with a new 250cc single-cylinder two-stroke engine with 14 hp and a five-speed gearbox, similar to the previous Swing motorbike. However, a total of only 729 Victoria 250s were sold before production ceased in February 1958.

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1950 - 1957

In 1958, the merger of Victoria AG with other two-wheeled vehicle manufacturers was seen as a last resort by the lending banks, and the Zweirad Union AG was formed, a merger of Victoria, Express (Neumarkt), and DKW (Ingolstadt). Three years later Faun took over the factory. In 1966, the Fichtel & Sachs Group bought a majority stake in Zweirad Union and transferred the Hercules brand, which was already part of the Group, and all production to the Victorian factory in Nopitsch Street.

The last two-wheeled Union vehicles to be produced in 1966 were the moped model 159 and the TS moped with 5.3 hp. In 1969, the name Victoria finally disappeared from all moped brochures. For bicycles, the name remained for a little longer. Hercules bicycles are produced in the former Victoria factory buildings until 1996, and Hercules mopeds until 2003. Thereafter, two-wheelers were once again produced at the Victoria factory by Sachs Fahrzeug- und Motorentechnik and Sachs Bikes.

In 1989, a number of collectors and enthusiasts of the VICTORIA brand formed the Victoria Community of Interest to maintain the factory's heritage as a manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles.

On 30 October 1995, Hartje from Hoya/Weser acquired the naming rights to Victoria. Since 1997, bicycles have again been produced by Hartje under the name Victoria. 1886, the founding year of Victoria, is still advertised in the company's corporate identity. In the summer of 2003, Dibag industrial building AG Munich acquired the site for the construction of the Herkules industrial park.

In 2004, the last Victorian building on Nopitsch Street was demolished. This marked the end of a factory rich in tradition as one of the pioneers of the German two-wheeled vehicle market and which had set the technical standards.

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1958 -