The normally stoic and pragmatic Germans must have had a great need for a bit of levity after all they had been through during World War II. The German infrastructure, economy and spirit had been crushed to bits in the 1940s and as they rebuilt from the ground up, the 1950s spawned the era of the Microcar. Germans needed an inexpensive mode of transportation that could be more practical than a motorcycle yet offer comparable efficiency given the serious shortages of fuel. The microcar boon brought a vast array of cheeky, almost comical little cars that offered German motorists exactly the kind of efficient transportation they needed. Cars such as the Heinkel, Messerschmitt, and the ubiquitous Isetta earned such vehicles the nickname “bubble cars” – for their comical, egg-shaped bodies. Aside from these regular players in the microcar market, there were scores of other, lesser known examples that popped up and disappeared during the 1950s.
One such car was the Kleinschnittger F125. Produced by Paul Kleinschnittger of Arnsberg, Germany, between April 1950 and August 1957, this microcar oddity weighed in at a featherweight 150 kilos (about 330 pounds) and is powered by a great, whopping 6hp, 123cc two-stroke single which drives the front wheels. The cute little roadster body measures just eight-foot, eight-inch long by three-foot, nine-inches wide and is constructed of hand-hammered aluminum over a steel tubular Wachtendord & Schmidt chassis. Employing leftovers from the Second World War, ex-army cooking pots cut into quarters formed the basis for the molds of the front fender curves. Each of the four wheels features fully independent rubber band suspension. The result is an adorable, whimsical two-seat roadster with almost pedal-car like proportions.
The 123-cc ILO two-stroke, air-cooled single-cylinder engine sends power through a three-speed gearbox to the front wheels. A top speed of 70 kph is possible assuming one has a both the necessary courage and substantial tailwind to attempt such a feat. Factory figures provide a more conservative 50–55 cruising speed which to us seems a bit more realistic given the sparse accommodations. More impressive, and of course more relevant to buyers at the time, was a fuel consumption rating of 3 liters of petrol per 100km; about 80mpg for us Yanks. In spite of its relative obscurity today, the Klienschnittger sold quite well in its time, with over 3,000 finding homes up through 1957 when production ceased.
This rare and delightful 1954 F125 was the subject of a high quality restoration in 1996 while part of the world-renowned Bruce Weiner Microcar Collection. Much of the body was rebuilt by hand, and it was subsequently treated to a fresh coat of attention-grabbing red paint and a re-trim in black vinyl. The seats were correctly restored using the original thatch straw filling in the seat squab and a new black top was fitted. The most recent owner acquired the F125 in 1997 where it has been a prominent part of a private display.
In the past year, the Kleinschnittger was again carefully disassembled and re-painted. Concurrently, the engine was removed, overhauled and resealed. The carburetor was rebuilt, a new air filter was sourced and the engine tuned for proper running. Most importantly, the rubber suspension and steering link were replaced. Finally, a new bonnet latch and straps were sourced, as were new, impossibly skinny whitewall tires for the original silver painted disc wheels. Kleinschnittger expert Martin Kricke in Germany provided all of the parts and schematics utilized in this most recent restoration. With a fine base to start from, the most recent restoration was careful and extremely well executed.
A well-cared-for example for its entire life, this F125 was even once owned by a friend of the Kleinschnittger family, assuring us that it has indeed had a very good life. This Kleinschnittger is no doubt a cheeky and cheerful machine, but it is also a rare survivor from an intriguing manufacturer as well as an important part of German post-war motoring history. It is difficult not to smile in its presence and it is ready to be enjoyed to the fullest.