1956 Messerschmitt KR200 news, pictures, specifications, and information
Aeronautical engineer Fritz Fend placed the passenger behind the driver, tandem style, for his new car. He started building hand-powered three-wheelers for invalids and went to former aircraft maker Willy Messerschmitt for manufacturing help for a small, three-wheel micro car.

In 1954, Fend redesigned his car to produce the KR200 (KR stands for Kabinroller or 'cabin roller' in English). The KR200 featured a so-called bubble top and a new, 10-horsepower, two-cylinder engine. The car had no reverse gear, but the engine could be spun the opposite way to go backward. Because of aerodynamics, the car was actually faster when going in reverse. This 1956 KR200 is handsomely restored.
Chassis Num: 56278
Sold for $30,800 at 2010 RM Sothebys.
Powering the Messerschmitt is a 10 horsepower, 191cc Sachs two-stroke single-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed transmission (Forward and reverse.). There is an independent torsilastic rubber suspension and cable-operated mechanical drum brakes.

Messerschmitt AG was a German aircraft manufacturer, who was prohibited from building airplanes for many years following World War II. The company turned their attention to other endeavors, one of which was the production of kits for building prefabricated houses, using aluminum alloy techniques derived from the aircraft industry.

Fritz Fend, an aircraft engineer, designed and built a three-wheel invalid carriage called the Fend Flitzers. Around 250 examples were built through 1951, many of which were purchased by people needing simple mini-car transpiration. In 1952, a deal was struck with Messerschmitt. The factory in Regensburg, Germany assembled the vehicles and affixed Messerschmitt name. The first model was the KR175, the KR signifying kabinenroller or 'enclosed scooter' and 175 for the metric displacement of its two-stroke engine. They had a bubble canopy that tilted sideward for entry and exit and inside there was tandem seating.

In 1955, the KR200 was introduced. This had the 191cc two-stroke engine and an improved canopy and revised suspension. To reverse, the engine was merely re-started in the other direction, which provided four speeds backward as well as forward.

A modified KR200 example was run for 24 hours at the Hockenheimring race track where it set 22 international records for three-wheel vehicles. There were more than 60,000 examples built through 1964. Messerschmitt had returned to the aircraft business in 1956 and lost interest in the kabinenrollers, so later assembly was carried out by Fend's own company, Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH.

This example wears an older restoration. It is painted a teal shade of blue with yellow vinyl interior and rides on whitewall tires. There are a few cracks in the canopy and some of the moldings are lifting off the body, though it is believed some of the trim may be original.

In 2010, this Messerschmitt KR200 was offered for sale at RM Auctions 'Automobiles of Amelia Island' sale in Amelia Island, Florida. The car was estimated to sell for $20,000-$30,000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the car has been sold for the sum of $30,800, inclusive of buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2010
During World War II, the Messerschmitt Company produced German fighter planes such as the popular ME109 fighter. The company came into existence in 1923 and founded by Professor Willy Messerschmitt. When WWII came to a close, the company switched to manufacturing automobile parts, as well as other industries such as sewing machine production.

Designs for the Messerschmitt automobiles began as early as 1953 by Fritz Fend. The Messerschmitt three-wheeled KR175 Kabinenroller (cabin scooter) was the original Messerschmitt. Power was from a one-cylinder, two-stroke, engine that displaced 175cc and produced 9.5 horsepower. The rear mounted engine powered the single rear wheel and mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. The cars were suspended by a rubber torsilastic suspension and braking was handled by four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Steering was by a handlebar-type system. The interior cockpit had room for two, though seating was in tandem with the passenger sitting behind the driver.

In total, around 10,000 examples were sold.

The KR200 was introduced a short time later and powered by a large, two-stroke engine that displaced 191cc. Horsepower rose to 10. There was a tilt-over, cockpit-style bubble canopy top formed from plexiglas. The KR200 had a reverse gear (the engine could be spun the opposite way to go backwards) and a self-starter. The KR175 did not have reverse and had to be pick-up or pushed in order to go backwards.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2009
One of a kind, the quirky three-wheeled Messerschmitt KR200 was a bubble car designed by Fritz Fend, aircraft engineer. The KR200, also dubbed Kabinenroller or cabin scooter, was produced from 1955 through 1964 in the German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt's factory.

The year was 1952 and Messerschmitt was temporarily banned from manufacturing aircraft, so they turned their attention and resources to other production. Fend took his idea of a small motor vehicle based on a invalid carriage, Fend Flitzer, to the German company. The result of their collaboration was the KR175, which would be the first of Fend's vehicles to enter production at Messerschmitt's Regensburg factory. The car wore the Messerschmitt name and insignia, but a separate company Regensburger Stahl- und Metallbau GmbH was created to both manufacture and market the car.

In 1955 the KR200 was born. Taking the same basic frame as the KR175, the KR200 sported an improved canopy design and updated bodywork that included wheel cutouts in the front fenders. Hydraulic shock absorbers were now found at all three wheels, the tire sizes were enlarged to 4.00x8 and the rear suspension and engine mountings were revamped. Retailing around $1724.71, or DM 2,500, the KR200 was met with immediate fanfare. Nearly 12,000 models were constructed in its first year alone. Amazingly light, the KR200 had a maximum speed around 56 mph and a claimed power output of only 10 PS.

When 1956 rolled around and Messerschmitt was once again allowed to manufacture aircrafts, they lost their interest in Fend's microcars. The German company sold the Regensburg works to Fend who partnered with Valentin Knott, brake and hub supplier, with the end result being Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH Regensburg (FMR). The new company continued to produce the KR200 along with Fend's other vehicles.

The KR200 Kabrio model was debuted in 1957. Sporting a cloth convertible top, the Kabrio had fixed side window frames. Soon after the KR201 Roadster was introduced, with a folding cloth top, a windscreen, removable side curtains and no window frames. Closely following the arrival of these models was a Sport Roadster with no top and a fixed in place canopy. The driver had to climb in and out of the vehicle via the top of the car. The early KR200 models carried some of the KR175 characteristics that included yellow ochre-colored interior primer, beige-colored interior trim and double-strip front bumper trim.

The spunky little KR200 and its four-wheeled derivative, the FMR Tg500 shared the narrow little body that was a microcar trademark and the transparent acrylic bubble canopy. One had to enter the car via a canopy door hinged on the right side of the vehicle. For most vehicles except the Roadster, the door included all the windows and the frame in which it was set, and extended from the right side of the monocoque tub to the left. The canopy was fixed in place on the Sport Roadster model and only a tonneau cover was in place of a top or any windows at all. A larger curved glass windshield that formed A-pillars with the side window frames on the KR200 was a much more simplified version from the previous KR175. This made the bubble much more compact, easier and less expensive to produce.

The KR200 featured an electric windshield wiper, which was an upgrade from the manual KR175 one. Tandem seating was used in the narrow body of the KR200, which allowed the body to 'taper like an aircraft fuselage', within a practical length. The microcar had an mpg around 87. The KR200 featured capable handling thanks to the tandem seating and centralized mass of the car with the longitudinal axis, low weight, and low center of gravity and wheel placement. The tandem seating also made an export version to left-hand drive countries unnecessary.

Powering the KR200 was a 11.7 cu in Fichtel & Sachs air-cooled single cylinder two-stroke engine nestled in front of the rear wheel, right behind the passenger's seat. With two sets of contact breaker points, to reverse the KR200, the engine was stopped, and then restarted, going backwards. Whether intentionally or not, this was achieved by pushing the key further into the ignition switch than normal. The same four gear ratios were available in reverse as in the forward movement thanks to the positive-stop transmission.

Similar to flying an aircraft, the controls inside the KR200 were all operated by pushing instead of turning. The steering bar provided a very direct response best suited to small, measured inputs thanks to its connection directly to the track rods of the front wheels. Putting the car in neutral no matter what gear it had been in before when actuated, the gearshift lever had a secondary lever on it. Transmission would have to be shifted back to first before the car would be able to move from a direct stop. The KR200 featured a full set of pedals that included brake, clutch and accelerator unlike its predecessor the KR175. Using cables the brake pedal still operated mechanical brakes.

Messerschmitt prepared a KR200 to break the 24-hour speed record in 1955 for three-wheeled vehicles under 15.3 cu in. to prove the durability under the hood of the microcar. Tested mercilessly for 25,000 kilometers, the prototype broke 22 international speed records in its class, including the 24-hour speed record (which is set at 64 mph). The record car had a highly modified engine and a special single-seat low-drag body, while the steering, suspension and braking components were stock. The throttle, brake and clutch cables were replicated.

Factory-converted Service Cars were manufactured by Messerschmitt, and eventually FMR, to order by the automobile service industry. An estimated twelve Service Cars were built, and only one is thought to have survived. The idea behind the concept was similar to the service offered by the Harley-Davidson Servi-Car and the Indian Dispatch Tow. The Service Car featured a detachable tow bar and clamp, and a revamped front suspension that housed the tow bar when it wasn't used, and a storage system inside the car to accommodate the tow bar when not used. The idea was that the service tech would tow the disabled car by attached the tow bar to the front of the Service Car and clamp the other end to the bumper of the customer's car and drive it back to the garage.

Sales unfortunately drooped significantly in 1962 and by 1964 sales of the KR200 ceased completely. The German economy was booming and demand for basic economy transport in Germany had dwindled. This was also happening in other parts of Europe, including the U.K. where the biggest export location was the U.S. whose fascination was focusing on the arrival of the popular Mini.

Today there is a small niche for the microcar lover, and fan could pay upwards of €20,000 for a well-maintained 'Schmitt'. Aftermarket reproduction marks are made for the KR200 and include reproduction bubble tops constructed from car-safe polymethyl methacrylate.


By Jessica Donaldson
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