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Messerschmitt Cabin Scooter

Messerschmitt (FMR) KR-200 Cabin Scooter Micro Car, Manufactured in Germany, circa 1959

Image: Messerschmitt (FMR) KR-200 Cabin Scooter Micro Car, Manufactured in Germany, circa 1959

Source: Museum Victoria

In the aftermath of the Second World War in Europe, German industrial capacity had been largely destroyed. In western Germany private automotive firms such as BMW and Mercedes remained and the formerly state-owned Volkswagen factory was taken over by the British army. Fuel rationing and shortages throughout Europe led to increasing use of motor scooters and powered bicycles for personal transport. In the late 1940s former Luftwaffe engineer Fritz Fend designed a tricycle wheelchair powered by a small engine. The Flitzer, as he called his machine, was cheap and economical. Fend saw the possibility of turning his design into a vehicle which combined the attributes of a car and a motor scooter. This 'kabinenroller' or cabin scooter concept was shown to Professor Willy Messerschmitt, head of the well-known aircraft firm Messerschmitt AG. Professor Messerschmitt was keen to diversify the firm's product range and was planning to build Vespa scooters under licence. Fend's 175 cc KR-175 three-wheeled, two-seat design was put into production at Regensburg, Bavaria in 1953 under the Messerschmitt brand-name after being exhibited at the 1953 Geneva Motor Show. The Fichtel & Sachs single-cylinder, two-stroke engine was changed to a 200 cc unit in 1955 along with a new KR-200 model designation.

From 1956, Fend formed his own company, Fahrzeug & Maschinenbau GMBH Regensburg (FMR), taking over the Messerschmitt plant and retaining the right to use the Messerschmitt name although from this time the Messerschmitt firm had no involvement with the KR-200. Fend developed a four-wheel version, the Tg-500 Tiger, in 1958 which was produced in limited numbers. By the early 1960s increasing prosperity in Europe and the availability of small cars such as the Volkswagen and Mini made the KR-200 concept obsolete and it ceased production in 1964 after some 50,000 had been manufactured. Along with other 'bubble car' designs from the 1950s the KR-200 had a loyal following and briefly became fashionable. Elvis Presley owned a KR-200 which he described as "a cool little buggy". In Victoria, the Messerchmitt sales agency was held by Milledge Bros. Pty Ltd at 287 Elizabeth Street in 1958-59. They advertised the car in two versions, a 'Convertible Roadster' with a fabric roof and a hard-top "Starlight Coupe'.

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