1957 Zündapp Bella R201
Some time ago — pride prevents us from saying how long — this came into our shop.
This odd collection of parts had knocked on the doors of several other shops over the course of many years, and none had let it in until it came to us. It would turn out to be one of the biggest jobs we’ve ever had. One of the most frustrating and at the same time one of the most enjoyable rebuilds. The designs used in it are unique and quite rare, from the front swingarm with a single sided shock to the carburetor with an inverted float needle to the 12 volt charging system using two 6 volt batteries. Many an hour was spent staring at 60 year old parts diagrams and ebay.de with Google translate turned on because we don’t speak German.
What it is is a 1957 Zündapp Bella R201 scooter. A 200cc single cylinder 2-stroke German bike with a heel-toe shifter.
It’s unclear how many of the parts in this original batch were originally mated together to form a single bike. There were several duplicates and a few missing. It took a lot of tweaking and filing and fabricating to make them all fit together this time around. Luckily the engine (the bottom end of it anyway) was in great shape, with decades-old oil in it still clean and water-free.
The carburetor, on the other hand, required three baths in the ultrasonic cleaner and some hand scrubbing and poking with little wires to clean up.
The frame, footboards, engine brackets, center stand, rear swingarm, and steering stem got a serious sandblasting and powdercoating. The bodywork got a lot of hammering and welding and grinding flat, and then some robin’s egg blue sprayed on it.
Through a couple Bella enthusiasts, most notably Anna in New York who deserves special thanks for all the parts and advice, we were able to get most of the parts we needed. But quite a few parts still had to ride across the Atlantic on a boat or plane because these bikes are very scarce in the USA. New used rear brake hub, new primary chain, a shock from an Austin Mini, reproduction battery cover… A huge number of the parts, both new and used, were either bent or damaged or designed for a different model or otherwise didn’t fit quite right. And so we were plunged back in time to before the days of Henry Ford and the concept of mass produced interchangeable parts, where everything had to be filed and hit with a mallet to put things together.
But slowly it all went together.
It attempted to confound us with various electrical issues, such as a charging system that enthusiastically threw out 18 volts despite what the regulator was telling it to do, and with a taillight that apparently was never designed to fit on this model originally yet couldn’t be replaced with the proper one.
The motor, surprisingly, presented hardly any challenges at all, and has run well since it first fired up, leaving [virtually] no leaks on the shop floor in the process.
And now after [redacted] months in the shop, it’s done, and it’s ready its day in the sun.
We’d like to thank Bob for bringing us the Bella to work on, and Jordan for modeling in our photos.