After the end of the Second World war, Messerschmitt – the storied German aircraft manufacturer, were forced to abandon aircraft production given the sanctions Germany faced because of their defeat. They turned their considerable engineering skills to producing other products, that also included this micro – car. It was based on the designs by aircraft engineer Fritz Fend and were a development of his Fend Flitzer invalid carriage.
The first car to come out of this partnership was the new for 1952, the KR175. The KR stood for Kabinenroller i.e. “scooter with cabin”. These cars featured styling reminiscent of Messerscmitt fighter planes, a Plexiglass canopy and a strictly three-wheeled layout: unlike its contemporary, the BMW Isetta.
The KR175 was replaced with the Messerschmitt KR200. It featured a numerous improvements over the 175 and was an instant success. Over 40,000 were sold in its production run between 1955 to 1964 with 12,000 being sold in the first year alone. This was helped by its DM 2,500 price, which made it affordable to a lot of Germans getting back on their feet after the economic fallout of the War.
The Messerschmitt KR200, while based on the same basic frame as the KR175, came with a reworked body and canopy design. Other changes were reworked suspension and engine mountings, hydraulic shock absorbers, an improved turning circle, and a floor-mounted accelerator and clutch along with a reverse gear. This reverse gear was unique, as the engine was operable in both directions of crankshaft rotation. This effectively gave the KR200 4 forward and 4 reverse gears.
The singular tandem style interiors were well appointed with polished wood trim, an ivory aircraft style steering and patterned door trims. The Messerschmitt KR200 came with a bigger Fitchel & Sachs 191cc motor replacing the earlier 174cc unit. It was a single cylinder two – stroke unit good for 9.9 bhp. The car’s light weight and highly aerodynamic body meant that 90 kmph was easily achievable.
The KR200 Kabrio as seen here was a much rarer variant sold from 1957 onwards and had a cloth convertible top and fixed side window frames. This particular example is a fully restored car from 1961 and is available for auction at Bonhams’ London Olympia sale.
In 1956, Germany joined the NATO and economic sanctions were lifted. To refocus on aircraft production, Messerschmitt sold the Regensburg works were the these car were being built to Fend who, with brake and hub supplier Valentin Knott, formed the Fahrzeug und Maschinenbau GmbH Regensburg (FMR) to continue production of the Messerschmitt KR200. Eventually sales started dropping by 1962 and the car was discontinued in 1964. This was also the time when the micro car fad had lived out its utility. Most European countries had recovered economically from the War and newer, more efficient hatchbacks like the Mini were better alternatives for frugal transport. Photos via Bonhams.