If you were looking for a two seater that got good gas mileage in the 1950’s, this would have been the car for you — a 1956 Messerschmitt KR200. This car was made in Germany from 1955-64 and came with a 10 hp one cylinder Sachs 191 cc air cooled engine. That’s not much of an engine but at only 506 lbs empty weight, it could reach 62 mph and provide up to 56 mpg. That’s pretty amazing.
“The KR200 ran on a 191 cc (11.7 cu in) Fichtel & Sachs air-cooled single cylinder two-stroke engine positioned in front of the rear wheel, just behind the passenger’s seat. The engine had two sets of contact breaker points and, to reverse, the engine was stopped and then restarted, going backwards. This was effected by pushing the key further in the ignition switch than normal, whether intentionally or not.” —Wikipedia
The pictures in this article were posted on eBay Motors with the following wonderful story (copied with permission).
This 1956 Messerschmitt KR200 was owned by my father who passed away last year. He was in the United States Air Force and stationed in Germany during the mid-to-late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He was enthralled with the little “Kabinrollers” that he saw running around. His job in the Air Force was to keep the jet aircraft running so he knew his way around a tool box. I remember him telling me that even though there were quite a few Messerschmitts running around Germany, there were not many people who knew how to keep them running.
Although money was tight for him as an airman in the military, he was able to purchase a Messerschmitt that needed a little work for the grand sum of $50. He fixed it up and resold it for $100. He would buy and sell the little cars and became known for his work on them. A local German Doctor owned a KR200 and asked Dad if he could possibly help with the repair of his car. Apparently it had been on the losing end of an “incident” involving the KR200 and a Mercedes-Benz. The Doctor was very appreciative of the work my Dad did for him and they became fast friends. The Doctor and his wife would invite my Mom and Dad out to the Doctor’s home and they would tour the countryside in the two Messerschmitts. The friendship grew so strong that the Doctor and his wife even wanted to will their home to my parents.
Dad was transferred by the Air Force to the United States in 1966 and retired 1971. He sold his Messerschmitt in Germany before he was transferred but never forgot those wonderful days touring around the German countryside. In fact, he kept a small black & white photo of one of his Messerschmitt’s in his wallet until the day he died. Starting in the 1980’s, my parents would travel back to Germany to visit relatives and my Dad would invariably start looking for a KR200 to buy. The only problem was that the cars he used to buy for $50 were now over $10,000 and most were very rusty. He had a hard time justifying the price increase! About every six years or so they would travel back to Germany for visits and Messerschmitt shopping, but nothing ever seemed to pan out.
Then about 2000, a Kruse auction catalog arrived in Dad’s mailbox. In the catalog was a photo of a black Messerschmitt KR200 and the gleam in his eye told me we were going to that auction! We found information as to the size of the KR200 and found out that it would fit perfectly between the wheel wells of a full size Ford Econoline van. So we headed for a local car rental, picked up the van and drove it to Colorado. We now had an enclosed car hauler! The auction was incredible. Many very nice cars were present but not that many were going home with new owners. Wouldn’t you know it but the KR200 was the LAST car in the auction and when it started up and pulled up to the podium the crowd went crazy. It was the ONLY car in the auction to have phone bidders (as I recall there were at least six phone bidders) and the bidding was very strong. Dad was too nervous to bid so he made me do it. I had asked him beforehand if we were leaving the auction without the KR200 and he said “no”. Needless to say, we didn’t leave the auction without it. Dad was on cloud nine. We pushed the car into our enclosed car hauler and headed back to New Mexico with Dad’s prize. You could not have removed the smile from his face with a crowbar.
Over the next few weeks, Dad got reacquainted with the Messerschmitt or should I say his “time travel machine”. Every time he drove it, he wasn’t in New Mexico and it wasn’t 2001. For him, it was Germany and the early 1960’s wherever he went. He would take it to car shows but the car hardly sat still. His whole reason for taking the KR200 to a car show was so that he could give rides to anyone who wanted one! I have to admit that if you parked a Messerschmitt next to a supermodel handing out $100 bills, there would be a line to see the Messerschmitt and at the end of the show the supermodel would still have her cash. It is amazing the response that people have toward these little cars!
Dad ended up joining the Messerschmitt owners club which is based in the UK. They have nearly every part you can think of for these cars…or someone else in the club has what you need. It was a good thing Dad joined the club because about 6 months after he brought it home, the connecting rod broke in half. Dad rebuilt the engine entirely and had it running like a top in short order with parts from the club. After he rebuilt the engine, he probably put 500 to 1000 miles on it, enjoying every minute. It was around then that we began to notice that Dad’s memory wasn’t what it should be. We didn’t know it at the time but it was the onset of Dementia.
As Dad’s memory began to fade, he would still have the biggest grin on his face as he looked at his little car. After a few years, he could no longer drive and then I would take him for rides around town in it. His speech was broken most of the time but he could still find the words to say “This is fun!” and patting me on the back as he was being driven around in his car. I ended up labeling the switches and lights on the dash with a paint marker since I was the one driving Dad around. I had a hard time remembering what everything did!
His health continued to decline and mom could no longer take care of him so Dad came to live with us. We brought his Messerschmitt down to our home and kept it in the garage so he could see it. By this time, Dad was wheelchair bound and I wheeled him over to the garage door and opened it. I had hoped o see that big smile on his face as he once again saw his little “Kabinroller”. It didn’t come. He didn’t recognize it. What an awful thing to have happen to your mind. Dad passed away a few months later. It’s been almost a year since his passing and it is time to let someone else enjoy this little jewel.