Book Steeling Speed by Mat Oxley

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With my last post on the Suzuki Factory Racer, I dropped a little bit about Ernst Degner and his move to Suzuki from East German. A couple people commented on the fact he “stole” technology from designer Walter Kaaden. This is true, but there is also so much more. Steeling Speed by Mat Oxley is a great book tells the story of Walter Kaaden, his work on the V1 and V2 rockets during the World War and how he used those lessons and went Grand Prix Racing. Ernst Degner was a rider for Walter, and and engineer in his own right. But he was also a family man, and some one who sought fame and fortune. Degner stole the speed developed by Kaaden and took it with him to Suzuki.


During WWII, the German Army was firing some of the first rockets at England, and some of the engineers working on those rockets had motorcycle back grounds. One of those was Walter Kaaden who had worked for DKW, the worlds larges motorcycle manufacture at the time. Kaaden’s work on rockets during the war transferred to 2-stroke engine development after the war.


DKW was taken over by the government of East Germany, re-names MZ, but still had a racing department headed by Walter Kaaden and employed engineer/rider Ernst Degner. Walter Kaaden returned to the new East Germany, and right back into the the new MZ race department. With lessons learned during the war, the first development was the expansion chamber, then the rotary valve, and finally the boost port. These three developments behind the Iron Curtin first started showing up at the race track in the late 1950’s, and by 1960 MZ was starting to show its stuff to the rest of the world on the Grand Prix results list.

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Then in 1961 Earnst filled his suitcase with engine parts, and had a friend put his wife and child in the trunk of a car, and by different routes the family made it to Suzuki in Japan and the course of motorcycle history was changed. It didn’t end well for Ernst with a firery crash and its aftermath effecting him for his final years.


Mat Oxley rides a thrilling spy novel, one that is real. John le Carré meets Kevin Cameron. We highlight some great motorcycles here on CSBFS, ones that you can oogle at, but Steeling Speed is something that will help you understand how many of these motorcycles came to be. BB


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1 Response

  1. micky says:

    One thing I remember reading about somewhere was Kaaden/Degner “assault” on Daytona sometime in the 60s? Degner went to Fla while Kaaden stayed in E. Germany. There was problems with the bike that Degner couldn’t sort and some how a trans-atlantic call was made and Kaaden was able to understand the issues and give Ernst the solution. They we quite competitive. Not bad for sring and 2 dixie cups phone technology of the 60s.