Posted on 23/09/2006 at 01:08

History and original condition

My IFA's origins :

I bought this beast on March 2001 to my neighbour (!).
This is an IFA, which is the East-German name of DKW : the iron curtain creation had splitted the production factory in two, and a trial took place to decide which part, East or West, would keep the DKW name. DKW, which was, with Horch, Audi and Wanderer, part of the Auto-Union group (Guess why the Audi's have a 4 rings logo today?).

So, in Eastern Germany, the brand name became "IFA". Not without a lot of difficulties, the factory's production continued, as the Russians left the country taking with them a part of the production line! They'll then reassemble it in Moscow, and will produce a rusian copy of the RT125 under the name "Moskva". So, my ride is Est-German, which makes it one of the rarest models of the RT125 production history!

This motorbike model is the most produced one ever, as its design became the Allies property after the war. So, you can find copies produced by Russia, France, and even USA with Harley-Davidson!
On the fuel tank and the rear mud-guard of my bike, you can read "DKW" : it has obviously been manually added, hand brushed. Most probably by the french importer ; in1954, right after the War, vehicles from East-Germany do not sell very well in France, so he prefered to see DKW appearring instead of IFA, for obvious marketing reasons! Plus, it appears that my bike was first sold, brand new, in 1954 in Nice (close from where I live), and its ID plate number is still its original one!

If you want to know more about DKW, the following site is very complete, proposing for download several technical documentations in PDF format :

Moreover, I would like to thank Kalevi Sundqvist, Finnish specialist of this model, for all his kind help!

Original condition :

So, here is the little bugger, as I found it in my building's basement.

First glance : battery and transmission chain are missing. Tires are pretty tired...

The chrome plating were redone recently (some parts have even been chrome plated but they originally weren't!) ; the paint is the original one, and looks nice, there's only the white pinstriping around the fuel tank and the mud guards which is faded out by time...

The electric wiring needs to be totally redone...
Anyway, 30 minutes later, I'm its new owner, for 2500 Francs (around 380 Euros)! :)

I definitely love it, its egoist's single saddle, its vintage Harley look...

Plus all those details, like the large chromed fuel cap, the fuel filter right below this same cap, the little tap with its glass filter, the strange contact key, the little chromed needle on the gearbox that indicates which gear is engaged, the fish tail chromed tip exhaust (looks pretty HD as well, uh?), the ID plate on the front mud guard, etc, etc...
I don't plan on making a full restoration on this beast, like I did on the Lambretta, I just want to put it back on wheels : 2 tires by security, a battery, a chain, an electric wiring ("wiring" is a too big word for those 10 cables anyway), overall cleaning, oil changing, and go!!
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Posted on 23/09/2006 at 01:11

Restarting the beast

Here we are, the papers are done, this bike officialy belongs to me! icone smiley smile
As a first step, I took it back home on my terrace... I already restored my Lambretta's engine on my terrace, my neighbors are used to this kind of stuff now!
Well, next time I'll think about emptying the gearbox before disassembling the left carter : half a liter of smelly oil on the tiling... icone smiley wink
First step, restoring the carburetor.
It is a 17mm Gurtner, finally in pretty good condition. A deep cleaning of each of its parts will be enough to give it a new youth...
This is a very rudimentary carbie, as there's not a single setting on it!! The starter is just a metallic plate to close the air intake, the only "setting" being the throttle cable tension, which arrives directly on the carbie.
A push button on the left forces the fuel intake by pushing on the float.
17mm for a 125cc... This thingy won't be a dragster!
The contact key goes into the small box fixed onto the carter, right below the saddle. It has 6 different possible positions : :
  1. Engine stopped, day light
  2. Engine stopped, by night (front light on thanks to the battery, to be seen on the side of the road)
  3. Engine running, day light
  4. Engine running, by night (low lights only)
  5. Engine running, by night (headlights)
  6. Engine starting with a flat battery or no battery.
Aren't those Germans good?? They already thought about a way to drive directly the current from the magneto to the coil to avoid being stuck on th road side...
I'm impressed... So many refinements on a 1954 bike...
Top picture : the electrical box insides. It's branded "I.K.A", and still contains the electrical wiring schema inside its top cover... But still in German, argh! icone smiley wink

ou can see the key inserted on the box's side... This box contains the key contact (top right), the high tension coil (top left), and a relay (bottom left), which looks like redressing the alternative tension delivered by the alternator.
On the top left, we've got the HT output (towards the spark plug), and the charging control lamp. This lamp must go off when the engine runs...

Two next pictures : deep cleaning of the fuel tap... Hard to get it fuel-tight!

Bottom picture : a little aesthetic thingy... As the electric wiring is visible on the frame, I did it with black wires only... But with only black wires back to the electric box, sounds like a nightmare! icone smiley laugh
So I painted (modeling paint) the last centimeter of each cable with a different color, while noting down each correspondence! From the aesthetic point of view, this is perfect, as once the box is close, we can't see anymore those painted tips...
Keep on disassembling! icone smiley smile
Top picture, the frame is still on wheels, but the engine is on the table in the background
Second picture, the frame is cleaned out, and the engine is back to its original place, but the wheels are gone...icone smiley wink
The last run!
The tires were pretty difficult to find, which put me late... Indeed, 19" tires are not that usual any longer!
Finally, this will be 3.00 X 19" (ref. D404F) 'made in Japan' Dunlop that will be mounted, with the main drawback to be higher than the original ones. So I had to make to aluminium small plates to raise the mud guard by 25mm, unless it did not work...

Originally, there were a small box for the battery... Unfortunately, I don't have it, so I made one out of plywood. Yeah, yeah, I know, plywood on such a machine sounds like a deadly sin, but I can't wait riding it! And at the end of the day, the result looks pretty cool after 2 black lacquer layers (see 3rd pic)...
Here it is, time for the first test drive!! I changed the clutch cable for a Teflon©-ized one (see local sports shop for mountain bikes cables). It's way more easy to use, mounting without grease... Enjoy!
I changed the transmission chain for a new one. I even managed to make the original horn working after 15 mounting/unmounting processes!!
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Posted on 23/09/2006 at 01:14


First drive test

The engine doesn't run smoothly, I feel like it has to much fuel... Plus, after 500 meters, the throttle cable breaks!! Argh, gotta push the beast back home...

I change the throttle cable for a Teflonized model... The "too much fuel" issue looks like coming from the needle valve on the carburetor that doesn't close correctly... With some patience and polishing paste, I adjust it, looks like it works... I reassemble it back.

Second drive test

The engine starts first kick, and runs smoothly... I'm a bit scared to go too far from home... but finally, everything goes fine!! I still have some gas leaking from the fuel tap, the speedometer cable that broke... But it runs fine, and I go for a fifty kilometers of pure pleasure cruising!
The beast is relatively comfy (well, gotta admit that after 1 hour driving on bad road, it becomes very relative! :-P). The gear selector is a bit delicate to use, but I got used to it quickly (I now understand the need for that needle indicating the selected gear on the gearbox!). Feels unstable at first try, but this is a false sensation due to the spring-mounted saddle and large diameter wheels...
Obviously, it doesn't drive fastly : given for 75km/h in 1954, but I don't think I drove faster than 60 or 65 km/h. Cruising speed only!
And the beast is a preu eye-catcher : people are either interested, curious, mocking, or envious, but everybody turn their head when it passes!

And voila! One more is back on the road... It deserves a new paint, but for now I want to drive it a few kilometers!! icone smiley smile
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Posted on 03/04/2007 at 13:51

DKW RT125 Handbook

Yet another manual on ShamWerks!

Technical data about the DKW/IFA RT125 being pretty hard to find (part from German stuff), I put online today a DKW RT 125 Care manual (date unknown, between 54 and 57)... Plus, it's in french! (Sorry, you English-speaking reader! icone smiley wink)

This is another discovery made on eBay... That I scan for you today, hopefully it could be useful to some others! (drop me a line if so!)
You can download the full manual at once as a Zip archive here : [download manual] (12 pages 990x706, 5.6Mo).
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Posted on 09/10/2008 at 16:48

Le Blog Moto : DKW RT125 article

The excellent website "Le Blog Moto" (The Moto Blog) has just released an article about the RT 125 the history of DKW. icone smiley wink

Have a look here : (the article is in french)

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