Meister 1949-56 Germany
Cycle maker Meister Fahdradwerke began motorcycle production in 1949 using Sachs and Ilo two-stroke engines, many with neat telescopic front forks and plunger style rear suspension. Later, a Zundapp-engined moped joined the range. The 98-197cc motorcycle range, designed by Alfred Osterag, was also marketed as the Mammut and Phanomen.
Meray 1921-44 Hungary
Well respected Budapest company who made a range of machines – from lightweights up to 1000cc V-twins – using mainly proprietary components including Villiers, JAP, Blackburne, Puch and Moto-Reve engines. Also built their own 346cc and 496cc single cylinder engines c1936-44 loosely based on British design. Works and private Merays ridden by Laszlo Erdely, Ferencz Meray, Bertalan Szoter and Josef Weber performed well in Hungarian and other central European races.
Towards the end of WWII, Meray, along with almost all of Hungarian industry, was nationalised and the brand disappeared. Since the break up of the Eastern Bloc, a number of Merays have appeared at European events and occasionally surface for sale at autojumbles.
Mercier 1950-62 France
Volume cycle manufacturer from Saint-Etienne, who built mopeds, mofas, autocycles, lightweight motorcycles and scooter-like machines after WWII using Sachs, VAP, Lavelette, Ydral and Villiers engines.
Mercury 1956-58 UK
Dudley based cycle maker who, in the early Fifties, built sturdy cycles suitable for the attachment of cyclemotor units. They also built mopeds, lightweight motorcycles and scooters using British made Villiers and European proprietary engines. Models included the Dolphin, Pippin and Hermes scooter. Surprising numbers survive.
Merkel 1902-15 USA
Motorcycle production by the Light Manufacturing Co, Pottstown, Ohio began c1901/02. In 1909, Joe Merkel joined the company and designed an advanced, visually distinctive, orange coloured motorcycle. Launched as the Merkel Light, it subsequently became the Flying Merkel and boasted telescopic front fork action, monoshock rear suspension and 990cc ioe 45 degree V-twin. Survivors exist, including here in Europe, but are expensive.
Meteor 1949-54 France
Not to be confused with German and Czech brands of the same name. This maker from Mandeure built a range of up to 175cc lightweights, occasional examples of which can be bought at French autojumbles. Some sources spell the marque’s name Meteore.
Meteora 1953-66 Italy
Initially made NSU-engined mopeds and FBM-engined lightweights. Later, they switched to 49cc Morini powered mopeds and trail type machines.
Metisse 1962- UK
Sons of a Hampshire garage proprietor, Southampton Saints speedway rider (and later haulier), Derek and Don Rickman served apprenticeships before joining their mother who had run the family garage after their father’s death. Proving their worth on privately owned BSA Gold Stars, they gained works Royal Enfield rides. The garage business was swapped for a motorcycle shop and the brothers returned to their Goldies and international competition.
The Beezer singles were becoming outclassed in 1958 by lighter European rivals leading the brothers to build their first specials, comprising Triumph twin engines housed in BSA duplex frames with BSA gearboxes and Norton forks.
The Metisse (mongrel) was born and its winning ways began. Refined over the next few years with bodywork by Doug Michenall (Avon Fairings) and, by 1961, the Rickmans’ own nickel plated frame built from Reynolds 531 tubing. The elegantly styled scrambler had the opposition beaten in the paddock long before the accomplished brothers led on the track.
Soon, budding rivals wanted some of the action and orders rolled in. But the brothers were riders and shop owners not manufacturers. They tried, without success, to interest mainstream makers with their designs and, in 1962, Rickman Bros Ltd was established and the Metisse MkIII chassis, built to accept the Triumph twin and, later, the Matchless single cylinder engine, was in production.
Many customers fitted their own engine choices to Metisse chassis and the Rickmans built smaller 250cc Bultaco-engined versions too. During the mid-Sixties, Herbert Evemy joined the brothers in business with a cash injection that assisted continual development.
The Rickmans’ interest encompassed road racing too, leading to the introduction of the racing chassis, the first volume production racer to sport a disc front brake (Lockheed). At the 1966 Racing and Sporting Motorcycle Show, they displayed a Triumph-engined racing chassis with full road equipment and, of course, a disc front brake.
Further developments included an eight-valve Triumph cylinder head, developed in conjunction with Weslake, along with an appropriate cylinder block and the 125cc six speed Zundapp-engined Rickman Six Days model. Honda and Kawasaki power later replaced Triumph and machines were tailored for service use too.
The Rickmans moved into motorcycle accessories, car and camper van kit manufacture, BMX cycles and even complete car building. Although the Rickmans are no longer involved, Metisse frames are still in production. Period Metisse machines are eagerly sought today by those who appreciate the frame design. Some may have ‘owner’s choice’ engines installed, but then Karl Hoppe put a Fath four into a Metisse racer frame for his 1969 GP challenge, so why not?
Metro/Metro-Tyler 1912-19 and 1919-23 UK
Metro Manufacturing and Engineering Co of Birmingham built 269cc Villiers-powered lightweights. Tyler Apparatus Co Ltd of London bought the ailing company in 1919, moving production to Banister Road, Kilburn Lane W10. Continuing with lightweights, the firm then used Liberty two-stroke engines, adding Blackburne V-twin four-stroke power to the range in 1921. A moderate number of vintage two-stroke lightweights survive.
MGF 1923-31 Germany
Quantity maker of under 200cc ultra-lightweights, who supplied proprietary engines to others.
Michaelson 1910-15 USA
Sound 500cc single and 1000cc V-twin overhead inlet over side exhaust valve singles. Highly prized.
Miele c1933-39 and 1950-62 Germany
Cycle manufacturers founded by Carl Miele and Reinhard Zinkann in 1899. Diversified into many fields including motorcycles, first with 73/98cc Sachs-engines fitted to sturdy cycles, then after 1950, a range of Sachs engined lightweights. Although never made in vast numbers, survivors of these well made machines turn up at Continental autojumbles. Good spares availability in Germany for Sachs engine parts.
Milani 1970-81 Italy
Small firm from Cesena who built Minarelli-engined 49-125cc lightweights, mostly off-road models. High proportion of output exported to America.
Militaire/Militor 1912-17 and 1917-c1922 USA
One assumes with an eye on the US military market, NR Sinclair planned to start production of a side-valve single cylinder friction drive motorcycle with underslung car style chassis, wooden artillery wheels, steering wheel and a pair of outrigger wheels. Whether it ever went into production is unclear, but in 1913 they offered a similar rolling chassis sporting an in-line four cylinder engine coupled to a car-type gearbox (with reverse) and handlebars in place of the steering wheel.
Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Sinclair planned 1000 machines per year. Production problems and extensive guarantee work limited the likely tally to under 100 machines before bankruptcy. With further backing, Militaire production restarted at Buffalo, New York State with what appeared a better product. Bankrupt again in 1917, Sinclair secured more backing and restarted in Jersey City, New Jersey; the machine being renamed the Militor. Despite proving far too heavy in US military trials, a few models with sidecars were shipped to France in 1918, where the American Expeditionary Force duly found them far too heavy for the muddy terrain.
By 1920, Militor had moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and Sinclair established a UK concessionaire – London and Midland Motors, 445 Oxford Street, London. Further re-organisation led to the Sinclair Militor Corporation, with machine manufacture by the Bullard Machine Tool Co.
Unfortunately, quality control slipped and the model suffered claimed oiling problems. By 1922, Militor production had ended for good. Survivors are expensive.
Miller-Balsamo 1921-59 Italy
Brothers Edgardo, Ernesto and Mario Balsamo established their business in Milan to manufacture utility and high performance motorcycles. They built up a range of 123cc two-stroke to 498cc ohv motorcycles, often powered by proprietary engines including Swiss Moser and British Rudge units. The 174cc Moser-engined single became famous in Italy, both as a roadster and racer. Machines based on this model established a string of 175cc class world speed records at Monza (1928-32) ridden by Carlo Fumagalli, H Manetti and Gino Zanchetta. These three, along with Silvio Vailati and Aldo Pigorini, enjoyed much national success too.
During the mid-Thirties, a 98cc Sachs engined lightweight joined their range and, in 1938, a 246cc ohc single with an engine of their own design appeared, followed by a 200cc two-stroke with fully enclosed engine.
After WWII, production restarted with 123-246cc two-strokes and a 246cc four-stroke. Briefly, Miller-Balsamo re-introduced a 499cc ohv single based on pre-war design and then later a 160cc ohc model and finally 49cc ultra lightweights.
Once one of Italy’s successful marques, their sound post WWII machines didn’t sparkle quite so brightly. Spares will be a struggle, but these special machines are worth the effort.
Minarelli 1957- Italy
Leading Italian two-stroke engine makers who also built complete racing motorcycles for factory sponsored riders, but never went into series production as a motorcycle maker. In addition to moped and commuter motorcycle engines, Minarelli units intended for competition use can be tuned further by specialists.
Minerva 1900-09 and 1953-c1955 Belgium
Sylvain de Jong established his Antwerp cycle making workshop in 1897. By 1899, he’d moved to larger premises at Rue Biart on the edge of the city, developed business links with De-Dion Bouton and built an experimental car. Then he bought a small 211cc automatic inlet valve single cylinder engine from Zurcher and Luthi, Belgian engineers. Under licence, de Jong began building these ZL units and, a year later, was offering complete motorcycles comprising one of these engines clipped to a sturdy cycle with direct belt drive to the rear wheel. In a clever business move Sylvain also offered Minerva kits, comprising engine, fuel tank, ignition kit and detail fittings, to other makers, enabling would-be motorcycle makers to produce complete machines, without having to source all the parts from different suppliers.
Sales of Minerva engines and compete kits were handled in the UK by David Citroen at 45 Holborn Viaduct, London. Impressed, de Jong formed a partnership with Citroen called Minerva Motors Ltd with sales offices at 40 Holborn Viaduct and a service depot in nearby Farringdon Road. At one time, Minerva boasted they supplied engines to over 75 motorcycle makers across Europe and much of this success was down to David Citroen. Keen to develop the range, options of larger engine capacities were offered. Diversifying, de Jong built a Panhard styled prototype car in 1902 which led to quantity car production of two, three and four cylinder cars of 1600-3200cc and the tiny 633cc Minervette by 1904. In 1903, they found a way round the Werner patent enabling them to move the engine to what was to become the conventional motorcycle position. Single cylinder models of up to 3.5hp were offered, then a 7hp racing V-twin and a 4.5hp V-twin roadster. In 1908 the Antwerp factory adopted their own leaf spring controlled front fork.
Minerva enjoyed racing success, especially on cycle tracks as well as in trials events across Europe, led by works rider Jan Olieslagers, who also held the one mile world speed record in 1905 and 1907. Almost as quickly as Minerva appeared on the motorcycle scene, they were gone. For 1909, they offered only the previous year’s models and then concentrated on their automotive business, abandoning motorcycle manufacture.
Well known for their quality cars which ended production in 1939, Minerva’s business suffered during WWII. They tried building commercial vehicles, the company was sold to Van Hauwaert of Brussels and they developed a 150cc scooter based on MV Agusta design. This scooter, along with a tri-scooter (two front wheels and two seats enclosed by bodywork) was unveiled at the Brussels show. A year later, they launched the 175cc Ilo engined Motoretta scooter before ending their days assembling Land Rovers from kits for the Belgian army.
Although the spares situation is almost non-existent, many competent engineers keep these once world leading veteran motorcycles going for all of us to admire.
Miniscoot 1959-62 France
Fold-up Manurhin pull start engined scooter by Old of Levallois.
Minneapolis c1900-1915 USA
Single and V-twin four-strokes, later models had two-speed gearbox in unit with engine and some had telescopic-type front forks. Also built three-wheeled delivery vehicles. Survivors are expensive.
Minsk (MMV-Z) 1951 -c1980 Russia
Initially utility 125cc single and 250cc twin cylinder two-stroke roadsters, but involved in other work under the communist design centre. In 1975 they launched an updated 125cc two-stroke engine which developed 12hp at 6000rpm for roadsters and off-road models. In the ether of Russian motorcycle manufacture the Minsk (MMV-Z) designs resurfaced under other names. Odd models were exported and/or escaped to the west and more freely in recent years.
Mistral 1902-c1963 France
Claimed to be a maker of lightweight machines before WWII then mopeds and up to 250cc motorcycles plus the supply of 49cc proprietary engines to others after WWII.
MI-Val 1950-67 Italy
Machine tool maker Metalimeccanica Italiana Valtrompia SpA, from Gardone Val Trompia, Brescia, began motorcycle manufacture with a 125cc two-stroke roadster which was soon offered in ISDT trim too. In 1954, they began building the German Messerschmitt Cabin Roller under licence, though with revised bodywork and a 172cc Mi-Val two-stroke engine in place of the familiar 191cc Sachs unit.
Launching an ohv 125cc five-speed machine in 1955, the first roadster equipped with five gears, MI-Val set a new trend of advanced design. A 175cc version followed, then dohc 250/350/500cc singles with either five or six gears, and up to 500cc scramblers. During the mid-Sixties, MI-Val cut back their range to mopeds and predominately under 200cc motorcycles. In 1967, they dropped motorcycle manufacture in favour of their machine tool business.
Miyata 1909-1964 Japan
Early models, many in prototype form only, were basic, while later examples were based on British designs. Engines included 249cc side-valve and ohv singles, joined after WWII by 496cc parallel twins and a 125cc two-stroke, designed by a team who’d had a good look at the DKW first. Miyata were linked to Asahi. Although never imported into Europe, odd examples have recently found their way here.
MM 1906-c1915 USA
I’ve never heard of survivors although there may be some, but have included them to avoid confusion with Italian MM. Early models had rearward facing, single cylinder Thomas engines, while later singles and V-twins are claimed to have used other proprietary engines, including Marsh and Pope.
MM 1924-57 Italy
Bologna marque founded by Alfonso Morini and Mario Mazzetti, along with Angelo Mattei, and Giuseppe Massi, who both soon left to be replaced by Antonio Salva. Production started with a two-speed unit construction 123cc forward facing horizontal two-stroke engine, which was soon followed by a 173cc version. Many were sold in racing form and a factory team was formed, with Morini becoming the first works rider later joined by Amedeo Tigli. First major successes came in 1927, with a 125cc class win at the Italian GP and a new FIM world record in September 1927, as Morini covered 100km at 100.23kph at Monza, beating Tommy Meeten’s record by almost 20kph.
Due to a change in Italian licensing regulations, the 125cc class lost its appeal to an extent, leading MM to concentrate on the 175cc class, introducing an ohv model, soon followed by an ohc version with chain driven camshaft. Then came larger up to 500cc single cylinder models, some with side-valve engines.Despite the effects of the depression, MM continued with their racing programme focusing on the 175cc and 350cc classes with ohc 174cc and 344cc singles. On 1 December 1936, Luigi Bonazzi established new flying kilometre and flying mile 350cc class world records at 186.046kph (116.279mph) and 185.902kph (116.189mph) respectively on the autostrada near Florence, which stood until 1951 when it was smashed by Wilhelm Herz’s NSU record breaker. MM enjoyed much track success ridden by Bonazzi, joined at times by Dorino Serafini, Guglielmo Sandri – who also raced the same machine under the CM brand – and Michaele Mangione who became 1938 Italian 350cc champion on an MM.
In spite of Alfonso Morini’s departure in 1937 to found Moto Morini and the devastation his factory suffered during WWII allied bombing raids, Mazzetti heroically picked up the pieces after the war to restart MM production. First, came limited production of 350/500cc side-valve singles in 1947, then all new 247/347cc ohc singles which soon gained telescopic front fork and plunger rear suspension. Later models included a pretty 175cc ohc single and a 123cc two-stroke.
Although MM never returned to fielding works racers, they built a useful 247cc scrambler and in c1956 the 247cc Sport SS production racer, which was sold with lights. Spares can be a problem and some critics feel the post-WWII models aren’t a patch on pre-war examples.
Mochet 1950-55 France
Maker of Ydral proprietary engined 125/175cc motorcycles and three-wheeled commercial vehicles. Some Ydral spares can be found in France, while odd Mochets turn up at continental autojumbles.
Monarch 1919-21 UK
Basic 269cc Villiers and 293cc JAP engined lightweights built by R Walker and Son on the same production lines as Excelsior. A few Villiers-engined models survive.
Monarch 1955-62 Japan
Single cylinder ohv 350/500cc machines based on Norton design. Survivors have appeared in Europe.