Perhaps this story should be about the DKW RT 125. But I couldn’t find one, so it’ll have to be about the BSA Bantam, the British version of the German-made motorcycle from 1939 that became the most copied motorcycle in history. After WWII, the world was understandably ticked off with Germany, and the Allies (later, some of the Axis joined in as well) set about dismantling the German industrial framework, taking what they deemed as rightful reparations. Among the spoils of war was DKW and its RT 125 twostroke motorcycle which found itself dragged to Russia, Britain, Poland and the USA to be made by MMZ, BSA, WFM and Harley-Davidson respectively. In more ways than one, it went on to become the first massmarket motorcycle in the world.
There is no official number, but around 250,000 to 500,000 Bantams were produced in the UK. And if we’re to include all of its various reincarnations, that number easily goes up to more than a million. The Bantam itself has done it all and then some; it’s attempted to set land-speed records; it’s gone to trials races all over Europe; it’s screamed around the Isle of Man ridden by men wearing pudding-basin helmets with cigarettes dangling from their mouths; but its real test was probably being abused by hormone-brimmed teenaged messenger boys of the UK Post Office.
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By the time this limited-production high-performance version of Maj. Michael Jackson’s Teddy was photographed in early spring 1945 at Boxted, the 56th FG had been operating with Thunderbolts for almost three years. Initially constituted in November 1940 as the 56th Pursuit Group, with three Squadrons (61st, 62nd and 63rd) operating a mix of training aircraft and basing, they were posted in scattered locations in defense of New York City in early 1942. With the 63rd actually based at Republic’s Farmingdale factory, it was a natural for the 56th to be tapped to be the premier Thunderbolt unit in May 1942.