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The Horex Imperator (1954-1958)

Horex Imperator
ER Classics Desktop 2022

Horex as it existed from 1928 to 1956 was a company that built motorcycles of absolute top quality. Apart from the quality of Horex, that undeniable quality, Horex was still the brand of the late or wrong decisions. And that is and remains a shame.

During the twenties and thirties the engines became better and more sophisticated. Until the Second World War, Horex produced engines between the 250 cc and 1.000 cc. Horex was one of the few German motorcycle manufacturers that came from World War II almost without bombing damage. Thanks to the good relations with the Americans, Horex was the first German company to produce motorcycles again after the war. The rapid growth continued until it became a crisis in the motorcycle industry. From 1953 onwards, the bourgeoisie would rather opt for a car. The sales numbers decreased despite the motor improvements that were made to the Regina models. The Resident saw the light of day in 1955. This was a totally newly developed one-cylinder four-stroke machine that was made in an 250 and 350 cc version.


A year later, in 1956, the Horex Imperator was released, a 400 cc two-cylinder four-stroke with 30 hp, the absolute 'top of the bill'. The machines were made from 1954 to 1956, some sources report as early as early 58.

First 500 cc

The 400 cc Horex Imperators were already preceded by a small series of 500 cc Horex Imperators from 1950-1951. "The old Imperator was too heavy," said Ob. Ing. Rudolf Gunkel. He was instructed to make an Imperator 2.0. The newcomer weighed as much as his predecessor. But he had become less heavy: 400 - instead of 500 cc. The 409 cc engine supplied 26 hp. The new Horex Imperator had a front fork telescope and a swing arm suspension. And furthermore, for cost reasons, heavy reliance was placed on the construction set concept: the interchangeability of parts between the various models (the Regina's).

Such a Horex Imperator was in its time a machine that sanded at the bottom of the heavy market segment. It was an expensive, fast, dynamic touring motorcycle.

But what was more important: the Horex Imperators are the grandfathers of all Japanese multi-cylinders with a camshaft driven from the center of the crankshaft. Honda was the first to succeed with that patent (Patentschrift No. 893 875, Deutsches Patentamt)

In the aftermath as Zündapp

After the production of the Grüne Elefanten, Zündapp was no longer able to supply heavy engines to the States. The Zündapp importer Berliner quickly needed a 'heavy, fast' machine in its range. The Horex Imperator, enlarged to 450 cc, received a mild makeover and was shipped to the USA as a Zündapp Citation. However, the Americans quickly discovered that the new Zündapps were just Horexes. And the company that had the official Horex representation in the States was also not happy with the development. Zündapp

But the genes have been passed on

The great thing is that Horex '' Advantage in quality and technology 'has not remained without consequences. Because Horex inspired the Japanese brand Hosk. And that engine was again - via Showa - a source of inspiration for the guys at Yamaha who - in addition to their experience in building the six-cylinder engine for 'James Bond's Datsun 2000 GT - also benefited from Horex's genius. And so Yamaha's 'Daurerrenner', the XS650 series is a distant relative of the Horex Imperator.

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