Zündapp was a major German motorcycle manufacturer. The company was founded in 1917 in Nuremberg by Fritz Neumeyer, together with the Friedrich Krupp AG and the machine tool manufacturer Thiel under the name "Zünder- und Apparatebau G.m.b.H." as a producer of detonators. In 1919, as the demand for weapons parts declined after the First World War, Neumeyer became the sole proprietor of the company and two years later, he diversified into the construction of motorcycles. The company folded in 1984.
The first Zündapp motorcycle was the model Z22 in 1921. This was the Motorrad für Jedermann ("motorcycle for everyone"), a simple and reliable design that was produced in large series. Zündapp's history of heavy motorcycles began in 1933 with the K-series. The "K" stands for "Kardanantrieb", i.e. enclosed driveshaft with two universal joints, the type of drivetrain that these models used. They introduced the enclosed engine case, a novelty at the time. The series encompassed models from 200 to 800 cc displacement and was a major success, increasing Zündapp's market share in Germany from 5% in 1931 to 18% in 1937.
From 1931 Ferdinand Porsche and Zündapp developed the prototype Auto für Jedermann ("car for everyone"), which was the first time the name "Volkswagen" was used. Porsche preferred the 4-cylinder flat engine, but Zündapp used a water-cooled 5 cylinder radial engine. In 1932 three prototypes were running. All three cars were lost during the war, the last in 1945 in Stuttgart during a bombing raid.
From 1936 to 1938 Zündapp produced the KKS500 model. This was the first Zündapp with a foot gearchange, and 170 examples were built. From 1940 onwards Zündapp produced more than 18,000 units of the KS750. This is a sidecar outfit with a driven side wheel and a locking differential, supplied to the German Wehrmacht.
After the Second World War the company gradually shifted to producing smaller machines, notably the "Bella" motor scooter, which was however a relatively heavy machine for its type. In 1951 Zündapp released the last of its heavy motorcycle models, but also one of its most famous: the KS601 (the "green elephant") with a 598 cc two cylinder engine. From 1957 to 1958 the company also produced the Zündapp Janus microcar.
In 1958 the company moved from Nuremberg to Munich. Subsequently, the company developed several new smaller models, discontinued the development of four-stroke engines and only produced two-stroke models. Initially, Zündapp scooters and mopeds sold well, but later sales declined and in 1984 the company went bankrupt and closed.
Zündapp models were taken over and built in the 1980s by Enfield India. Enfield India developed a link with Zündapp, and built a plant in Ranipet near Chennai in the 80’s to manufacture small, light weight two stroke two wheelers. Enfield India launched a slew of light weight machines. The 50 cc Silver Plus step-through and Explorer motorcycle and the Fury 175 and these bikes redefined the entry-level segment. The Fury with a five-speed gearbox came fitted with a hydraulic disc brake a first in the country.