By Rob Arndt

Opel Neander conventional motorcycle upon which the Raketen Motorrad was based

From Opel Neander brochure

Opel Moto Club Poster



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The rocket racing enthusiast Fritz von Opel was certain of building a rocket motorcycle with which he intended to set a new absolute motorcycle world speed record in Freiberg.

Since early summer of 1928 the first Opel Moto Club of motorcycles had been founded, so Opel decided on a 500cc Neander SS (Super Sport) model as the basis of his proposed Raketen Motorrad (rocket motorcycle). With a strong 22 hp OHV (Overhead Valve) one cylinder motor Opel intended to accelerate the vehicle up to approximately 120 km/h (75 mph). Then, the six powder rockets attached to the rear fender (3 mounted on each side) with a combined total of 30 kg (66 lb) of thrust would gradually ignite with the help of a foot lever mechanism.

However, the record attempt did not take place as planned. The German authorities forbid the speed attempt of the rocket motorcycle for safety reasons, so that Opel only got to do some rehearsing and demonstration tests. The successes of Opelís four-wheeled rocket racing cars as well as a his light RAK-1 rocket plane ends the entireRaketen Motorrad project in 1929, when Opel withdraws himself from the project.

The Opel Neander motorcycle, however, still sold in Germany for a few years while rocket cycle racing continued with the Opel Moto Club under Otto Luhrs.

Technical Data:

Builder: Fritz von Opel

Motor: Opel 500ccm-OHV-Single Cylinder, 22 hp

Rockets: 6 Powder rockets with 5 kg thrust each

Rocket Specialist: Friedrich Sander, Bremerhaven

Motor Work: Gabel und Rahmen of Pressstahl

Motorcycle Height: 1.4 meters (4.62 ft)

Motor Work Leader: Ernst Neumann Neander

Motorcycle Weight: 180 kg (396 lbs) fully loaded

Max. Speed: over 200 km/hr (125 mph)

Year: 1928

Production: 1

Otto Luhrs of the Opel Moto Club with another Opel German rocket cycle

German automobile manufacturer Fritz von Opel tested his Opel-Rak I, the first rocket-powered automobile, in 1928. Opel-Rak I was an experimental modified racing car powered by a battery of Sander solid-propellant rockets used for life-line rescues at sea.
The final version of the Opel-Rak I employed 12 Sander rockets, after initial test runs using clusters of six and eight Sander rockets were completed. Although only seven of the 12 Sander rockets actually fired when the car was tested on April 12, 1928, the Opel-Rak I reached a maximum speed of 70 m.p.h.
This was followed by the Opel-Rak II, which was powered by a battery of 24 Sander rockets. The Opel-Rak II reached a maximum speed of 125 m.p.h. when it was tested on May 23, 1928.
The versatile Sander rockets were also used to support experiments on rocket-powered railway cars. The first railway test was conducted in June, 1928 on a track between Celle and Burgwedel, Germany. In this test, a cluster of 24 Sander rockets propelled a railway car to a maximum speed of 100 m.p.h.
Two follow-up rocket-powered railway car tests were conducted on a track between Blankenburg and Halberstadt, Germany. Specific results of these tests are unknown, with the exception that in the final run, a cluster of Sander rockets failed to move a heavier railway car.
Germans also developed the first rocket-powered aircraft, the Ente (Duck), a sailplane powered by two Sander rockets. An Ente flew a distance of three-quarters of a mile in just under one minute during a test flight on JJune 11, 1928. The test was conducted by the German glider group Rhon-Rossitten Gesellschaft.
Not to be out-done, the publicity-seeking Fritz von Opel piloted a glider powered by 16 Sander rockets on September 30, 1928. The glider reached a maximum speed of 95 m.p.h.
On January 22, 1929 Germans tested the first rocket-powered snow sled, called RS-1. Also powered by a cluster of Sander rockets, the sled glided along the snow on pontoons at a maximum speed of 65 m.p.h.