Hirohata Merc Connection? 1956 DKW RT 200/3

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A lot of you may know the name Jim McNiel as the gentleman who bought the famous ’51 Hirohata Merc from a used car lot in 1959 for (are you sitting down?) $500, borrowed from his girlfriend’s father. He is reportedly the same person who owned and painted this 1956 DKW RT 200/3, according to the seller, who has it posted here on craigslist. It’s located in Altadena, California and they’re asking $2,000. Here is the original listing, and thanks to Pat L. for sending in this tip!

The seller says that this DKW RT 200 was customized in the late-1950s by Mr. McNiel, who purchased it in 1958 to make a desert racer out of it. His father’s name is on the title from 1958 as Jim was a minor at the time. The seat isn’t attached, and it supposedly had a Bates seat during its racing era, but now has a stock seat. I’d love to find that original Bates seat, although repops can be had today from several sources. It was converted into a “desert sled”, a purpose-built desert racing motorcycle, so the lights were removed and anything else that wasn’t absolutely necessary to finish the race.

Jim McNiel found the Hirohata Merc in a used car lot in 1959, and they were asking $750. He offered $500 ($5,100 today) and the rest is history. He totally restored the car in 1996 and it sold for $2,145,000 at a Mecum Auction a year ago. Sadly, Mr. McNeil passed away in 2018. The Hirohata Merc was created by Sam and George Barris in 1952, and I have to believe that this DKW – if it was actually created by Jim McNiel – is worth close to $2,000 even in its present condition. A German Drax helmet supposedly was painted to match the bike at the same time and comes with the sale.

Dampf-Kraft-Wagen (DKW) was founded in 1916 and tried to make a name for itself by making steam engines. When that didn’t work, they made a small engine, Des Knaben Wunsch (the boy’s desire), and a modified version made its way onto a bicycle, and the rest is history. In the 1930s, they were the biggest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. This example has Triumph front forks, according to the seller, and it was found in a garage in its current non-running condition.

The DKW 197-cc two-stroke, spiked-rib, single-cylinder has 11 horsepower and is backed up by a four-speed transmission. The seller says that it turns over but isn’t currently in running condition. Seeing that the Hirohata Merc was totally restored, seemingly without hurting its value, would you restore this bike or just get everything working and leave it as it looks now?

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  1. angliagt angliagtMember

    The backstory is interesting,but (to me) doesn’t
    make this worth any more money.

    Like 7
    • Frank Sumatra

      You got it. Stupid attempt at making a connection between an apple and an orange.

      Like 3
  2. Howard A. Howard AMember

    Years ago, motorcycles were like camper trailers, everybody got in on the act. This was a time, when didn’t matter what you rode or how you got it, just being on a bike was instant recognition. As mentioned on the Laverda post, Milwaukee was a tough sell for anything non-Harley. Small bikes seem to skirt that somehow, never posed any kind of threat. Something someone rode on their way up to a Harley, and since Harley had those dismal small Italian jobs, it was kind of okay. I think most people that rode these off road, are assuredly in a wheel chair by now. It looks like a stout frame, and someone, I bet, had a blast on this thing.
    Before we hear the “evils of motorcycling” rap, riding on the street is one thing, with unforeseen dangers around every curve, but dirt bike riding, it’s all you. You go down, that’s your fault. THIS? Probably best hanging from a ceiling in a man cave.

    Like 3
    • Gerard Frederick

      This is an abortion. The original DKW RT200 had one of the cleanest, smoothest engine housings on the market, what with the carburator and aircleamer fully enclosed in the engine housing. As far as reliability goes, there wasn´t another bike on the market which could match the entire DKW RT-line of bikes.

      Like 1
  3. TomD

    I’d offer him $500 that I borrowed from my girlfriend’s father.

    Like 3
  4. RKS

    Trying to connect this bike to the Hirohata Merc is like me trying to connect my car to AC/DC because I have an SG signed by Angus Young. It doesn’t work like that.

    Like 2

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