Oldest Example: 1955 Messerschmidt KR200

If you compiled at a list of everything that the American motoring public was looking for in their automobiles in 1955, then the Messerschmitt KR200 would have had the words “Not Applicable” beside most of those requirements. That does not for one moment mean that the KR200 was a bad car in any way. In fact, driving one of these would rate as one of the most enjoyable motoring experiences that a person can ever have. This particular 1955 model KR200 is the oldest example known to exist in the Netherlands, but don’t let that fact deter you. It is a solid car that is ready to be driven and enjoyed immediately. If you would like to give the Messerschmitt a new home, you will find it listed for sale here on Auto Scout24. The price is a bit vague, so I’m not sure if it is €45 (I doubt it) or €45,000. If it is the latter, that equates to around US$49,000. I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Tom Van S for referring a truly awesome classic through to us.

Following the cessation of hostilities in World War II, companies like Messerschmitt found themselves in a position where they were no longer permitted to produce planes of any description. For this company that was a potential body-blow, because aircraft production represented their bread-and-butter. As a result, the company collaborated with invalid scooter designer and manufacturer Fritz Fend to delve into the world of automobile manufacturing. Their first offering was the KR175, but many potential owners found the operation of that model to be confusing. In 1955, the (slightly) more conventional KR200 was released, and while it rolled on the previous model’s frame, it featured many upgrades to both the body and the mechanical components. One thing that didn’t change was the body width. The KR 200 is tiny, and some journalists have compared it rather harshly (and unfairly) with a bathtub on wheels. This particular KR200 might look a bit rough on the surface, but its issues seem to be purely of a cosmetic nature. Rust seems to be non-existent, while the wonderful canopy is in nice condition. The external trim looks quite good, and the KR200 wears the Messerschmitt badge proudly on its nose. This is an important factor because Messerschmitt sold its automobile manufacturing enterprise to Fend in 1956. From that moment onwards the KR200 wore the badges of “Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH Regensburg,” or FMR.

One of the areas where the KR200 made a leap forward (and backward, as you will see) is in the engine department. Where the KR175 featured an engine with a capacity of 173cc, the KR200 received the “big-block” unit with a capacity of 191cc. This air-cooled single-cylinder engine was produced by Fichtel & Sachs and pumped out a mind-numbing 9.9hp. However, with an overall vehicle weight of 507lbs, the KR200 could be wound up to a top speed of 65mph. The engine was mounted in the rear of the vehicle and drove through the single rear wheel via a 4-speed manual transmission that featured a sequential shifter. One of the greatest weaknesses of the KR175 was its lack of a reverse gear, and this was addressed by Messerschmitt in a rather unique way. The engine was equipped with two sets of ignition points, and with the ignition key in the correct position, the engine would actually fire-up and run in the reverse direction. This allowed the vehicle to utilize its forward gears to travel in reverse. Now, think about that for a moment. That gave the KR200 access to four reverse gears, and the theoretical ability to travel at 65mph backward. Great theory, but if the next owner is going to attempt this feat, I would rather be a spectator…from a safe distance. Braking was achieved by cable operation on all three wheels, while the suspension featured rubber cones and telescopic shock absorbers. When you combine that fact with the tiny (8″) wheels, the ride quality wasn’t ever going to threaten Cadillac. The good news here is that this little KR200 appears to be in very sound mechanical health. The owner says that it runs and drives well, and it would seem that it needs nothing in this area.

The KR200’s interior is showing some wear and tear, but it generally presents fairly well. There is some edge wear on the back of the driver’s seat, but the rest of the upholstery and the rubber floor mat looks to be in good condition. The Messerschmitt is strictly a tandem 2-seater, and that removes all of the potential confusion of left-hand drive versus right-hand drive because the driver sits dead center in the vehicle. Luggage space is confined to a shelf behind the rear seat, and early advertising literature also described this space as a suitable traveling location for a small infant…and I’m not joking about that. The painted surfaces inside the KR200 match those outside, which means that areas like the dash will require a repaint if they are to present to a high standard. Export versions of the KR200 were equipped with a few more luxuries than domestic offerings, meaning that this car receives a clock instead of a voltmeter, and it should also be equipped with a heater. There is no steering wheel as such, but a set of handlebars that are similar to those on a motorcycle. One aspect of of driving a Messerschmitt that takes some adapting to is the directness of the steering. This is about as direct as you will find on a go-kart. Sneeze mid-corner and you will find yourself heading to a new destination fairly quickly.

I’ve poked a bit of fun at this 1955 Messerschmitt KR200, but they are a fun car. These fulfilled an important niche in the automotive landscape when they were released because they represented affordable transport for the masses. Eventually, KR200 production amounted to more than 30,000 vehicles, but natural attrition has seen this number dwindle enormously. While they were designed to be affordable when new, the reduction in numbers, combined with cult status, means that these can command some serious money today. When new, they cost around $1,070, but today, you will struggle to find one for under $40,000. Pristine examples can fetch figures of twice that, and the earliest examples that wear the Messerschmitt badge instead of the FMR badge are the most coveted of all. So yes, this little classic isn’t cheap, but its price is well within the realm of what they sell for today. Even if you don’t buy this one, try to get behind the wheel and experience driving one for yourself. There’s a fair chance that you will find yourself laughing like a maniac. When life gets too serious, that is the sort of experience that we all need. Perhaps it might even be a good reason to justify parking this German classic in your driveway.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    My old man, who went through “The Big One”,, Dubja, Dubja 2, der, and he had a name for the airplanes that were shot down, they turned into a “mess of,,,,”. Anyway, Mike Wolfe went ape over one like this, paid I think $35g’s, and was in perfect condition, again, just a toy. And to think they want TWICE as much as that sweet ’65 GP. Crazy, I tell ya’. BTW, I had to chuckle, I think it’s a pounds symbol, and “Onderhandelbarr”, means,,,negotiable. I wonder where that came from, onderhandelbarr,,,

    Like 4
  2. Bmac777 Member

    I imagine that it gets mighty hot in that thing in the summer.

    Like 2
    • RayT Member

      It does get a little sweaty inside one….

      But boyoboy, is it a fun little beast to drive! In my experience (having just driven a BMW Isetta 300 a short time before), the Messerschmitt is as quick as anyone would want it to be, and wasn’t slowed much by the weight of a passenger, and the steering was easy to get used to. Didn’t ride too badly either, though certainly not as smoothly as, say a Cadillac.

      When the original price and purpose are considered, this is a pretty amazing little piece. And it would do just fine on the narrow streets of my town….

      Like 4
  3. Ralph

    This and the Isetta is one of those cars that the “Boomers and Pickers and Reality TV” have sort of ruined, they’re cool, but $50K for a scooter with a roof is kinda nuts considering these weren’t worth much for a long time, $50K will get you A LOT of car…..

    Like 7
  4. TimM

    Would be a hoot at cars and coffee for sure and not a bad grocery getter in the rain instead of taking the bike out!!!

  5. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    When I was child there was a guy who lived near me with several lock up garages behind my home filled front to back, floor to ceiling with these and more spare parts including much new old stock. He had several models, each in volume including a convertible/roadster which was really rare I recall. I often, 25 years later wonder what happened to him (he was in his 80’s back then) and all his cars and priceless spares. It must have taken an army to move it all.

    Like 4
    • UK Paul 🇬🇧

      I forgot to add a big number were BMW Isetta, again all different types/colours.

      Like 1
  6. Tempo Matador Ray

    Hey Adam,
    Nice job featuring the odd and unusual. Lots of interesting information provided. This is what captures my interest on this site. This truly is a fine original example of this tandem craft. The niche group of collectors know what this is. This canopied cockpit speaks of an era’s past…👍

    Like 4
  7. Kabinenroller

    This seems to me a very nice example, the louvers in the top of the engine cover indicate it to be an early 1955 model, the tu tone paint makes it a deluxe. I am interested in knowing the serial number, there is an unofficial registry for Messerschmitt’s that keeps a list of serial numbers and condition of them.
    As the owner of a 1955 KR200 and a 1957 KR201 I appreciate the originality of this example, it would make a good driver or an excellent candidate for a factory correct restoration. I hope it finds a good home.

    Like 3
  8. Matthias

    Howdy from Germany,
    back in the good ol’ days the nickname of this vehicle was ‘Menschen in Aspik’ –
    ‘People in Aspic’.

    Like 1
  9. Guggie 13

    I knew a guy that was stationed in Germany in the 60s claimed he bought one of these for $20 and a carton of smokes !!

  10. Big Mike

    That steering wheel!

  11. Vegas361

    Looks like a Swedish licensplate up front

  12. Martin Horrocks

    I remember inspecting a Messerschmitt at a car meet in the UK and being very impressed by the quality of the car. Everything was well-engineered and built with pride. If many people couldn´t get their head around the concept, it was obvious that this was the product of a serious industrial entity, reduced to desperate strategies to survive.

    The same was true of BMW, who took on the Iso Isetta design (ISO bing a fridge manufacturer in Italy, who later went back to cars with the Rivolta, Grifo, A3C etc), which they morphed into BMW 700 with styling by Michelotti that became the basis of the Neue Klasse and cornerstone of what BMW is today.

    And in Britain, we had Reliants, Bonds and all kinds of horrors, badly designed, terribly built and socially unacceptable. Something about losing the peace…..

    No-one yet has mentioned the Messerscmitt Tiger, a 500cc 4 wheel version which was a really quick car and did well in competition. Now very sought after and very, very expensive!

  13. Martin Horrocks

    Ref the confusion over pricing, no surprise that it is 45000 Euros (seems optimistic far a nicely preserved early example). The world is divided between countries which use “,” to distinguish thousands (10,000.50) and “.” to distiguish decimals. These tend to be countries with dominant Anglo-Saxon culture/influence.

    Others (Continental Europe and many more) differentiate in the opposite way, as does this advert from Holland. @Vegas361 is correct, licenseplate is Swedish, as is the tax disc in the original post.

  14. stephan

    I got one of these running, yes the crafty reverse points are so cool, the front suspension was of gocart nature as were the brakes, and yes they are toasty in the summer. The car owner, sadly he sold it, looked like Poppa Smurf when driving it. A car to cool for the people. would love to have it for the grocery store outings

  15. Roy Marson

    After graduating from college in 1963, I set off to Switzerland with $1K in my pocket. Using my Grandmothers home near Zurich as a base I decided to travel by Eurorail. But then a Messerschmidt caught my eye for $100 bucks. Luckily my parents arrived and my Uncle Joseph told my Dad that they were known as “rollers”. My Dad had ordered a VW Squareback and I was the preferred driver North thru Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway, France and finally Berlin which its East was still occupied by the Commies with a wall around to keep people IN.
    After 2 months they went home to the US and I went on to Italy Greece and Israel, once again on $1000 bucks. Then in Oct. I sailed home on the Queen Mary, visited Sis in Jersey and took a 5 Star Golden Eagle bus to Ca., flat broke.
    I do not know if I could have done all of that if I had bought the “roller”.

    Cheers!

  16. Fernando Abruna

    It’s a great driving machine from the Bubble Car era.
    Bought a 1956 with the same (probably most popular) color combination of those years, from the (now closed) Bruce Weiner Collection in Georgia. It is a blast to drive, ultra economical and a sauna in summer.
    Fernando Abruna
    San Juan, Puerto Rico

  17. Charles Gould

    These are great little cars, but lots of inaccuracies in the story.
    The KR175 did have a type of rundementary frame, but the KR200 did not, so the to models do not sit on the same frame.
    Also, only the very first KR175’s did not have a reverse gear. Most KR175’s had a reverse carrier gear mounted behind the gearbox, whereas the later KR200 models have the ability to run the two stroke engine backwards to attain reverse capabilities.
    We own several KR175 models and several KR200 models and even a TG500 Tiger four wheeled Messerschmitt and we have a few for sale here in the states if anyone is seriously intrested in acquiring a Messerschmitt to use here.

    Like 1
    • Fernando Abruna

      Charles Gould:
      Do you have any other microcars (Not Messerschmitt) for sale?
      Thanks,
      Fernando

  18. Tempo Matador Ray

    @Charles,
    Thanks for the information you provided. It’s always nice to hear from folks who have real experience vs. speculative commentary…

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