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Wurst To First: 1976 Hercules W-2000 Wankel

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We all knew that Germans made some of the best bratwurst, but other than BMWs and DKWs, a lot of us probably don’t know a lot about the other motorcycles with a German heritage. This is one of them; it’s a classic, ground-breaking German bike and it’s located in Chicago, Illinois. It’s known as a 1976 Hercules W-2000 and it’s listed here on eBay with a current bid price of $2,100 and there are 6 days left on the auction. This rotary bike is calling your name, in sort of a whirring sound. This blue bomber has 8,550 miles on it and is said to run perfectly after being mechanically refurbished by the current owner; a rotary motorcycle collector. German companies have pushed the envelope so many times that we can’t expect everything they do to be a success, but these were such interesting bikes at the time and, actually, they still are today, maybe even more so than when they were new. With so few of them made they’re quite rare and collectible today.

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Class time: Hercules was the first company to offer a Wankel-powered motorcycle to the public. This thing looks like it would be a monster drag bike with that aircraft-looking turbine hanging from the frame, but in fact, it wasn’t that fast and was more of a commuter or cruiser bike than a speed demon. The motor hung a little low so it wasn’t real adept at taking sharp corners and with a 294cc single-rotor with 32hp (early models had 27 hp), it’s definitely not in the same class as similarly-sized motorcycles. But, there is no question that it’s about as cool-looking as it gets, at least it is to me.

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I’ve always wanted one of these, they’re just so unique. This engine was actually developed in 1968 by Sachs for use in snowmobiles and for other recreational uses as the RC1-18.5; no really! RC = rotating combustion, 1 stands for the number of rotors, and 18.5 is the displacement in cubic inches. Scorpion, Polaris, Skiroule, Alouette, Arctic Cat, and others, offered rotary engines from the late-60s through about the mid-70s. OMC came up with their own rotary engine and they, along with Arctic Cat, were the last to offer a rotary in a snowmobile. Class dismissed!

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There were fewer than 2,000 Hercules Wankel-powered motorcycles made over a four-year span from 1974 to 1977 before they halted production and the tooling was sold to Norton. No, not Ralph Kramden’s friend on The Honeymooners, Norton Motorcycle Company, who then had the basis for some rotary machines in their product line. Of course, Suzuki made their famous RE5, an absolutely gorgeous rotary-powered bike, as did Yamaha, and others.

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This is the air-cooled, 294cc, single-rotary cranker on this bike. In 1976 Hercules offered an oil-injection system for the first time which helped because these rotary engines are notorious for burning a bit more of the black gold than regular piston engines are. Supposedly, they only made 199 of these with oil injection so that makes this particular bike even rarer.

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These motorcycles were good for about 90 mph which is more than fast enough when you aren’t surrounded by airbags and when you are surrounded by bonehead, texting drivers on all sides. I really like these, but I like anything unusual. Is a rotary-powered motorcycle something that interests you or are you strictly a piston-pusher?


  1. JW454

    Nice looking bike. Only trouble is, for me, I’d look like an elephant riding a pony. The rotary engine is a unique idea but it must have some downsides as engine manufacturers haven’t embraced it as a viable replacement for pistons in nearly 50 years.

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    • Chris

      Very cool bike.

      Rotarys have terrible fuel consumption and the seals still do not last infinitely like a well maintained piston engine keeping them out of the mainstream. Excellent power output for their size and weight.

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  2. VetteDude

    Curious: as to collectibilty of this? Future value? If seller is a collector, why is he selling it (maybe I missed that part)? Is there a BuyItNow?
    BTW, I like it!

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  3. Dave Wright

    I saw these when new. There was (is) a high end shopping center in Mainz Kastel for GI’s in Germany. They had several shops selling quality stuff that you couldn’t buy at a normal Base Exchange. I bought Hasselblad and Linhof cameras there. They had a display of these, very cool scooters. I remember talking to the salesman, he wasn’t really high on them. They were wonderful when running but difficult to start and poor fuel economy. It seems they had a lot of warranty work for the dealer to deal with.

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  4. RayT Member

    Neat, but let me know when someone drags a Munch Mammut out of a barn and wants to flog it off. THAT would get my attention!

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  5. Duff6

    This has got “Jay Leno” written all over it!

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  6. jim s

    i think there was one of them on Ebay recently but it is no longer listed. i did send it in to this site but it did not get used, which happens. i did not save any information from the Ebay listing but you can check to see if maybe the BF site did. thanks

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    • jim s

      the them i was referring to was the Munch motorcycle.

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  7. Luki

    DKW? Naw.
    Zundapp. Yah.

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  8. Doc

    Not much of a motorcycle enthusiast after by brother wrecked my Kawi mach III 500. Didn’t know these rotary bikes existed! Man they must be smooth.


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  9. Mark Lewellen

    Norton bought the design from Hercules in the late 70’s and it was evolved into the Norton rotary motorcycle.

    I have played with an earlier Hercules and while visually interesting, they don’t have much value as a collector bike. The one that was local sold in 2011 for $2500 and was a red one that had less than 1900 miles on it.

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  10. Ian

    I am not a fan of rotarys on the whole but I do appreciate them as a design acheivment.I am a fan of motorcycles on the whole and a big fan of the unusual and the unique. This is all four. Where is my checkbook…

    Like 0

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