What has two wheels, six rockets, and was built by an heir to a German automobile dynasty?
Fritz von Opel was the grandson to Adam Opel, and just like Zach Reynolds of Reynold’s Tobacco fame, Fritz decided to translate his wealth, and adrenaline addiction, into a series of monuments to his genius. Genius, that is, in both in commissioning rocket-powered vehicles and in the publicity they generated for the company. There were rocket cars, a rocket plane, and the little beaut above – von Opel’s rocket-powered motorcycle.
In 1928, von Opel modified an Opel Motorclub (which was a Neander SS, built under license, and a respectably sporty motorcycle) for his devious purposes to create the Raketen Motorrad, and left the conventional running gear intact so he could get the bike up to about 75 mph. At that point, the solid-fuel rockets that von Opel’s men had grafted onto the sides of the rear wheels kicked on via a foot lever, delivering a total of 66 ft-lbs of boost, allowing the little bike to reach a theoretical top speed of nearly 125 mph.
Unfortunately, the Weimar Republic’s government had enough to deal with, and they decided that a von Opel’s fiery death in a blaze of rocket-powered glory wasn’t good for anybody. Von Opel was forbidden to ride it, and lost interest in the project in 1929, focusing instead on rocket-powered airplanes and generally being awesome. So while the Raketen Motorrad never really got to show its full potential, we in the modern era have folks like Mr. Leno, who hopefully will realize someday soon he has to have one and make a video of it so we can all share in its glory. Until then, drool liberally.