By Gerry Frederics
Pronounced: EE-loh.

Unless one is a fan of German motorcycles, the name Ilo is probably meaningless; this is a shame, for Ilo was one of the world´s most successful motorcycle and stationary engine manufacturers. The company was founded in 1911 initially designing and building rail road switching machinery. In those years, Ilo railroad switching equipment was to be found all over Europe, especially the German-speaking world, the Balkans, Scandinavia and Eastern European countries.  During WW-1 they continued with this activity but also expanded their product line to include military hardware.

Their rail road machinery was patented until 1922 when they sold their rights to Krupp. It was then that they started to develop their own two-stroke power plants in order to tap into the emerging motorcycle and stationary engine market in Germany. In this effort they were hugely successful employing more and more technicians in their Pinneberg plant. The name is Esperanto and means `Good Tool´.

During the 1930´s more and more German and foreign – (Swedish, Dutch, Belgian and French) manufacturers were using their engines, thereby replacing the omnipresence of British manufacturers such s Villiers and J.A.P. Some of the builders using Ilo engines then were, Rixe, Göricke, Tornax, Hecker, Bücker, Bastert, UT, Hercules and a myriad of others. Most of these builders remained loyal to Ilo after the disastrous war which brought us Germans `democracy, freedom, rape, plunder and degradation´ on a scale heretofore unknown in world history.

The 200-cc single cylinder 2-stroke was also used to power a variety of industrial mini-trucks as well as three-wheeled mini-cars such as the Hercules.

In the 1930´s Ilo developed a myriad of power plants for a great variety of applications. Amongst those was a 665-cc 2-stroke Twin model P2-335 which came in three varieties, to whit an air-cooled 2-stroke Twin, a water-cooled 2-stroke Twin and a water-cooled 2-stroke Twin Diesel. It was this engine which was used later by Tempo to power their incredible dual-engine 4-wheel drive 4-wheel steering military super-jeep.* This engine was produced throughout the war years and was used in a plethora of different applications, mostly stationary ones.

*Almost all of these vehicles were sold to the Swedish Army.

Another great engine was the stationary 3-cylinder air cooled 2-stroke of 1.2 liters which was used in very heavy pumping applications; to this writer´s knowledge this latter engine was never used to power a vehicle even though it appears to have been ideal for an automobile.

The Tempo 4-wheel drive 4-wheel steering `Super-Jeep´ (my name for it) had one Ilo Twin 665-cc 2-stroke engine driving the front wheels and another one driving the rear wheels. Needless to say, the expenses of designing, testing and building such a complex piece of machinery precluded any mass manufacturing.

The Ilo plant was dismantled and stolen by the British in 1946, all of it being shipped to the largely vile, hostile, destroying and raping parasitic island nation masquerading as the saviors of mankind. This did not deter Ilo from re-starting as soon as they could. Initially, their engines were pre-war designs being snapped up hungrily by the re-emerging German motorcycle industry. The 125-cc engine was so solid and thermally so perfect it was installed in the micro-mini-car Kleinschnittger without forced-air cooling! Apropos Kleinschnittger, today in 2008 a British (of all people!) body-shop company is producing the ultimate Kleinschnittger of all times with a Renault-5 engine – and doing a bang-up job, to be sure!  

It was during those beginnings that Ilo designed and brought to market a remarkable little engine, the Ilo F-48. This was a single speed 48-cc machine with a horizontally positioned cylinder, mounted underneath the bicycle pedals and driving the rear wheel of the bike via a roller. This engine and the idea were tremendous since it gave the bike an extremely low center of gravity, did away with the need of a chain or belt drive, and was able to be disconnected from the wheel by a simply tilting it forward a smidgen via a cable operated from the steering bar. How long they built this little jewel I have been unable to determine, but Göricke as well as Dürkopp (see the photo under Dürkopp)  was one which used it on one of their Gentlemen´s Bikes for a couple of years. This engine was without a doubt the most simple, logical and fool-proof solution to the power-assisted bicycle ever invented, maybe even better than the Fichtel & Sachs Saxonette `In-the-Rear-Wheel´ design of 1936; this was so, because one could add it to any normally-framed bicycle (no heavy duty frame was necessary), stress factors not entering into the equation due to its location and manner of final drive.

By the year 1953, Ilo marketed the possibly most successful 2-stroke twin ever to grace a motor cycle frame - the Ilo 250-cc two-stroke Twin; it certainly was the most beloved and internationally respected one of them all, there cannot be any doubt. This engine was a gem. In order to speed up development without spending a fortune they did not have Ilo joined two of their trusty 125-cc power plants at the hip as it were, tuned the `couple´ to no end, added a great 4-speed transmission and voila - a new engine had been born. This engine was used in a plethora of motorcycles - great stuff all - in Germany as well as in Holland, France, Belgium and Sweden. The most successful Swedish motorcycle of all times, the Monark was powered by this Ilo Twin; the Monark was a world beater on the international Moto-Cross circuits and Reliability Trials of the 1950´s.  The Russian state-owned motorcycle manufacturer IZH copied this engine and used it for over 30 years (!) in their Planeta model.

It is claimed the South African Army Motorcycle Corps rode bikes powered by the Ilo Twin until well into the 1990´s attesting to the longevity and reliability of this amazing power plant. Efforts at confirmation have failed, because no one has bothered to answer my inquiries.

Alas, when the German motor cycle industry descended into the maelstrom, Ilo predictably suffered financially and was sold to American Rockwell Engineering who built snow mobile power units until late 1969. After that American Tecumseh bought the company in order to design and built industrial power plants, lawnmower engines and such. This business went on until on 31-12-1990, Tecumseh decided to pull the plug since there was an excess capacity of industrial engines on the market; what that meant is, that Chinese and other Asian imports, all of them designed according to patents stolen from Germany destroyed one of the oldest German engine manufacturers, a builder which had in its entire history done nothing but to produce superior, world-class industrial, motorcycle and stationary engines. There is something sick about governments which let their prime industries be destroyed by Asian usurpers. To paraphrase Shakespeare: `Something smells rotten in Germany´.

The amount of German manufacturers who used Ilo engines numbers in the multi-hundreds; there were in excess of 70 motorcycle manufacturers in the city of Bielefeld alone, many of which used Ilo engines. Ditto the city of Nürnberg. It must be noted here, that sometimes the demand for a particular bike was so strong, that there were not enough engines to go around, which is the reason many builders who were using Ilo engines normally also came out with machines powered by Fichtel & Sachs power plants; the reveres happened as well of course.

The following foreign industrial enterprises bought Ilo designed engines, ranging from the small 98-cc 2-stroke to the 250-cc 2-stroke Twin:

  1. Buydens of Holland
  2. Daventry of Holland
  3. DMF of Holland
  4. Flandria of Belgium
  5. FN of Belgium
  • FN was a time honored major non-German motorcycle manufacturer which had inspired General Guderian in the early 1930´s to form Motorcycle Attack and Scouting formations. It was in WW-1 that Guderian as a Lieutenant had been confronted by such Belgian troops and had been impressed by their effectiveness. FN had been a producer of large military-type motorbikes for many years, but had found it impossible to sell such machines in the1950´s. Hence they decided to try their luck with a smaller bike. The resultant motor bike was a fine machine, albeit the frame design borrowed heavily from the Tornax `Black Josephine´ and the engine was the Ilo twin. FN had obtained permission from Ilo to imprint their own name on the engine casings, much as Express had in Germany.
  1. Follis of France – also using a heavily Tornax-inspired frame design.
  2. Hoensen of Holland
  3. Monark of Sweden
  4. Sparta of Holland
  5. Superia of Belgium

As far as German manufacturers go, almost all of them used Ilo engines while at he same time using Fichtel & Sachs power plants, all depending on the model.  German automobile manufacturer Goliath used Ilo engines for their Pioneer Micro Car of 1931, some of their `Blitzkarren´ of 1925 using a DKW engine; in fact just about every German manufacturer used Ilo engines at one time or another.

Today in the year 2009, the South American country of Surinam is awash in motor bikes equipped with Fichtel & Sachs and Ilo engines. When asking the owners of these old machines, they will tell you, that the German engines and motor bikers were built to last, unlike the Japanese stuff which gives up its ghost after a few years of heavy-duty usage. DKW bikes are another German make one sees frequently in this South American country; another place in which one sees DKW´s of old even today is Greece.

There maybe others but I, not being omniscient, know of none.