Unknown Hero

I’ve been travelling with work so here’s a blog inspired by the book I took to read on the plane..  You have to focus on the positives where you can.

If I look at the obsessions which dominated the first 20 years of my life, the list goes something like this; racing model aircraft, karting, and helping out at motorcycle meetings.  (Studying is notably absent from this list; a point I try to hide from my son as he takes his A-Levels.) At the heart of those obsessions is one piece of technology.  The two stroke engine.  But not just the two stroke; the two stroke equipped with an expansion chamber exhaust. When my Dad bought a BBC Micro computer home most people my age would have started gaming.  I wrote a program to design two stroke exhausts. Woe betide anyone who told me that two strokes were simple…


And at the time I had a two stroke tuning hero, but more of him later.

A story on the Motorsport website about Frank and Rita Perris contained a reference to Stealing Speed by Matt Oxley, who also wrote the article;  I found myself reading it as we waited for the flight to Boston. I’d finished it before the return flight took off.

So the long and the short of it is that I possibly had a vague recollection of the name Walter Kaaden. I’m possibly being too kind to myself here.  Whatever, I would have been pushed to tell you what he did.  What he did was invent the rotary induction valve, the boost port (sometimes called a TT port.. mm…might have an idea why now)  and critically the expansion chamber exhaust. Pretty much a description of a racing two stroke engine, whatever its scale or application.  Here is a man who should have been my hero throughout the late 70’s and 80’s and I couldn’t even recall his name with any certainty. The picture is put in even sharper focus for me. Kaaden’s theories on resonance were developed whilst he worked at Peenemude in the 40’s, and one thing Oxley is wrong about in his book, is that at least one wannabe Kaaden in the 80’s had heard of the place.


But Walter Kaaden was East German.  And whilst the cold war was still a real and present part of everyone’s lives it was incredibly unlikely that we’d have thought much about him, as I, and many of my friends, lovingly fettled engines which were based, almost entirely, on his pioneering work.  So to the hero I did have.  Dr Joe Ehrlich.  The man who had legendarily got 84hp from a 250 in the 80’s. Boss of the EMC company, which also made racing cars. The man who supplied Kaaden with many of the components he needed to make his MZ’s the unlikely world beaters they were. A man Kaaden called “the charlatan”.  My immediate reaction was to replace one hero with another.  But in 1984 when the 84hp 250 ran, Kaaden was already in retirement and behind the iron curtain.  So I need to think about that one..

All this has fired up my interest in 2 strokes again, although designing and building a 2 stroke engine has never been far from the top of the to do list. And now I’ve discovered that there is a 50cc racing scene, and somebody made a 50cc 4!!!  Just what I need, another obsession returning.








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