Bizarre Bikes is an ongoing series that looks at history’s most unusual machines. The OCR 1000 was a weird motorbike that used the power of a car engine. This happened to be a Wankel rotary engine, designed by Felix Wankel. The strength of Wankel’s design turned the OCR 1000 from an average machine into a bonafide superbike. But how did it get made and what was the public reaction?
After it had been created, the Wankel rotary engine was touted as the future of the vehicle industry. Light, compact and powerful, the engine seemed like an ideal choice for motorbikes. Manufacturers developed plenty of rotary-engined motorbike prototypes, with one of the most well-known being the 1974 Suzuki RE-5. A Dutch importer called Henk van Veen looked to capitalise on the emerging technology.
He’d gained a reputation for his work in Grand Prix racing, though he wanted to expand into larger motorbikes. He started developing the OCR in the early 1970s, combining a Moto Guzzi V7 frame with a Mazda rotary engine. As companies were experimenting with new technology, people were open to trying something different. The OCR prototype was well-received and work began on making an advanced production model.
In 1973, Citroen and NSU had formed a partnership to create a liquid-cooled double-rotor engine called Comotor. The 996 cc engine pumped out 107 hp and weighed 200 lbs, making it ideal for the OCR. The motorbike was restyled and fitted with a Comotor. This resulted in a futuristic looking machine that had a huge, matte-finished engine block.
The OCR looked promising, but it soon became clear that it had problems. In addition to it being expensive, the motorbike was heavy, weighing around 700 lbs. The Comotor engine also suffered from various issues in the Van Veen and the car it was designed for. The GS Birotor sedan failed to make an impact and of the 874 produced, most were bought back by Citroen so they wouldn’t have to keep producing spare parts.
The Van Veen stopped being produced in 1981 and only 38 were made. However, a revival of sorts happened in 2011 when two Dutchmen, Andries Wielinga and Dirk Knip, had bought the tooling for the OCR. Reviews of the new model were positive, though it can be assumed the Van Veen was only intended to be a rare curiosity.
What began as an attempt to build the world’s greatest superbike became an exercise in futility. The Van Veen OCR 1000 can be admired for its technology and appearance, but it ultimately fell into obscurity.