Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Münch Mammut-4 TTS-E

Wed, April 20th, 2011

1973–80 Münch Mammut-4 1200 TTS-E
The NSU car engine Friedel Münch built his bikes around was a remarkably motorcycle-like design. It was air-cooled, and while the original 1966 model displaced 1000cc, by the time he'd fitted analog fuel injection in 1973, the capacity had grown to 1.2 liters. Horsepower reached about 100, back when triple-digit horsepower was unheard of, and unlike a Kawasaki H2, that power was predictable and torquey, although there is very little flywheel. Top speeds could tickle 140 MPH, which was equally unheard of. That was then. Nowadays, you probably would be more impressed by any number of mid-sized sportbikes that put out equal power, are smoother, and weigh half as much.
The Mammut was always positioned as a Grand Tourer: stable and predictable at super-high speeds, but much too large, wide and ungainly to be a corner strafer, even by the early '70s comparatively lax standards. The problem was that it wasn't really all that stable at high speeds. There was a reason why larger manufacturers didn't build 750-lb. motorcycles back then—the chassis and suspension technology of the day just wasn't up to the task of managing that much mass. Today, a Mammut would probably scare you much more than a B-King. I, for one, never wish to learn what it feels like to slow 3/8th of a ton from 140 MPH with cable-operated drum brakes.
It looks like a teddy bear that was assimilated by the Borg. While the Mammut's proto-steampunk quality is sort of cool and endearing today, it's as sleek as a brick and as sexy as a punch in the face. The components are just too heavy, kludgy and mismatched to exude any elegance.
Despite an attention to build quality suited to its astronomical price, Herr Münch produced less than 500 bikes over a 14-year period, so every one could be considered a near prototype. The Mammut's specially made parts were designed to be as rugged as a cast-iron skillet, but they were as crude and low-tech, too. The air-cooled NSU mill at its core was never known for trouble-free durability.
Riding a Mammut on the road is like hunting coyotes with a 50 cal. machine gun—an exceedingly rare, expensive, irreplaceable, finicky one.
As a history museum exhibit or a piece of industrial sculpture, the Mammut is quintessential. Its days as a desirable road vehicle, however, have long since past.
Despite performance unmatched at its introduction, the Mammut was a bunch of disparate parts jury-rigged together; frankly, that shows through a whole lot more than it should.