If any one company should take credit for the two-stroke engine’s complete dominance in Grand Prix racing from the mid 1970s to the early 2000s, it’s MZ. During the 1950s, MZ’s brilliant Walter Kaaden toiled to transform the smoky, workaday two-stroke into a highly competitive World Championship contender. That MZ almost won a World Championship but never did is one of sport’s great injustices. (In 1961, just as MZ’s Ernst Degner was poised to take the 1961 125cc title, Degner armed himself with Kaaden’s two-stroke secrets, defected from East Germany to the West and immediately handed Kaaden’s hard-earned knowledge to Suzuki. Degner subsequently won the following year’s 50cc World Championship riding a Kaaden rip-off Suzuki.) In the 1970s, effort was made to put the MZ name back on 125 GP-class map, and the resulting machine was unlike anything seen before. The bike’s single-cylinder 29hp 124cc two-stroke liquid-cooled engine (with air-cooled head) and 6-speed gearbox were straightforward enough, as were the magnesium drum brakes, Borrani wire wheels and conventional suspension. But the double-lattice steel-tube frame was very low and exceptionally narrow, and this, coupled with the fuel tank’s location in the huge aerodynamic seat hump, permitted a tiny frontal area as the rider could almost completely tuck inside the ‘dolphinesque’ bodywork.
Two Delfins fared reasonably well in the 1974 125 Czechoslovakian Championship, completing the season in fifth and seventh. The pair also entered the 125 GP at Brno, with one finishing in 21st, but in ’75 one rider crashed tragically and, at his father’s request, the Delfin’s chassis was literally cut to pieces. (The engine was sold.) The other rider, Karel Sedláček, continued racing, and in a Czech Championship round took the Delfin to its only victory in June that year. Although the example here continued to race into the 1980s, limited resources and the country’s growing political issues prevented further development. Believed to be one of only three or four Delfins ever built, this machine went to Italy during the 1990s and it’s been in the same collection there for the past 15 years.
Whether to draw crowds at classic meetings, or to hang on the wall as a work of art, the MZ Delfin is an extremely rare example of 1970s flair and technology by one of the world’s most legendary two-stroke makers.