Sunday, March 2, 2008

Maico disc brake conversion for the VW 1500

Aaron Britcher sent some photos of his very rare Maico disc brakes. Maico disc brake conversion kits for the VW 1500 were available for only a short time in the mid-1960s. Aaron is lucky enough to have two sets, one NOS and one completely restored. Some guys have all the luck!

NOS Maico VW 1500 brakes:

Restored Maico VW 1500 brakes:

There's not much information available on Maico brakes in English, but I found an article by Frank O. Hrachowy in the June 2005 issue of Automobilhistorische Nachrichten (Historic Automobile News, the newsletter of the Automobilhistorische Gesellschaft e.V., the Automobile Historical Society of Germany) which provides some enlightening information on the Maico story.

Better known as a motorcycle manufacturer, Maico realized they needed to develop other products to keep their facilities running during the seasonal downtime in motorcycle production. In 1962 the company acquired rights to a patent for a new disc brake system developed by OJR (Oswald Josef Rosamowski). This design, known as the "ring-type" disc brake, employed a flat ring at outer edge of the hub as the friction surface for the brake pads, in contrast to the now-common central brake rotor configuration. They were easy to assemble, lightweight, and inexpensive, potentially bringing the benefits of disc brakes, previously only seen on expensive sports and luxury cars, to a much wider audience. Sensing an opportunity, Maico made their VW 1200 conversion available to the public beginning in 1963.

In 1963 a VW 1200 with Maico disc brakes was tested by Auto, Motor und Sport, who, while impressed by the braking performance, wondered whether they were enough of an improvement over the standard VW drum brakes to be worthwhile. This opinion seemed to be shared by others who tested Maico brakes at the time as well.

[image courtesy of Automobilhistorische Gesellschaft e.V.]

By 1964 Maico brake conversions were available for the VW 1200 and 1500 (and respective Karmann-Ghias), the Porsche 356, and the Peugeot 404. Time was working against Maico, though, as disc brakes were fast becoming standard equipment on more and more cars, including the VW 1600 beginning in the fall of 1965. Ultimately Maico's disc brakes were a failure as a business venture, making them that much rarer and more desirable to vintage performance enthusiasts today.

Maico brakes were imported to the United States for a few years by Poly Pad Imports (seen here in Poly Pad's 1967 catalog, and in a press announcement here), and were also apparently distributed for a short time by EMPI. They seem to have been popular in Australia, maybe because the introduction of disc brakes to the VW line occurred later there than in Europe and the U.S.

In addition to Hrachowy's article in Automobilhistorische Nachrichten (a pdf of which can be downloaded here), information on Maico brakes can also be found in Auto, Motor und Sport (August 1963, viewable here), Gute Fahrt (July 1964), Foreign Car Guide (March 1964), and Hobby (June 19, 1963, the first part of which can be seen here).

Thanks again to Aaron for the photos.

1 comment:

toyota brake rotors said...

the photos are amazing, and the Maico disc brake conversion for the VW 1500 sound incredible and seriously, you are the only place i found more info on this, i saw this in a magazine.

Cheers & thanks,