6 January 1962 - Elefantentreffen

The 7th Elefantentreffen was held on 6 January 1962 and once again at the famous Nurburgring. But this time it was organised with the assistance of the Bundesverband des Motorradfahrer; aka BvdM (Federal Association of Motorcyclists), a German association founded in 1958 by Ernst Leverkus and Werner Renkewitz, its initial aim being to support and strengthen the rights of motorcyclists.

It's difficult to know the exact number of bikers who took part in this 7th meeting, either on the 'ring' itself or in the village of Eiffel that day, it's reckoned there were more than 2000!

Elefantentreffen 1962 - The fog was there, but the snow was absent

The organisation counted between 800 and 1000 machines, and by 7pm on that Saturday, the 2000 small rubber elephants, advertising gifts from Metzeler, had all been distributed to rallyists.

This 1962 meeting had nothing like the snowfall of the previous year, 1961; snow being a key part of the success of the Elefantentreffen. While most of southern Germany lay under heavy snow and traffic was paralysed by thick fog, the Eiffel region that January 62 had been spared. It was certainly cold, the road was indeed slippery, the fog was all around, but the snow was absent.

Elefantentreffen 1962 - In front of the stands

British rallyists defeated the ice to attend

Ice and snow, on the other hand, was in abundance in England and Klacks had received a telegram from the English contingent:

Very thick fog! Snow, ice, all roads closed! The boat for Ostend is not leaving! We are waiting but we might not be able to join you!

But Klacks had confidence in the Brits winning temperament and willingness to overcome bad weather obstacles. He made the decision not to cancel their hotel reservations and as it happened was right not to do so. On Saturday around noon Peter Fraser finally arrived at the 'ring', astride a Velocette Venom 500, dressed in a black Barbour and rubberised coat, his face dirty and drawn. With him were two friends on a BSA Goldstar 500 outfit.

Peter Fraser is one of the very first Englishmen to attend the Elefantentreffen, in 1961 and is credited with the idea of creating in Great Britain a winter gathering similar to the Elefantentreffen. This meeting will become the famous Dragon Rally.

Elefantentreffen 1962 - One of the Harley-Davidson outfits

Many speed racers came to the 'ring' to take part: Max Deubel, Rudolf Glaser, Lothar Bottcher, Toni Schmitz, and Manfred Horing.

Boensch, the technical director of BMW, was also present, as was Friedel Munch presenting a new bespoke machine. Max Klankermeier, the oldest German sidecar champion was there too on his BMW R60.

Elefantentreffen 1962 - More HD

Robert Sexé (1890-1986)

The only major absentee for that 1962 meeting was the legendary Robert Sexé who sent his apologies by telegram to Klacks.

For those who may not be familiar with the name of Robert Sexé, he's thought to be the inspiration for the famous and well-loved comic character Tintin created by the Belgian cartoonist Herge. Herge almost certainly closely followed the accounts of Robert's travels and adventures around the world because they were published extensively in Belgian newspapers. Interestingly Robert Sexé's journeys were made in exactly the same order as Tintin's first three books.

{See the footnote from Philippe ('Lolo') Lorigne.)

Robert Sexé (right) with Henri Andrieux (left) in 1926 travelled 35,000 kilometres (22,000 mi) around the world on Gillet Herstal motorcycles. They were the first in France to do the world tour on motorcycles via Vladivostok. They left Paris on 14 June and ended their trip in Brussels on 3 December. 

A European fair for 'do-it-yourself' motorbikes

This meeting was in effect a European fair for 'do-it-yourself' motorbikes and there was a great deal to see.

Elefantentreffen 1962 -There was a great deal to see

Bespoke mechanical builds were very much in evidence such as this 4 cylinder Renault 4 CV engine mounted into a BMW frame. Or that of a Dutchman who mounted a Mercedes hydraulic shock absorber between his sidecar and the front fork of his BMW.

Elefantentreffen 1962 - Two beauties at the Nurburgring

The traditional lap of honour was cancelled

Due to the slippery conditions prevailing at the circuit, the programme was once again reduced to the essentials and the traditional lap of honour was cancelled, but the ceremony paying homage to racers who had died always took place.

After a touching speech by Klacks, a few small fires were lit in memory of Dickie Dale and Alfred Wohlgemuth, who had both died the same weekend in 1961 at the Nurburgring, after crashing during the 'Eifelrennen' race.

German sidecar passenger Alfred Wohlgemuth and English road racer Dickie Dale

On Sunday morning, Manfred Dorr, the 'biker vicar' held a mass in the woods. In his sermon he spoke of those who claimed that motorcycling was immoral and afterwards the presentation of the most beautiful motorcycles took place, closely followed by the start of the farewells.

The date for the next Elefantentreffen was set for 5 January 1963.

- Jean-Francois Helias

Start of quotation Thank you for paying homage to our legendary Robert Sexé in your superb Elephants of yesteryear reports. I know that like us, you have total respect for the man and the great motorcyclist that he was.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the then members of our Bitazelles Motor's Club, were frequent visitors to his home in Saint Benoit which he greatly appreciated. Apart from foreign motorcyclists, mainly German, he seldom had any other visitors.

Bernard Sireau (Mouton), far left holding his helmet, and Philippe Lorigne (Lolo) wearing helmet, two eminent members of Bitazelles MC founded in 1970, guide the visit to Robert's home, in October 2011

In our group, there were those who were familiar faces at the time: our president, the late Alain Barriere, the late Andre Gagnadoux (Dede), Jean-Noel Fourre (Max), Bernard Sireau (Mouton), and myself.

Robert offered us aperitifs, a house-made vermouth-style liqueur served in tiny glasses, which we were happy to share with him and his wife Rosie.

The commemorative plaque in homage to Robert, affixed on the facade of his house in Saint Benoit

Since his death, the town hall of Saint Benoit have affixed a commemorative plaque to the front of his house and in 2012 organised, (at the local abbey), a very touching exhibition dedicated to his motorcycling life.

A group of rallyists taking part in the Bitazelles rally 2011 came to pay their respect to the greatest French rallyist ever. (Roll mousewheel to zoom in.)

In 2011, during an invitation rally that we were organising, we once again, as a tribute, paid him a courtesy visit as a group, although he was sadly no longer with us. End of quotation

Philippe Lorigne (Lolo)
Vice Treasurer of the Bitazelles Motor's Club

If you'd like to know more of one of the greatest motorcyclists of all times, there's a website dedicated to the stories of his most extraordinary life.



aka Mouton aka Lolo