The Mátra motorcycle, which was unveiled in Hungary just before the outbreak of the Second World War has been praised by The Motor Cycle magazine in the UK.
There were a couple of motorcycle manufacturers in Hungary before the second World War. Méray, a subsidiary of Magyar Acélárugyár (Hungarian Steel Goods Works) produced around 2000 motorcycles between 1923-1939 (not including the Méray-Puch which was a Puch with a Méray badge). The huge Weiss Manfréd conglomerate tried its hand with small motorised bicycles from 1931. But the Mátra was the first Hungarian motorcycle, which stood its ground against its contemporaries.
László Urbach (1904-1977) was a motorcycle racer, a multiple Hungarian champion and a respected dealer. In the mid-1930s when motorized bicycles (also called autocycles) gained popularity in Europe, thanks to such models as the DKW RT 100 and the NSU Quick. Urbach saw an opportunity. At first his intent was to obtain a licence and assemble a model in Hungary. But as the discussions went nowhere, he sat down and developed his own motorcycle.
The new motorcycle was unveiled in 1938 under the name Turul. But Turul was an oft-used symbol of Hungarian right wing nationalists, so he soon settled for the Mátra moniker, the name of a Hungarian hill.
The Mátra featured front telescopic forks, which was highly unusual for such a small motorcycle. 3 hp, 2-speed, 1-chain – the Mátra definitely followed its own beat. When German engine suppliers refused cooperation Urbach went on to build his own engine. Lights came from Bosch, carburetor from Garetzin, saddle from Drilastic, throttle speed lever from Magura. For 650 pengő the Mátra offered plenty of extra equipment (speedo, 9.8-litre fuel tank, luggage rack, rear lights) which was unavailable on any of the competitors.
For the 1939 season Urbach set up a Mátra racing team, which went on to beat the Weiss Manfréd team – which was quite a big deal. In 1939 The Motor Cycle, Das Motorrad and other magazines all featured the Mátra.
In 1940 came the second Mátra model with a bigger, 125 cc engine. At some races the Mátra 125 was on par with bigger, 200 cc motorcycles. No wonder Urbach had to set up a new, dedicated factory as the motorcycles were previously put together in the basement of his dealership.
In 1942 the Mátra works completed its 2000th bike. But the effects of the second World War was already felt. In 1944 Urbach was fired from his own company. All of his equipment was confiscated. His factory was bombed.
Undeterred, Urbach relaunched operations after 1945. But in 1949 his company was nationalised – as all private companies in Hungary. Urbach went on to design other scooters and mopeds for the Hungarian state.
Altogether around 4000 Mátra motorcycles were built.
(Source: Maróti Collection)