Last week, as I browsed through Bring A Trailer, I was struck by an image. It drilled deep into my brain, embedding itself there as an icon. But this image was no piece of artful automotive photography, no vintage sign or poster up for auction. No, this was a vehicle itself: A 1957 Zündapp Bella.
Instantly enamored, I turned to Google. This must have just been some stellar color combination, paint and chrome and soft brown leather all combining to trick my eye into seeing beauty in a crude, artless object. But photo after photo bored into my eyes, until I was forced to face the truth: The Zündapp Bella is the prettiest scooter ever made.
Zündapp was once the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Germany, before its tragic fall in the eighties and eventual recent resurrection. It started in 1917, but the company’s postwar efforts are the ones that pique my interest — specifically, this beautiful scooter.
The Bella was produced for about a decade, from 1953 to 1964, and was imported to the U.S. by a third party, not Zündapp itself. It sold well enough, about 130,000 units, but newer technology eventually took over as the march of time pressed on. But the design, the look of this scooter, is timeless.
Look at that front fender, how low it dips behind the front wheel. The long, flat panels for driver and passenger to rest their weary legs as the Bella dutifully ferries them to their next task. The wide engine cowl, bulging out beneath a narrow seat. The proportions shouldn’t work, but they do, like an inverse uncanny valley.
I’m now searching for these on eBay, browsing Craigslist, hunting across the country on Facebook Marketplace. I have nowhere to put a scooter in my studio apartment, but I do not care. The Zündapp Bella is too gorgeous, too perfectly crafted, to remain forever out of my grasp. Someday, I will have it.