The arduous journey of a 1952 Horex Regina 350 single.
1952 Horex Regina 350
Engine: 342cc air-cooled OHV single, 69mm x 91.5mm bore and stroke, 6.35:1 compression ratio, 18hp @ 5,000rpm
Top speed: 70mph solo, 56mph with sidecar (claimed)
Carburetion: Single Bing 2/26/23 or Amal 25 C2A
Electrics: 6v, coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Spine frame, single downtube w/engine as stressed member/54.7in (1,390mm)
Suspension: Telescopic forks front, dual plunger rear
Tires: solo: 3.25 x 19in front, 3.50 x 19in rear
Weight (dry): 319lb (145kg)
Seat height: 30in (760mm)
Fuel Capacity/MPG: 4.75gal (18ltr)/60mpg
Price then/now: $258 (used/1953)/$3,500-$5,000 (est.)
In 1953, while serving with the U.S. Army in Germany, Private First Class Victor Costanzo laid eyes on a 1952 Horex Regina 350 single. The bike’s tight lines and the throaty growl from its twin-pipe head were something he had never experienced before. “I was just in awe of the bike,” Victor says.
“I was riding a DKW because I was designated to ride motorcycles for the U.S. military,” Victor continues. “I always had someone ride with me because the DKW was unreliable and I wasn’t sure if I would make it back,” he says, laughing.
According to the German dealer, an American GI had paid a deposit on the Horex, but never returned to complete his purchase and pick up the bike. After seeing it, Victor knew he wasn’t returning to the U.S. without the Horex, which was factory modified with sport high pipes, a Denfeld seat, modified ignition system, a pumper carb, and sport handle bars. Two-hundred fifty-eight dollars changed hands, and the Horex was his. “I found the sensation and sound of it unique and difficult to describe,” Rex recalls. “On the Autobahn I had the needle pegged -- it really performed nicely and handled so well.”
Getting it home
In March of 1955 Victor received orders his military tour had concluded. Now a Corporal, he quickly began planning to ship the Horex to the U.S. “It was driven to the point of embarkation in Bremerhaven, where the army made plans to have it crated and shipped,” he recalls. One month later it arrived in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but Victor’s excitement was quickly deflated. “When I went to pick it up I found it lying on its side. The front fender was bent and there were dents in the gas tank, tool box, mufflers, exhaust pipes, headlight rim and ignition cover. Of course I yelled and screamed, which is not something I normally do.”
Additionally, the gas and oil hadn’t been drained prior to shipment. Even so, Victor was glad to have his bike, even if it was damaged, and takes the long view of the experience. “I got off easy compared to other motorcycles shipped on skids. I remember another bike was just dropped and all the people did was sweep the parts aside.”
Although Victor’s 350 Regina currently sits in pristine, restored condition, its arrival to the U.S. in 1955 was just part of its journey. Victor’s life moved on, first with marriage and then with children, and the bike took a backseat to his new priorities. Yet he wouldn’t part with the Horex and it stayed with him, following him whenever he moved, but always relegated to the garage. It wasn’t until 1989 – almost 35 years after he’d shipped it to the States – that Victor gave serious consideration to restoring the Horex.
The Regina rises
Victor’s son Gary sparked the idea as he began refining his own mechanical skills on various projects. The arduous task of bringing a machine back to life that has not seen the road since the mid-1950s can be a major undertaking for even the most seasoned mechanic, but Gary and Victor’s passion kept the project moving.
“It was a sorry sight from when I originally purchased it,” Victor recalls, describing the early stages of the restoration. “Cables were removed and sent to a company in California to be replaced, and we called a locksmith to open the damaged tool box and make new keys from the original blank we located.” Fixing the damaged bodywork was a major stumbling block. “It became frustrating when local body shops were reluctant to do metal work on it.”
Father and son decided to complete as much metal work as they could, but they hit a wall trying to restore the gas tank. “We could not get to the damaged areas with the tools we had. After a lot of investigation we went to Germany to have a gas tank made to the specifications of the original tank,” Victor says. That wasn’t the only trip to Germany to return the Horex to its former glory. “I’ve flown to Germany twice to get parts for it,” Victor adds. “It’s really the only way to get things done correctly.”
During the restoration, a machine shop owner in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., told Victor that the Horex had earned the nickname “death machine” from contemporary riders. “The owner was from Germany, and he told us they were called death machines as quite a few people were killed on them,” presumably because they were so fast. This was the first Victor had heard of that somber nickname, and it wouldn’t be the last.
As the restoration progressed, Victor was fortunate enough to learn that the engine required only minimal work. “We were fortunate the motor was not damaged beyond repair. The piston rings were replaced and we had the top part of the engine glass beaded and we powder coated the lower part. Due to being in storage so long the clutch plates stuck together, but that was resolved after a few days work,” Victor says.
Restoring the Regina 350, Gary was impressed with its engine. “Honestly, it’s pretty complex. If you look closely the motor doesn’t have gaskets, and it has such strong compression that it might kick you back when you go to start it,” he says.
Gary adds that the fully restored Horex is so rare appraisers struggled to come up with a value for it. “People have offered my dad $50,000 dollars. It’s just one of those things that’s really tough to value because there are so few of them out there to compare prices to, and not enough seems to be known to determine an accurate figure.”
Whenever Victor’s bike is shown it always draws a crowd of inquisitive admirers, but one experience while showing the Horex stands out. “We met a father and son who spent a considerable amount of time looking at it,” Victor recalls. “They were from Germany, and as our conversation continued the death machine name came up.” Victor was surprised to hear that moniker again, explaining that he’s never felt unsafe riding the Horex. Interestingly, the father advised him to never sell the Horex, but instead pass it along to his children.
Gary Costanzo says that’s not an issue, as the Horex will remain within the family.“I promised dad a long time ago that whatever happens, we’ll keep it. It’s just something that has brought us closer.” Victor chimes in: “I consider myself lucky to have such a beautiful machine. It really was worth all the effort. I‘m very proud of how my bike stands today.”
For a brief history of Horex and more on Horex today, click here.