Motorkerékpárgyár - the history

Latest change: 19 July, 2004.
Created: December, 1995

This is just a very vague overview of the whole history. A book is out, called Méray - the story of the first Hungarian motorcycle factory. It is in Hungarian with English and German captions and German and English language summary. Please contact me if you'd like obtain a copy. Price is USD9.95 inc. shipping

Here You can read the history of the company and its leaders. You can see pictures about the various plants Méray occupied during its existence. About the Méray products the following pages are available in English:

- Motorcycles 1920-1927
- Motorcycles 1927-
- Passenger cars
- Commercial vehicles
- Technical specifications 1920-1944
- Adlers sold/repaired by Méray.

Ezeket az oldalakat immár magyarul is olvashatják.

Please take note that the Hungarian name orders are reserve than in the English, so it's not Joe Smith, but Smith Joe.

The Méray story is a story of two brothers: Méray-Horváth Lóránd and Endre. They were the first people in Hungary to create motorbikes in bigger quantities and their vehicles succeeded against the foreign makes. But the venture's biggest enemy, the economical crisis finally took its toll...
Méray-Horváth Lóránd in the mid '30s
Méray-Horváth Lóránd was born in Arad, back in 9 February, 1892.
(Arad is now a part of Romania, but then it belonged to Hungary).
The name, Méray-Horváth appeared during the XVI. century when a Croatian man from one of the Horváth families (Croatian means horvát in the Hungarian language, but in this case the name of the family was Horváth) chose his wife from the Méray family, located in Kassa (now part of the Czech Republic, but in those times it was one of the biggest cities in Hungary).
The name went through various twists, but the father of Lóránd, Károly (Charles in English) used the double name again.
Károly was a genius: he was: a professional sociologist, an engineer, an editor and a good father as well :-)
Lóránd (who wrote his name with the d at the end, in contrary to the contemporary magazines spelling with a t) never graduated in the University, because the 1st World War intervened.
Lóránd was infected with motorbikes from his youth. He spent most of his holidays in a small village, near Graz (Austria). He saw there lots of motorbikes and his father finally bought him one, a Douglas in 1912. But his dad soon warned him to take life more seriously: his father wanted him to work for an oil company as an engineer so he became an apprentice at Shell, when the first World War broke out.
Lóránd spent two years with Shell in Galicia and then he became a soldier. He was employed at the vehicle dept.
After the war he wanted to take a course at the Technical University of Budapest but his father invested all the family money into unsafe state loans and all the money were soon history.
So Lóránd worked to feed the family. But he also managed to take lessons from a high school and then he was able to start the University.
But the realities of life stroke again: his first son was born. Lóránd Méray-Horváth, the younger, now lives in New Jersey, USA. Most of the above information was supplied by him.
Lóránd, the older, and his brother, Endre opened a small chemical shop in 1918, after the war. The name was Paraffins and they made candles, soups etc. It was a very bad time in Hungary and they lived in misery.
Lóránd was bored out of his mind: he wanted to build motorbicycles badly.
He raced with modified motorbikes, with success and soon started to place various engines to the frame which he created.
This frame was the trademark of the Méray bikes: it was a special triangular form.
It could not be said, when the fist Méray motorbike was born or which engine was placed first. It was somewhere between 1919 and 1921.
A researcher at the Hungarian Museum of Transport claims that while Paraffins existed, they started to offer motorbikes from the same premises. The proof is a small ad in a local magazine. I was not able to find this ad yet.
An article in the Motoros, a Hungarian motorbike magazine featured an article in 1929. In this article Méray-Horváth Lóránd recalled the early years and said, he built his first frame in 1921 and placed a france Moto-Reve engine.
Frame No. 001 is now possessed by Sándor (Alexander in English) Nagy, who lives in Debrecen (a bigger city in Hungary). He also owns several other early Mérays.
The Méray Motorkerékpárgyár Rt (Meray Motorbike Manufacturers Ltd) was established on the 8th of May, 1923 in the Paraffins building (Batthyányi u. 46)(u. means street).
Research shows that there were official papers which claims another early address, also in Ujpest, now a suburb of Budapest (then a small village nearby): Árpad u. 26.
A few Méray bikes in front of the Városmajor workshop, sometime in 1923.
(Amazingly the building survived intact and the former workhsop is now a post-office)
It seems that the company was founded at Paraffins and they sought a place nearby. When they weren't able to find any, they rented another place which was located at the other part of the city, Városmajor.
If I want to be historically exact: there was a shareholders meeting on the 20th of July, 1923 at Batthyány Street where they decided to move the motorbike operations from Ujpest to Budapest. If their headquarters were at Árpád street, why they didn't hold that meeting there? Another proof: at the same meeting, according to the papers, Lóránd said, he was not able to secure the place at Árpád street. That said they could only offer motorbikes from the very small permises of Paraffins or from home. Very unlikely.
The list of the first shareholders were: from the Méray family: Lóránd, his wife, Endre, his wife and Károly the younger (Charles in English). He was the third son of Károly, the elder. He had, in addition to two brothers, a sister, Opica, a soon-to-be skating champion.
Let's continue the list: Kövári Gyula and Dankó Béla (mysterious men, their names appeared only in the archive papers). From the Pollner family: Viktor, Dezsö, his wife, Izidor.
The Pollner family was an early friend of the Méray family. Viktor took care of the administrations until his death, in 1926.

The aim of the company was, as claimed: "To repair, modify and make motorbikes and their parts and to buy and sell them". It is very important to point out that they HAVE HAD licence to MANUFACTURE motorbikes, because some say they have had not.
Besides Kôvári and Dankó who should've been just guys with money there's a shadowy figure by the name of Adalbert Kleinsteuber. I don't have proof but it seems he was German and I have proof that he was employed at Méray during 1924. A year later he moved and set up his own motorbike making company within a big industrial concern.

The first series of Méray motorbikes (ten vehicles) were powered by the British Villiers and was marketed from 1924 - says Lóránd. the younger
The racing successes in local races attracted the potential customers. These early victories included the 1920 Svábhegy victory with a Swiss bike, the 1924 Budapest-Hatvan race, the 1925 Hungarian TT first place in the ultralightweight category, the 1925 Austrian TT third place in the ultraweight category, 4 category victories and 4 second places at the Jánoshegyi hillclimb also in 1925.
Sometimes in 1924 the Wein family entered into the scene. I found the first official trace of them in the notebook of the 13 May, 1925 shareholders' meeting:
the enlisted shareholders were: all the earlier mentioned Méray family members, Pollner Viktor, Köváry Gyula and three new names: Páriss Róbert, Wein Dezsö and Levente.
Dezsô was a dentist, Levente his son. Dezsô brought money, Levente brought courage. He and the two Méray brothers formed the Méray racing team in 1925. This hasn't lasted long 'cause Levente a year later broke his leg which ended his career.
Wein Levente, Endre and Lóránd during the 1925 TT.
Páriss Róbert should be the man from the Hungarian General Creditbank, the financing bank of the Méray venture.
There was another problem which loomed around: the family name in the name of the company. The officials denied to incorporate it with this form, saying that Méray doesn't have a reputation, so it's no use to feature it in the company name. But then they were convinced by the letter of the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry, quote: "The name, 'Méray is known in the autoindustry as a mark of a special construction'" so they incorporate it on the 30th of October, 1925.
There was another meeting on the 29th of November, 1925. Köváry Gyula and Pollner Viktor was ousted. Replacements: Wein Dezsö, the younger and a mysterious man: Dr. Kozma Emil.

But sales were not high enough to keep the company financially stable. It was a disastrouos time, the Hungarian economy struggled.
So the Hungarian General Creditbank, their main creditor sold the company to the Hungarian "Maker of Goods from Steel" Co (Magyar Acélárugyár) late 1925, early 1926.
The new scheme included the two brothers as directors of the Méray factory.
From that moment Méray imported the engines, transmissions, lights and the Acélárugyár created the frames.

Between 1926 and 1930 the company changed places many times, according to the notebooks of the shareholders meeting. Between 1926 and around 1928 they were located at the Dorottya street, in the center of the city. And then at the Váczi Street which remained as a showroom for many years.
The showroom in 1930
In the meantime they took over the distributorship of the MÁG, the biggest Hungarian-car maker, which also struggled.
This was also the time when Lóránd started to play with the idea of a 3-wheeler van. You can read the history of that type on the other page, along with details about the passenger car which was developed from it.

In 1927 the 7th International Motorshow was held in Budapest. Méray exhibited the JAP engined 350, 500 and 600 cc bikes with updated, and slightly reconstructed frame. Everyone agrees that these were the heydays of the Méray factory.

The factory racer in the 175 cc category was Erdélyi Ferenc, in the 250 cc Wéber Oszkár. The latter later became the head of the Méray repairshop.
Another man, Zsótér Bertalan did the best for the reputation of the Méray bikes. In the Hungarian TT he reached the 2nd place in the 175 cc category.
The Méray brothers stopped racing with bikes and turned their attention to touring cars, especially Magomobils.
The racing victories of the Méray bikes continued in the next few years.
A few Hungarian offices started to employ Méray bikes: the Hungarian Post kept around 30, the Ministry of War and the Firepolice also used them.
The year 1930 found Mérays located at Zápolya Street 15-17
The building was opened in 1929. It was one of the most modern showrooms in Hungary with a separate repairshop, which included a waiting hall to wait until the smaller works have been done.
There were the offices, separate room for Lóránd to design etc.

This is the Méray office at Zápolya street in the mid '30s. I wrongly identified it. It's survived intact, although it's now in very bad condition and soon will be demolished. After the War it was partly converted to separate flats and the repairshop was used by different companies.

Inside of the Zápolya street plant

Lóránd in his room in 1932

From 1929 they focused on the sale of the products of the Acélárugyár, and became only dealers of the MÁG cars (see below for further details).

But what about the motorbikes? At the end of 1928, 824 Méray bikes were registered (in that year 340 were sold). It was the second most popular brand after the Austrian Puch.
In 1929 the Wall Street crisis shocked the world and Hungarian economy collapsed. The few years (1926-1929) of a little prosperity (not much) vanished. Méray was no exception...
So when the year 1932 came by the former glory of Méray faded away. The motorbike part struggled, the delivery part struggled - everything struggled. Lóránd was also bitter about the quality of the Acélárugyár products.
The last big racing success was reached in 1930, when Zsótér became the sole Hungarian winner of the Motorbike Grand Prix. He conquered the 250 cc category, with his 3-year old bike.
MÁG went into receivership in 1931 or so, so the showroom featured only the vans and motorbikes + a Magosix (the last car from MÁG) specially converted by the Méray factory.

This picture also shows the Zápolya street repairshop full of Adlers. The first car from the left is a Magosix though.
In 1934 Méray moved again. They started to build motorbikes with engines, designed by themselves. The Acélárugyár got rid of them, so they were free again, but financially unstable.
The son of Lóránd said that the company was taken over by Csonka, the most famous and pioneer Hungarian car maker which at the time was only a repairshop. The founder, János Csonka, the pioneer of the Hungarian motor industry died years earlier. Anyway, I haven't found any evidence to this.
In 1935 a1-ton lorry came out of the factory. A year earlier a chassis with an engine where the cylinders were placed following a star-shape. It was designed by an aero-engineer.
From 1936 Méray took over the distributorship of Adler, the German luxury car maker.
A very beautiful Hungarian-bodied Adler Trumpf two-seater survived all the bitter years.
In 1937, the motorbikes resurrected from their ashes. Méray got the licence to produce the Austrian 200 cc Puch and this bike became hugely popular.
After the 2nd WW, it seemed they can restart everything. But when the Communist Party started to dictate, they were internated. Endre, the younger brother of Lóránd and the younger Lóránd escaped earlier. Lóránd, the older, his wife and mom survived these catastrophic years as well.
After the 1956 revolution they were set free.

Méray-Horváth Lóránd died on the 22 November, 1968. His brother during November, 1966.
Picture taken shortly before his death

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Copyright and Copy, 1995& 2004: Paul Negyesi Budapest, Hungary.

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