The Czech neologism “dálník” basically translates to “long-range thing.” It describes a peculiar vehicle with two wheels like a motorcycle (monotrace is the official term, I think) but which provides the comfort of a car.
This is the convoluted story of this hermaphrodite and its creator, the Czech engineer and pilot Jan Anderle.
Before World War Two, Anderle was the chief pilot for the Aero company of
Czechoslovakia. During the Nazi occupation, he wasn’t allowed to fly,
so he began to dream up a 2-wheeled vehicle that would be as comfortable as
a car. He called it “dálník,” from the word “dálka” (distance) to evoke the feeling of long-distance travel. He built his first prototype secretly, since the design of machines not connected with the German war effort and not approved by Nazi authorities was punishable by death. The prototype, called Dálník 250 because it was based on the Jawa 250 motorcycle engine and components, is on display in the National
Technical Museum in Prague.
The war ended, Anderle returned to flying for Aero, but he also rolled out not just his prototype but a follow-on machine called Dálník I, with a full body by Czech coachbuilder Sodomka and with a Jawa Minor engine under the hood. Later came the Dálník II, with a 350 cc Jawa motorcycle engine under the Sodomka body, and with aircraft-like stick steering. (Czech story with images and movies here, another story here.)
In February 1948, the Communists pulled their putsch in Czechoslovakia, which was to have fateful consequences for Anderle.
In 1949, Anderle went abroad to demonstrate the Aero Ae-45 aircraft. An interested customer asked him to stay a little longer than the government authorized. Anderle did so, but this landed him in trouble on return. Another version of the story is that he wanted to defect in the UK but his wife persuaded him to return; but in any case, he was accused of espionage and sent to jail and to the notorious slave labor uranium mines of Jáchymov. He was released in the late 1950s, emigrated in 1967 and ended up in Switzerland, where he worked for a locksmith named Arnold Wagner. When Wagner learned of Anderle’s ideas, he founded the Peraves company and began to build a prototype of the Ecomobile. Anderle never saw series production of his brainchild – he died shortly after the prototype was completed in 1982. The Ecomobile was produced until 2005, when it was succeeded by the MonoTracer and all-electric E-Tracer.
Interestingly, in 2009, Peraves shifted its production to Brno in the Czech Republic, somehow completing a historic loop. The one thing Anderle would surely object to is the cost: he had intended his dálník as an inexpensive “people’s car,” but the Peraves MonoTracers cost upward of 52,500 euros.