KTM was founded in 1934 by Hans Trunkenpolz and was initially known as Kraftfahrzeuge Trunkenpolz. Because the company was actually a metalworking shop and sales were pretty low, the owners decided to start manufacturing motorcycles. Two years later, in 1953, an Austrian businessman named Ernst Kronreif bought a large share of the company which was the renamed to Kronreif & Trunkenpolz Mattighofen (KTM).
In the first year of existence, they had only 20 employees and they were producing approximately three bikes per day, including the 98cc R100, a project which began in 1951. KTM first participated in motorsports events in 1953 in the 5th Gaisberg competition in which it won the first three places.
One year later, KTM celebrated the delivery of their 1000th motorcycle and, during the same year, it won the Austrian 125 national championship. Two years later, in 1956, KTM participated in the International Six Days race for the first time and Egon Dornauer won the gold.
In 1959, the KTM engineer Ludwig Apfelbeck developed a new racing motorcycle which Erwin Lechner uses to win multiple offroad competitions. Although the things were going pretty good for the company, KTM starts manufacturing bicycles in 1964.
Two years later, KTM started the production of the crosscountry Penton Six Days, a motorcycle which was meant to be exported to the USA. The same year marks the winning of the Austrian national championship by Manfred Klerr using the new 250cc Motorcross bike.
More important, in 1973, KTM starts the serial production of the 250 Motorcross and Enduro while the same year, the Austrian team records the first World Championship points and the first Grand Prix wins. Until 1974, KTM had a range of no less than 42 models, but even so, the company starts the production of KTM Hobby III in the same year.
KTM started the 80s with an important hit as they introduced the first watercooled 125cc Motorcross bikes in 1981 while one year later they implemented the new Pro Lever rear suspension to all their motorcross models.
In 1984, KTM started making radiators and sold them to competitors (Suzuki being one of the most important names). However, in the same time they were manufacturing motorcycle parts, the company celebrated their 100,000th KTM engine which came with a displacement of 500cc, with liquid cooling system and could produce more than 50bhp.
Series production of the KTM 4 stroke liquid cooled engine started in 1987 but one year later, one of the company's founders, Eric Trunkenpolz dies. Due to bankruptcy, the company was divided into independent divisions, which either continued making radiators or building motorcycles and bicycles. In 1992, the new KTM Sportmotorcycle GmbH was officially founded, having a new management team, a new Hard Enduro and a new motorcycle design.