Tag Archives: NSU Motorenwerke

Two Thirds, Two Years

I´m narrowing the scope of this blog to motorbikes for the time being as I´ve made a dream of mine come true, which I will report about not for the usual readership I guess, but for others who have asked me to write things down when they learnt I am back in motorbikes again. So here will be a live report of my adventure with an NSU Konsul restoration, for which I´m giving myself a two thirds chance of success in a timeframe of two years.

Starting a long time ago, more than 40 years ago actually.

When kids of about 14, and growing up in a rural area, a few pals and sometimes me went round the farms in our vicinity to see if the farmers had old motorbikes stashed away in their barns. I can remember finding 250cc DKW, 98cc Sachs engined marvels, the odd 125 Ilo or Sachs engined bike by for example Geier or other long and rightfully forgotten brands. We always dreamt of a big BMW or NSU, but it never came to that. Farmers had been poor in our area in the 30s and 50s, and were impervious to the fact that NSU were the largest motorbike factory in the world at the time, had won countless races, had put a 500cc compressor engine on wheels that pumped out 98 bhp and was good for 339 kph. I wasn´t, neither impervious, nor suitable for 339 kph.

When we had talked some bike out of some farmer (who could be mean and horrible to us boys), then we would try to get the machine running by the most primitive means and would ride it on small farm tracks, meadows, which the farmers didn’t like for fear of the cows being poisoned by the oil our bikes were losing, or harvested off fields. Ever so often a man from a neighboring city would come in a VW split screen panel van and buy our bikes for 20 or 50 Marks, keeping us in petrol for the next adventure, and laughing all the way to the bank. Also sometimes the local policeman would come and make us push our bikes home, no mean feat for a 15 year old encumbered by a, say, 250 DKW.

But no NSU, until I had an offer by a neighbour. It was an utterly and wholly run down 98cc four stroke NSU Fox made in 1950. It had been owned by about half a dozen owners in its day, and the last one had painted it bright red, but it was my first own bike, and one of the legendary brand I had lusted after. Then there was another neighbour who knew the answer to how to make it roadworthy again. He worked with a well talented mechanic who had had many NSU bikes in his day and could show me what to do, and so for about a year I spent many an afternoon with this man and built up the bike from scratch. The nastiest shock we got was when we found that someone had WELDED the directly driven flywheel magneto onto the crankshaft instead of bolting it on. My by then friend took a normal hacksaw and sawed the weld off, saving the crankshaft free hand. Amazing.

He then sent me off to buy rubber. So I went to the local tire company to buy tires, proudly naming the correct size, and they asked me if I didn´t need inner tubes too, so I narrowly escaped being shamed there and then, but shame followed close when I came back to my friend´s and he laughingly found that I hadn´t gotten any rim tape. Oh to be young again… But after a while, encompassing sandblasting, painting, shaking the tank filled with lead pearls about until all of me hurt, rivetting brake shoes, sourcing bits all over, wiring, reassembling, tearing down again and re-reassembling, in summer 1980 the machine passed its TÜV test first try.

Litte Fox on a long journey – longer than mine in any case

And I went to England on the 98cc with six brake horse power. Unbeknowns to me I returned from the trip the day after the Isle of Man TT had ended, and the Big Bad Biker that I was, was sent to the special bike only ferry that had been arranged for the TT crowd, where for the first time I found that bikers are nice people really. Far from being teased about my bike´s six hp, I was congratulated on the fact that I had taken it on a major trip.

Next bike was a 200cc NSU Superlux, two stroke, also in need of restoration, but as it had been painted black by its last owner just the mechanicals and the brakes were done, and I ran it for years when at uni. In between there was an array of other bikes, too, of course.

But: I had wanted a Konsul ever since a neighbour of my parents told me when I was a kid how dangerous it was and how he crashed one. He kept telling me that story later when I had bikes myself, and I just thought ´It can´t be that bad, I have to try eventually` but then life intervened, you know how it goes. Girlfriends being afraid of riding pillion, and what not.

NSU built two versions of my coveted bike, the Konsul 1 at 350cc rated 17.5 hp, and the Konsul 2 at 500cc at 22 hp, with none of them ever doing any racing of note. They were workhorses, sidecars were attached frequently, and so on. They were intended to give BMW a run for their money, but NSU failed quite miserably at that, BMW having the resources to design modern two cylinder engines soon after the war, whereas the Konsul was basically a pre-WWII design and less powerful into the bargain. Less costly too, by far actually, but still, only about 13.000 were made of both capacitiy engines together.

A certain Walter William Moore had been head hunted away from Norton by NSU in 1928, and all his engines for NSU looked like Nortons, excepting of course the wonderful competition specials he made, like the world record one mentioned above, but that will be next month´s story.

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NSU by Two

To make things completely clear: This is not about the NSU we´ve been hearing about so much of late in Germany, the terrorists which have committed so many atrocious crimes. This is about two bikes that were made by NSU works in Neckarsulm, the history of which brand is well documented on the net, e.g. by the NSU Motorenwerke entry on German wikepedia.

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Anyway, here they are:

XNLfullXNHfullThe 1963, 28 inch wheel size gent´s bike is mine, bought cheaply off a cycle dealer earlier this year because he didn´t have the coaster brake spare required to make it ridable. I repaired it in a few minutes´ time (I have a number of 515 hubs I have been breaking for spares over the years), the internals being very simple. It has given some good service already, on some outings as well as serving as a spare bike for visitors. The 26 inch wheel size lady´s I saw by chance on the road.

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One might think that the bikes are quite similar, but there is about 5 to 8 years difference between them. The lady´s is the older one, still equipped with its original Model 55 stepped shell three speed, the blue trigger of which is quite sought after nowadays. This one even has the plastic coat on the lever still intact.

XNLtrig

XNLrearhubMy later gent´s model is equipped with the three speed after this, the red trigger, straight shell Model 515.

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Sadly, the lady´s bike seems to spend most of its time outside in the rain.

There´s the typical one piece pressed steel headstock on both – no lugs, just a pressing.

XNLheadThe long lugs betray the fact that there are no mitred tubes inside – the lugs are that hefty because they have to hold the frame together as the tubes inside them probably do not touch. Cheap and rugged.

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The lady´s, however, still has the old style brazed in drop forged dropouts…

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Slight bend in seatstay found often on coaster brake equipped 50s sports bikes

… while the later gent´s already has the far less refined, much cheaper flash welded stamped steel ends.

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Also the b/b shells on both bikes aren´t very special at all.

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The general design is quite similar on both bikes:

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No lining on the gent´s though – money seems to have been somewhat less of an issue in the late fifties than in the early sixties

XNHheadbXNHseattransfXNLheadbMy gent´s has a useless, but nice branded spoke lock…

XNHspokelock… and a slightly more useful chainguard.

XNHchaingAlso all the rubber strips are still on the carrier rack – quite nice.

XNHbaggdrHowever, the original chainset as well as the front hub are quite cheap items – I wonder how they have held up that long. The brake spares mentioned earlier usually last forever, so the bike must have seen a lot of use. The white pedals, which might be original too, also show signs of great wear.

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XNHbbXNHfronthubBoth bikes have aluminium plated mudguards – nice to look at at the beginning, but rust prone and there´s no way you can either stop or repair rust on these.

XNHmudgdesignTo finish off this post, here´s a view on the typical 1950s NSU mudguard mascot:

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