Tag Archives: NSU Motorenwerke

Two Thirds, Two Years Feat. W.W. Moore

Ending last month´s post with the name of Walter William Moore, I had expected to begin this month´s with him, but I think we will have to go back a bit before his advent at NSU, really.

What with the firm having been one of the largest German two wheeler producers since the days of the high bicycle, there were always special motorbikes around at NSU, since the very beginning of motorcycling, which oddly was later than the beginning of motoring in cars. Even in the days around 1906-1910 there were NSU racing motorbikes of renown, as Dieter Herz and Karl Reese report in their book on the NSU racing history, a tome I have had since my youth.

It says that in the immediate years before WWI one of the most coveted and fastest motorbikes was the NSU 3 1/2 PS Sporttyp, developed by the famous designer O. Donovan. TT races even were run successfully, and the name of NSU was being quoted everywhere if talk was about fast motorbikes. Legend has it that English speakers all over the world had a hard time pronouncing the brand Neckarsulm, the name of the town in Germany where the bikes were made, so it was abbreviated to NSU. Can we believe this? No idea.

Then after WWI, things started to slow down. Ok, there were racers like Islinger who rode a 1.000cc, 40 bhp NSU on a remarkably wobbly frame, but it was felt by the powers that be at NSU that a fresh input was needed, and whence could it come but from Britain, so headhunting started, and Norton´s Walter William More was scored in 1928. He had had a huge positive influence on Norton, and was considered a legendary designer even then. His CS 1 racer was about the fastest thing on two wheels.

Yesterdays Antique Motorcycles – http://www.yesterdays.nl/norton-1928-p-2357.html

He made his mark right away with his NSU SS 500, a bike which resembled his Norton CS 1 that closely that people began to explain that NSU stood for Norton Spares, Used.

By courtesy of “Deutsches Zweirad- und NSU-Museum” (e-Mail 17.08.2006 13:14) – With many thanks to Ms. Dumas & Ms. Grams

 

Rider Tom Bullus had also arrived from the UK, and as he was the man who rode the bike in races, it became known under the monniker of Bullus NSU, and when I started on bikes in the 70s, he still was known among bikers.

One will note that both the Norton and the NSU had a shaft driven bevel gear ohc (while the lowly Konsul and its predecessors in the 30s had push rods,) and that the engines looked remarkably alike even from a distance or in small size photos. Anyway, NSU began to be very successful again, and engines like a 350 and a 500cc supercharged one were developed. In 1939, with the outbreak of hostilities, Moore returned to England and left NSU to Albert Roder, who went on to design such famous bikes as the Max and Fox, with really unusual engines in each, but this is not the subject of my post.

The supercharged engines were carried on to post WWII races, but very soon supercharged motorcycle engines were forbidden, and NSU was left out in the cold. They decided to focus on the small engines for racing, 250, 125, and were supremely successful with these, but Walter William Moore´s legacy was kept alive by using the supercharged engines in land speed record attempts, and of course in the unmistakably designed engine of the Konsul.

Wilhelm Herz was the name that every schoolchild knew in Germany in the early fifties, as he was the rider who pushed the extremely powerful and aerodynamic NSU bikes to a land speed world record. But even before he had raced Germany´s most powerful motorbikes to the limit of many a track, achieving averages of more than 180kph on a supercharged 350 for instance.

NSU issued a small booklet with many interesting illustrations after the achievement of the world record, and you see a number of now legendary Herz pictures in it, like these that show him on the 350. You can see that the print quality was not meant to produce a lasting work of art, newspapers having a comparable quality, and those booklets are quite rare now. They were suprisingly text oriented, it seems that people read more than they do now, perhaps, so the booklet is full of fascinating facts, but also drawings of the famous engines are included.

 

For the land speed record, the 500 supercharged engine had been tuned to pump out 110 hp, unbelievable for the day. Much was made of the machine in NSU publicity.And Herz made it. On April 12, 1951, he rode his bike at an average of 290 kph on a stretch of motorway near Munich. It had been planned that 300 Police trainees from a nearby academy were to secure the course, but there was some sort of uproar in the barracks as all 800 present volunteered and insisted on coming.

Five years later, Herz actually established another world record on a machine which based on the 1951 one, this time in Salt Lake City, reaching an unbelievable 339 kph. The so called Delphin III was painted in red, white and blue, so can´t be confused with the 1951 bike.

In the next races, NSU distributed tons of publicity gadgets, like these sunshades with erectable NSU tadpoles or world record cigars in the middle. I´m really lucky to have found these, I got them out of a Belgian NSU workshop that had been locked one day in the early sixties and then was left untouched. I helped to clear it in 1981. And when assuming I had lost the shades, I got others off the net for a cheap price, but you know that Murphy says you will find the old ones as soon as you have bought new ones, and that obviously holds true even for strange and long misplaced objects like these. I now must be the owner of the world´s largest collection of NSU World Record sunshades, and I´m proud of it too.

In the photo below you can now see why I have been fascinated with NSU for so long. OK, I was born 10 years and a bit more than three months after the land speed record, but still. OK, the push rods were routed through a round chromed tube to resemble that of a shaft driven bevel gear. OK, the frame is definitively early fifties.

But compare the Konsul non-drive side with the photos of the Norton and the Bullus above, and you will see a distinct lineage in engine design. That´s what I love about my bike.

Next month, the steps toward getting it, and maybe the very first steps of restoration.

 

 

 

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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.

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.

XNLdownttransfXNLtttransf

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.

XNHlandsch1 XNHlandschickerb

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.

XNHtrigXNHrearhub

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.

XNHseatcl

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

XNLreardo

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.

XNHreardo

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:

XNLseatst

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.

XNHpedal

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:

XNHmascot