Tag Archives: Wilhelm Herz

NSU Books

This month I will again divert from the strict rule of this blog being a bike blog in presenting a few books on one of the most important German makers of bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, cars and other machinery. NSU being all that, the brand has always attracted major interest from both collectors and historians, so a great number of books has been published on it. All of those presented here are either still in print or available used without large expenditure. They also are worth getting for the photos if readers´ German isn´t that good.

Starting with the exception to the rule though, a book that I obtained (free!) from NSU GmbH in 1998, when the brand had its 125th anniversary. This might be difficult to get now, but it´s slim and does not offer any info beyond what is found in the other books as well, so it´s not really worth hunting down.

The volume most worth getting for a general overview must be this one:

It´s the latest iteration of Peter Schneider´s work on the marque, Schneider having had access to the archives, producing ever larger editions of his monography. An earlier one looks like this: They all are well worth getting, but the later the edition, the more photos and info can be found.

Then there´s the little one which mostly consists of reprinted snippets of old sales brochures, commented ably though:

And this one which has much data:

It´s basically an abridged version of the NSU Story volume.

The weirdest one must be this, listing meticulously all info on mod/cons, prototypes, and other NSU based oddities over the decades. Pic quality is not good though, shame.

There are several book focussing on single models, like Ernst Leverkus´Max book, or this one on the tiny Fox:

My favourite of them all for decades was the NSU Renngeschichte, the Racing History. Fascinating, early research, again with poor pic qualty in places. I´ve had my copy for nearly 40 years. It cost 68 Marks in 1982, which was a whopper of a price in those days.

But nowadays there is this volume, well illustrated, partly in colour, well researched too, very technical and focussing on the world championship bikes of the fifties, also covering the races leading to the championship, more or less lap by lap. Several racing bikes were actually disassembled to take the pictures for the book.

Of course there must be hundreds of articles in bike mags and those “most famous/beautiful/fast/dangerous… bikes in world history” horrors. Representing the better ones of those, here´s two issues of a motorbike yearbook series which incorporate great and lengthy NSU articles.

Lastly, a biography of Austrian Champion Rupert Hollaus who was a member of the famous NSU team of riders during those few years in the mid fifties when Rennmax and Rennfox were all conquering on the tracks of Europe. Hollaus actually was killed on an NSU, largely because he was suffering from an unknown issue with his skull.

Next month I hope to extract info on NSU bicycles from these books as well as from some old brochures and mags in my collection.

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.