NSU (1901 to 1963) had it's beginning at the turn of the 19th century in the small factory town of Neckarsulm, in southern Germany. The most likely origin of the NSU name came from it's early founders first venture as Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union (Neckarsulm Knitting-machine Union), others believe that NSU is taken from three letters of the town name, Neckarsulm. This was the first German Motorcycle manufacturer which developed from the 1892 Neckarsulm Fahradwerke (Bicycle Works) which continued to manufacture NSU bicycles until 1960. Gottlieb Banzhaf, the brother-in-law of founder Christian Schmidt took over the company on his death and built it into a formidable empire. Karl Schmidt, the son of the founder joined the company in 1902 as Technical Director having trained under Gottlieb Daimler and designed the first NSU engine making the 1903 model a whole NSU product. These singles and V-twins in 1903 they continued development through to 1914 with innovative products like liquid-cooled single and a revolutionary swing-arm rear suspension, which led to racing success, fame and an increased export market. The first Competitive Renn Maschine (Racing Machine) was produced in 1905. NSU was heavily involved in war production during WWI, after which the demand was very high for motorcycles and they responded with a wide range of models. These included side-valve and OHC 250's, side-valve 500 singles, and V-twins of 500, 750, and 1000cc displacements. In 1929, NSU hired Walter William Moore away from Norton, where he had recently completed the design of the tower-shaft-driven OHC 500cc the forerunner of the fabulous Norton Manx. By 1931 NSU were producing OHC singles that were highly successful. NSU became one of the largest producers of motorcycles in the world in the 1930s. In 1937 Moore and Albert Roeder designed a supercharged DOHC GP twin in 350cc and 500cc flavours, but these bikes were unsuccessful due to reliability problems, but performed well after the war when the bugs were worked out. Unlike the Allies, the German Army had a great deal of faith in motorcycles as weapons of war and NSU turned production to a half-track design Kleines Kettenkraftrad (Small-Tracked Motorcycle). In 1949 the release of the 98cc Fox which was the pioneer of pressed steel construction, which the Japanese where to copy and use so successfully. In 1950 a DOHC 4-cylinder 500 was designed for GP's, but it was decided to race the Rennfox 125cc single and Rennmax 250cc twin machines which were world-beaters until they withdrew from racing in 1954. The street-bikes (125cc Fox and 250cc Max) were SOHC singles with a unique cam-drive system consisting of two reciprocating connecting rods driven by eccentrics on a reduction gear and driving eccentrics on the end of the camshaft. This system was silent, efficient, trouble-free, and so compact that the top end of the engine can easily be mistaken for a two-stroke and the engine could rev-up to astronomical revolutions that would have destroyed chains. During the 1950s NSU worked together with Honda in development, which can be seen in the early Honda production models. They also produced vast quantities of the 50cc Quick and 100cc Quickly mopeds. 1957 NSU shipped kits for assembly to Pretis in Sarajevo because the Yugoslavian Government would not allow the import of complete motorcycles.  Pretis assembled the Max and Prima D Scooters for the inner Yugoslavian market. The Max was only produced for authorities like police and military. Then in 1961 NSU shipped the manufacturing machines for Maxi and Prima D Scooters to Pretis. Pretis "paid" no money but got parts for NSU Prinz. For 1962 and 1963 NSU re-imported Maxis from Yugoslavia! In 1963 NSU parted with motorcycles to concentrate on car manufacture and the mopeds finished 2 years later. The motorbike production at Pretis was given up in 1967. Today there is a museum housing a fine collection of bikes in Neckarsulm. www.zweirad-museum.de in English

Click links for reviews and the photo to see a full size version

1948 Fox 4

1950 ZDB125

1951 Konsul 1

1951 OSL601 Gespann

1952 Max Spezial

1953 Lambretta

1955 Superfox

1955 Superlux

1956 Quickly N

1956 Superfox

1956 Maxi

1957 Quickly S

1957 Quickly Cavallino

1957 Luxus

1957 Prima

1957 Supermax 

1960 Quickly T

1961 Superlux

1966 Quick 50


Ultramax OHC Assembly



NSU Bike Review - Road Models

Quick 1936-53 98cc, 2-stroke single
Originally designed in Male and Female frame versions, the final choice was made by Frauleine Schroder. The second most popular model manufactured by NSU

Fox 4 101 OSB 1949-54, 98cc, ohv single, 3 speed (1949-50), 4 speed (1950-54), 176lb, 132mpg, 53mph
This was the first new post war design with pressed steel rigid frame and forks patented by Albert Roder and fitted with a 98cc engine a small capacity engine with overhead valves which was later redesigned the reliable Ultramax overhead cam system. 

125 ZDB pre1948-51, 125cc, 2-stroke single
Tubular rigid frame, single front down tube with girder front forks and single saddle made this a utility model.

Fox 2 1951-54, 123cc
Basically a Fox 4 with a new 123cc piston ported two stroke engine, replacing the old 125ZDB pre-war design.

Superfox 125 OSB 1955-57, 123cc, Ultramax ohc single, 4 speed, 253lb, 88mpg, 59mph
Carrying forward many of the features of the Supermax. 1956 the engine lubrication fitted with Micronic paper oil filter. 1958 a new crankshaft design was employed.

Maxi 175 OSB 1957-64, 174cc, Ultramax ohc single, 4 speed, 272lb, 76mpg, 68mph
Basically a larger version of the Superfox with deeper valanced front mudguard. An improvement on the previous Superfox design was the external twin rear suspension units. The early version had a pressed steel handle bar, while later models had a tubular type.

251 OSL 1933-40 and 1947-52, 242cc, ohv single, 3 speed (1933-35), 4 speed (1936-52), 277lb, 90mpg, 62mph
The engine had expose valve gear until 1937, then the a redesign incorporated fully enclosed valve gear from 1938.

Max Standard 251 OSB 1952-54, 247cc, Ultramax ohc single, 4 speed, 341lb, 76mpg,
Built in Standard and Spezial versions. The frame was typical NSU sheet metal pressing chassis and forks with short leading link and fitted with narrow brake drums. Initially manufactured with a separate float chamber which was fixed to the frame.

Max Spezial 251 OSB 1955-56, 247cc, Ultramax ohc single, 4 speed, 360lb, 76mpg, 78mph
Upgraded model of the standard 251 OSB with full width alloy brake drums, larger tank and restyled lines.

Supermax 251 OSB 1956-63,  247cc, Ultramax ohc single, 4 speed, 375lb, 76mpg, 78mph
Utilizing the typical NSU sheet metal pressing for the spine and forks with short leading link, but with swinging arm rear suspension originally on a single central unit for the earlier models and then with two rear struts with shock absorbers. Engine lubrication fitted with Micronic paper oil filter which resided inside the oil tank. This model was fast but docile with excellent handling and road holding.

Osterrich Max 301 OSB 1955-56,  297cc, Ultramax ohc single, 4 speed, 382lb, 68mpg, 83mph
Basically a Max 251 OSB with a larger engine. Austria wanted to protect there home manufacturer PUCH and so place an import tariff on capacities of less than 275cc. To get around this NSU sold their 250 cc bikes in Austria with the 300cc engine.

Max 351 OSL 1936-39 and 1950-51, 331cc, ohv single,  4 speed, 286lb, 72mpg, 65mph
The engine had expose valve gear until 1937, then the a redesign incorporated fully enclosed valve gear from 1938.

Lambretta Scooter 1950-55, 125cc (1950-54), 146cc (1955), 2-stroke single, 3 speed
Agreement between NSU and Innocenti saw the scooter manufactured in Germany. Body-work made by VW and engine from Italy, the scooter was assembled in the NSU factory. Based on the engine transmission unit supplied by Innocenti, this was a very popular vehicle which sold well. 1955 a new 146cc engine unit introduced.

Prima D 1956, 146cc, 2-stroke single, 3 speed, 50mph
Looks very much like the previous Lambretta, but in fact was quite different. The engine and transmission were very similar to the Innocenti unit. The Prima had press steel forks and plunger seat springing. Pressed steel cover for the handle bars tidied up the control cables, with triangular speedo and controls to the carb and petrol tap. Fitted with 12 volt electrics and electric start giving a luxurious machine that was reliable and trouble free.

Prima III 1957-64, 146cc, 2-stroke single, 4 speed, 50mph
Basic model of a sleeved down Prima V. Kick-start replaced the Dynastart and no fog lamp or clock.

Prima V 1957-64, 174cc,  2-stroke single, 4 speed, 56mph
Known as the Five Star model, had a completely new frame and 174cc engine. The gearbox was foot operated and new pivoting engine unit improved the suspension, which mad this model a much better mount for passengers. Standard fitments included 12v Dynastart, fog lamp in the front mudguard, clock, spare wheel and carrier.

Konsul I 1951-53 , 349cc, ohv single, 418lb
Based on pre-war engines that came from the 351OST, which was obsolescent by this time. The heavy frame was full cradle with single front down tube, hydraulically damped front forks and plunger suspension. A single saddle, parcel carrier on the back mudguard and 6 volt electrics made this a dated machine.

Konsul II 1951-54 ,498cc, ohv single, 430lb, 100mph
Based on pre-war engines that came from the 501OST, this was a larger engined Konsul 1 with all the same faults. 1953 a speed kit became available for fast road work and club man's racing. This included: new light alloy cylinder head with exposed valve gear and barrel, forged slipper piston, larger valves, new pushrods and tubes, rockers and high lift cams. New carb, exhaust, revised gearing and a tachometer. 

Lux 201 XB 1951-55, 198cc,  2-stroke single
A very stylish model that set the trend of future models. Two stroke engine fitted into a backbone frame made from steel pressings that also formed the front section of the rear mudguard. Mono-shock rear suspension was housed in the frame and the front suspension was of short leading link type. 1953 saw a new cylinder head, carb with air filter in frame and generator giving 60 watts.

Superlux 201 1955-63, 198cc,  2-stroke single, 69mph
Replacement for the Lux with a new barrel and head for the 198cc engine. Full width alloy brake drums,  larger tank and more pleasing lines.

Quickly N 1953-62, 49cc,  2-stroke single, 2 speed, 80lb
The 49cc piston ported moped engine was fitted into a fairly standard bicycle type frame with leading link front suspension which was a great success due to its quality, style and price. Designed by Roder and know as 'The Father of the modern moped' in Germany it was known as an Autocycle. Initially sold in the UK through Vincent of Stevenage.

Quickly S 1955-62, 49cc,  2-stroke single, 2 speed, 80lb
Much the same as the N, but with dual seat.

Quickly L 1956-62, 49cc,  2-stroke single, 2 speed, 80lb
A deluxe version of the S this had partial rear wheel enclosure, valanced front mudguard, leg shields, handle bar covers and swing arm rear suspension.

Quickly TT 1959-63, 49cc,  2-stroke single, 3 speed, 80lb
There were two versions the TT and TTK, both using the cycle parts and engines from the Quickly range with styling changes. Fitted with Earles front forks and twin shock rear suspension.

Quickly TTK 1960-61, 49cc,  2-stroke single, 3 speed, 80lb
There were two versions the TT and TTK, both using the cycle parts and engines from the Quickly range with styling changes. Fitted with Earles front forks and twin shock rear suspension.

Quickly Cavallino 1957-60, 49cc,  2-stroke single, 3 speed, 118lb, 25mph
With Italian styling and sporting appearance, this model failed to sell very well.

Quick 50 1962-65, 49cc,  2-stroke single, 4 speed, 176lb, 120mpg, 45mph
Seen as a development of the Quickly, this was not true, as the Quick 50 has a completely new engine unit with 4 speed box and kick-start. Earles front forks and twin shock rear swinging arm suspension on a pressed steel space frame with dual seat. Piston ported engine and left foot gear change. Soft handling but compatible with similar 50cc motorbikes.