NSU Konsul Motorcycle — A Brief History

We have had our NSU Konsul II motorcycle for over 15 years. We were invited to show it at Pebble Beach in 2012 and have shown it at the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance and at Del Mar. It’s not a motorcycle most people are familiar with. So what does NSU stand for? The company was headquartered in the southern German town of Neckarsulm, where the Neckar and Sulm Rivers meet. NSU stands for Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union. A Strickmaschine is a knitting machine. The company originally produced automatic knitting machines and later bicycles beginning in 1892. It did not introduce its first motorcycle until 1901. They eventually shortened the name to NSU. Click on any of the images below to enlarge.

The NSU logo below the rear wheel shows the approximate location of the factory in the city of Neckarsulm.

This poster shows the complete line-up of motorcycles offered by NSU.

This brochure from 1936 shows the pre-war motorcycles offered by NSU. The prices are in RM, or Reichsmark.

NSU became a very successful producer of motorcycles. By the early 1950s NSU, BMW and DKW were the known marques for German motorcycles. In fact, in 1955 NSU became the biggest producer of motorcycles in the world. And they hold four world records for speed (1951, 1953, 1954 and 1955) at the Bonneville Salt Flats. However, by the mid to late 60s, NSU became preoccupied with producing a line of automobiles and they ceased production of motorcycles. The company was later bought out by Audi.

"Besser fahren auf NSU" NSU advertising from 1951.

“Besser fahren auf NSU”. Ride better on an NSU, a 1951 advertising slogan.

NSU’s earliest motorcycles had a bicycle-type frame, a chain and freewheel, and bicycle brakes. They were after-all a bicycle factory. During the second World War they went on to make motorcycles, sidecars and tracked vehicles for the German Wehrmacht. Following the war, they returned to motorcycle production and in the early 1950s introduced the Max, which was to become one of the most successful machines of its time, and would influence emerging motorcycle manufacturers around the world, most notably Honda.

A brochure for the NSU Max from 1953. Featured in the center of the brochure is the RennMax winner racer Werner Haas.

A brochure for the NSU Max from 1953. Featured in the center of the brochure is the RennMax winning racer Werner Haas.

Motorcycle aficionados who are familiar with NSU know of their Fox, Max and Supermax models. Our motorcycle is one of the lesser known NSU models. The Konsul II is a 500cc single cylinder 4-stroke machine with 21 horse power. The first Konsuls came out in 1951 and were designed by Albert Roder, the chief engineer for the company. The 500 Konsul is based on the 501 OSL pre-war model. The Konsul II was the final development of NSU’s big single-cylinder motorcycles.

The 501-OSL NSU pre-war motor.

The 501-OSL NSU pre-war motor upon which the Konsul II is based.

Konsul advertising from 1952.

“Kluge Köpfe kaufen Konsul.” NSU Konsul advertising using a nice alliterative slogan – smart heads buy a Konsul. 1952

NSU, in fact, produced two Konsul models; the Konsul I is the 351 OS-T and the Konsul II is known as the 501 OS-T – essentially a 350cc vs. a 500cc engine. Both of these Konsul models were built beginning in 1951 and up to 1954, which was the last year motorcycles were offered in these cubic capacities. A sport version of the Konsul II was also available with a larger carburetor and the high pipes, as seen on our motorcycle.

The high pipes were available for the sport version of the Konsul II.

The high pipes were available for the sport version of the 500cc Konsul II.

High pipes with a retro space-age look.

High pipes with a retro space-age look.

Today in Neckarsulm there is the Deutsches Zweirad und NSU Museum where you can visit a fascinating collection of motorcycle history.

Inside the NSU Museum.

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2 Responses

  1. Ewald says:

    I have been following your progresses for a while. Motorcycle enthusiast, devoted reader of your magazines, I guess I am some sort of a fan. One thing for sure is that you made the inaccessible dream of the cannon ball way more tangible. Even if I am not cut for actually participating, I can share the thrills of the race through you. I thank you for sharing your passion.

  2. Ronald says:

    Nice article, thanks. Please make one correction: The name NSU does not derive from Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union but is simply an abbreviation for the city name Neckarsulm. For your reference please check on Wikipedia or contact the NSU museum.

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