NSU Supermax

NSU Supermax German 1950s classic motorcycle

NSU started out making bicycles. It built its first motorcycle in 1901. The German firm went on to release a steady stream of successful bikes - right up until the early Sixties. On both road and track, NSU were at the forefront of motorbike design and development. As such, they deserve their place in two-wheeled history every bit as much as their illustrious compatriots, BMW. Well, almost as much, anyway!

Actually, NSU began by knocking out knitting machines. Only then, did they branch out into bicycles. Cars, too, would subsequently be added to their manufacturing arsenal. NSU hit pay dirt when, in '29, they recruited Walter Moore - who had also worked at Norton. He helped shape NSU's first bike to be fitted with an overhead-camshaft engine. The result was not entirely dissimilar to the Norton CS1. That prompted wags at the British firm to opine that NSU was short for 'Norton Spares Used'! Ignoring such ribaldry, NSU pressed on regardless. By the time of the Second World War, they had become one of the world's biggest bike manufacturers.

Probably, NSU's finest hour came in the form of the 250cc 'Supermax'. First launched in '55, it lived up to its billing. The Supermax did pretty much everything well - or better! Acceleration and braking were equally impressive. Handling-wise, too, it was bang on the money. The bike's exceptional performance stemmed from a combination of its single overhead-cam motor, pressed-steel frame, and leading-link forks. The Supermax sailed to a top speed of 75mph. Such excellence, though, came with a high price-tag attached. Sadly for NSU, not enough motorcyclists were prepared to pay it. So, the '60s would see in a switch to car production. But not before NSU had sealed themselves into the annals of bike racing. In '53, Werner Haas won both the 125 and 250cc World Championships for NSU. He was the first German to achieve such feats. In '54, Haas took the 250 title again. Indeed, '55 saw NSU take the 250 crown for the third time in as many years. For sure, then, BMW always had a rival. NSU, too, produced a panoply of prestigious motorcycles, over the years. And none more so than the sublime 250 Supermax!

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