An NSU Tale Wolfgang and Roy

by Roy and Chris

Les Davenport, I a few other members of the Kent 3 Star Sidecar Club were escorting some German riders back to Dover to catch their ferry home.  On arriving in Dover we had to wait for the boat to come in and off-load.  Some riders coming off the boat told us that Wolfgang was in the customs office as he wanted to import his new outfit, so I waited to ride home with him.  He was riding a NSU Max outfit; the engine size was 250 cc.  Most British 250 cc motorbikes from the mid 1950’s with a sidecar attached would be lucky to top 60 mph.  My 1951 Triumph Speedtwin 500 cc outfit would hold a steady 70 mph and I did not expect the NSU to go as well as it did.  On this occasion I was on my Matchless solo and I started off pretty steady – 45 mph, then 50 and 55, with Wolfgang’s NSU still hanging in there at 65 mph.  Eventually I pulled away; however, the NSU had an excellent engine for its size. Eventually we arrived in Shorne where Les and Rosa lived.

Wolfgang starting up his NSU

This outfit would run all day at 55 / 60 mph on a level road with two people aboard and would head up towards 80 mph on a decent down-hill slope.  The sidecar was held on with a three-point fixing, and these fixings were tightened with your thumbs – no spanners required.  This was a brilliant system; it was so easy to convert back to a solo – only a few minutes to get the sidecar off and not much longer to put the outfit back together again.  Wolfgang and I could manage this quite quickly.  Sometimes, if the traffic was really heavy, we opted for two wheels and dumped the sidecar at the side of the road and collected it later!!  Wolfgang was better at riding an outfit than me – on one occasion we went the length of Gravesend High Street on two wheels – with me in the chair!!!!.

At one time we went to Pride and Clarks, a well-known London dealership, and looked at the bikes for sale.  Whilst we were there, we also had a look at their massive second-hand parts department; the chaps running this were very knowledgeable.  Wolfgang tried out a few rear shock springs until he found one that suited his purpose.  The rear shocks on the NSU were a bit soft so he fitted the extra shock, so that the bike had three rear shocks – two on one side and one on the other – and this worked well – job done!!

A girl learning to ride her father’s BMW outfit at Dannenburg

Often on a Saturday evening / night we would go for a little ride.  We were based near Gravesend in Kent and on one occasion we thought “let’s go to Wales”.  We got there alright and in the headlight on a bend we spotted a couple standing by a Vincent.  We spun the outfit around to see if we could help.  The couple had been to the Motorcycle Show at Earls Court and were on their way home with friends when their bike just stopped.  It is surprising what you carry in a sidecar – so out came the tow rope, the lady passenger hopped in the chair, and I went pillion on the Vincent.  One 250 cc outfit, 4 adults plus a Vincent and off we went!!  We were going quite well until the rider dropped his bike, and both he and I slid down the road gracefully!!  At this point he decided to wait for his mates to come back with a van!!!  In modern terms this is equal to the lads who went around the world on their Honda scooter towing a Vincent plus two riders.

On another occasion in Wales – on a different outfit – we stopped at a café; we went up to the counter to order and the waitress asked if we were German.  I said I was English but that Wolfgang was German.  Apparently, the waitress was German – she had married a Welsh soldier some years before.  Wolfgang then spoke to her in German, but she had forgotten her mother tongue!!  By the time we left the café Wolfgang had her saying a few words of German.

Bernie fixing his Square 4 outfit, plus my Honda C50 in the background

Back to the NSU – about 1967 I moved up to Ealing, in West London, to work.  I had some motorcycling friends there, whom I had met while I was on a course. One friend, Bernie, owned an Ariel Square four outfit.  The sidecar was a Canterbury Carmobile – he needed a large sidecar to carry his wife, six children and the dog, plus all his camping gear when they went on holiday!!  I rode the Ariel a few times and on one occasion, whilst waiting at some traffic lights, a Mini car pulled up alongside me.  You may remember the days of wider wheels and a Peco exhaust to make them go faster.  The Mini driver kept revving his engine waiting for the lights to change, and then we were off.  The outfit surprised me with its acceleration – It flew and the Mini disappeared into the dust.  With friends in Ealing and riding with the West Ealing Motorcycle Club I did not get home to Kent so often.

I was told that one Saturday evening Wolfgang took the NSU for a little ride to Scotland.  Unfortunately for him I was in London that weekend.  All went well going up there but, on the way, back he had to decide between buying cigarettes or engine oil.  The cigarettes won and this resulted in Wolfgang having to rebuild the engine!!  He later told me that the Vincent engine was the easier of the two engines to work on.

General scene of some of the bikes at a Dannenburg rally, with Bill Relf’s Panther outfit

We attended some rallies at Dannenburg, near Bremen, organised by Opa Lange, Gunter Nurbank and members of the local motorcycle club.  These were first class meetings, similar to the Fed’s Annual Rally, with lots of solos attending.  I saw my first Munch Mammoth motorbike there.  This again was powered by an NSU car engine if my memory is correct, and it was the centre of attraction.  Plenty of outfits. turned up, quite a few smaller-engined ones like the NSU.  Jawa’s and MZ’s were also popular and they did get well used.

Munch Mammoth – this cost £800 in 1968 in Germany!!

Wolfgang and I got to Germany quite a lot – usually twice a month in the summer.  However, our first trip was in the middle of winter and the cables on the bike froze solid while it was parked up.

It was a great time in my life and I met some really nice people during this time, and I am still in contact with a couple of them to this day.