Category: NSU

Barely Broken In: 1975 Hercules W-2000 with ONE MILE for Sale

1975 Hercules W2000 R Side

It’s a bit of a tragedy that, in the evolutionary march towards efficiency, strange beasts like this rotary-powered Hercules W-2000 have become extinct. These days, with very few exceptions, we’ve got singles for durability and economy, parallel twins for commuters and the occasional nostalgia trip, v-twins for character, triples for torque and performance, and fours for pure efficiency and speed. With regards to sporting machines, we’re almost entirely limited to v-twins, triples, and fours.

While that seems like a pretty wide variety of configurations, it’s nothing like what was available in the 60’s and 70’s: we had two-stroke twins and triples in air-or liquid-cooled varieties, square fours, turbos, straight sixes, and even the occasional rotary thrown into the mix. At first blush, the Wankel rotary seems like an ideal fit for a motorcycle: the design provides incredible smoothness without the need to resort to balance shafts, and few moving parts for ease of manufacture and reliability. Rotary engines are very compact, and make excellent power for a given “displacement”, although it is difficult to compare relative displacements with reciprocating engines, and that actually helped doom the W-2000 from the start…

1975 Hercules W2000 Engine Detail

Today, thanks to Mazda’s RX-7, RX-8, and various shrieking racecars, the rotary has become associated with performance machines. But the Hercules W-2000 was really more a high-end commuter bike, like the modern-day equivalent of a Toyota Prius, only much cooler. With a six-speed gearbox and glassy-smooth power delivery, it was comfortable and reasonably quick. Lubrication was added, early two-stroke style, by adding oil to the fuel in the tank, although later “Injection” models had a separate oil tank.

1975 Hercules W2000 Tank

Unfortunately, that hard-to-quantify engine led to insurance companies to classify the W-2000 as a much larger machine than Hercules had expected, meaning that it was effectively priced out of competition. That, combined with notoriously short-lived apex seals common to early rotaries and relatively modest performance, condemned the Hercules to obscurity. Sales were very limited, although the technical specifications make them of interest to the kind of nerdy enthusiasts who also covet hydro-pneumatic Citroëns.

From the original eBay listing: 1975 Hercules W-2000 for Sale

Mileage: 1

Get bidding on your chance to own a piece of motorcycle history!
This would be a great piece for the museum.

We purchased this bike from the original shop that owned it.
It has never been titled but it DOES come with a statement of origin.

It is in very nice shape, with the exception of some deterioration on the grips and the rear luggage strap.
There are some minor cosmetic issues here and there.
A little clean up will go a long way!

We recommend a complete service before running.

Put a bow on this bike and you will be a hero!

1975 Hercules W2000 Dash

There are 4 days left on the auction and bidding is up to $6,600. With just one mile on the clock, this is the one to have if you’re only planning on displaying it… Which might be the best way to enjoy this curiosity: reviews suggest that W-2000’s are perfectly competent motorcycles, but ultimately more of a technological footnote than a practical motorcycling solution: Wankel engines look good on paper, but rotaries have increased cooling requirements and reduced reliability that cancel out the advantages inherent in having fewer moving parts.

1975 Hercules W2000 Carb

And while it’s a shame for enthusiasts that there are fewer choices today than there were in the era of classic motorcycles, keep in mind that these engines died off for a variety of very practical reasons: two-strokes are inherently dirty and not particularly practical as day-to-day machines, sixes are big, heavy, and expensive to produce and maintain. Turbos add unnecessary complexity, and square fours have cooling problems not found in more common inline-fours. Luckily funky little bikes are still out there for enthusiasts who want them!


1975 Hercules W2000 L Side

1950’s NSU SuperMax in British frame


You don’t always have to cruise eBay to find great bikes for sale there. Like others, I follow a few personal blogs of people that have at one time or another posted something about vintage motorcycles. This 1950’s NSU in a unique frame was posted to a blogger who may have raced or raced against this bike.

$_58 (2)

From the seller

1950s Racing NSU with 250 Supermax engine and special one-off lightweight racing frame, believed to have been raced in Irish road race events of the 1950s/1960 period.  Lightened wheels with alloy rims, old racing tyres fitted. Engine turns over and gears engage but not in running order.  Needs re-commissioning before using. Lovely patina and ‘period feel’, probably a unique bike in this form. Dustbin fairing as originally fitted to the bike available to successful bidder for an additional £250, if required, as a separate transaction. For further information or viewing please contact 01373 834407, bike located near Bath

$_58 (3)

Having just posted about a NSU SuperMax racer last week, I can tell you that this blue frame is far different from the pressed steel frame when the SuperMax road bike came with. The Earles style front forks are similar to the road going Super, so there is some wonder as to the choices made by the builder.

$_58 (4)

Looking at the huge carb with its velocity stack sticking out from under the gas tank lets you believe there is something inside that small 250cc engine. The swiss cheese drilled frame also lets you know the builder wanted every advantage that they could get. The one downside to any auction, is mentioning an important feature that is not offered for sale. The fairing was on this 1950’s NSU SuperMax, I believe it should be offered up with the bike. BB

$_58 (5)

1953 NSU Sportmax


If you were to guess who the largest motorcycle manufacture in the 1950’s was, would you guess NSU? Would you then believe how influencial that company would be on the track? A company which started out making sewing machines and came to an end in 1969 when it was absorbed into the Volkswagen Group made the Sportmax for both the road and track. This 1953 NSU Sportmax with full dustbin fairing traveled the world, and took some hardware home from the tracks.


From the seller

Here is a very rare NSU Sportmax, 250cc production racer. To my knowledge there have been only 30 built in the early 50s by NSU in Neckarsulm, Germany,. In 1956 there have 17 of them racing actively in Germany. It is a masterpiece of German Engineering. The fairing itself is a beautiful piece of workmanship.

Chassis # is 171710, engine# is 791629R.


What I was able to glean from the world wide web is that the road going Sportmax had some unique ways of generating the power. The overhead cam was not driven by chain or gears, but by connecting rods, linking the cam to the crank. I would guess there are some more modifications on this race prepped bike. The road going Max also had a pressed steel uni-body frame, but it is hard to tell from the pictures if that transferred to the racing frame work.


More from the seller

It has a well documented history:

From Germany it was sold to Guatemala . Their racing star Luis Giron took it to Willow Springs in 1954 and won the Lightweight class. He then raced it in the 500cc class blowing off most of the Manxes. He finished 2.nd. I have the original article from “Motorcyclist”. Then it was bought by Sonny Angel a well known figure from California in the motorcycle racing scene. I bought it from Sonny in 1986 and had it in my Racing Department, Bley Vintage , a Division of Bley Engineering , Elk Grove /Il completely restored. All parts came from Germany , crankshaft by Hoeckle . It was kept in our private museum and I ran it in a few AHRMA events such as Laguna Seca, Road America, Steamboat Springs without fairing, and in Daytona with fairing. Because of being such a rare bike it was never pushed for winning but rather keeping it as a show piece.


When ever these ex-factory racers come up for auction I always hope that and ex-factory mechanic would come with the bike. With such limited production, limited documentation on improvements and upgrades, you need more then a set of wrenches to turn on these bikes. The seller drops a few names from past racing glory, and current vintage racing names. I am guessing that the number of bidders looking at this 1953 NSU Sportmax as a display bike is going to be higher then those looking for a bike to make lots of noise on the weekends. BB

1955 NSU Sportmax

NSU has always been the lost Motorcycle manufacture from Germany, at least in the US public mind. There has always been BMW, and then some others. It might be that NSU specialized in the 250cc and smaller bikes, but what they did with those limited cc has always been amazing. As the seller points out this 1955 NSU Sportmax has a pedigree that once dominated the Bonneville Salt Flats here in the US, and road racing courses across Europe.

 From the Seller

The NSU Sportmax was not only a looker, but add the period ‘dustbin’ fairing and it’s transformed into a thing of beauty. The same machine that propelled Hermann-Paul Müller, first-ever Privateer to become world champion as he powered his way to the 250cc world championship in 1955 –  a feat all the more remarkable given that he was in his mid 40s at the time.

After WWII NSU, began to focus on Race Bikes specifically in the 125 & 250cc classes.  These lightweight racers, RennMax and RennFox, were world beaters; consistently winning world championships until NSU officially withdrew from racing in 1954.  Their street bikes were no laggards either – the SOHC Fox and Max were high output and durable bikes.   This fact was not lost in the racing department, who fiddled with a Max engine until it produced nearly the same power as the DOHC twin: 30 hp at over 9000 rpm.

The seller has given a lot of information about the history of NSU and its racing bikes, but it takes a little bit to figure out exactly what you are getting. Are you getting an original, factory race bike? Are you getting a collection of NSU cast off race parts gathered together for this build? Or is it more then that?

More from the seller

In spite of having officially withdrawn from racing, the engine was installed in a Max street bike frame, fitted with aluminum bodywork and a dustbin fairing, and given to Herman-Peter Mueller, the 1954 250cc World Champion. Named the Sportmax, the bike was ridden by Mueller to another World Championship in 1955, making it the only streetbike-based motorcycle to ever win a world GP title.

NSU did some amazing things with motorcycles during the 1950’s. With a manufacturing base which produced many road going bikes for the public, the money was used to great advantage buy the factory race department. When NSU went to Bonneville, they took so many different combinations of engine sizes, frame designs, stream liners and such that they were able to throw a blanket over most land speed records for motorcycles sized 50cc to 500cc. Some of those records still stand to this day.

Fast forward to 2001. . . Erhard Melcher , yes that is the M in AMG Mercedes fame, Dieter Almers, the master builder who recreated a BMW RS for the British Private museum, a racer name Sigi and an engineer from Daimler named Manfred set out to build the ultimate NSU SportMax continuations.  Starting with an original camshaft and amassing parts either meticulously fabricated or reconditioned, the four “Masters of Motorworks” created 3 of the finest, safest and most original SportMax’s in existence.  NSU world record setter, Wilhelm Herz, laid his eyes on these in amazement and stated, “Are these real or recreations?”.  The biggest compliment Dieter Almers ever received.

So what you appear to be bidding on is a re-creation, resto-mod vintage racer. The seller quotes 30hp at at 9000rpm, but reading closely it looks like this is what the factory DOHC engine produced, and not this 1955 NSU Sportmax. With some heavy hitters in moto sports involved in this re-creation,  I am sure that you will be getting your moneys worth for the buy it now price of $55,000. Really with the huge aluminum dust-bin fairing, I think you get all your moneys worth right there. BB

1973 Norton Commando Combat Roadster for Sale

The Norton Commando is truly iconic motorcycle, the dream of countless “ton-up boys”, now grown to middle-aged men.  Rarer and a little more rakish than Triumphs of the same era, its forward-canted cylinders and fastback styling dripped with class and the promise of speed.

This one appears gorgeously restored:

1973 Norton Commando Combat Roadster

Prior to 1973, Nortons sported the motor immortalized in the Tom Waits’ song Hang on St Christopher: “there’s a 750 Norton bustin’ down January’s door…”  But 1973 saw the introduction of the 850 [actually 828cc] version of the venerable pre-unit twin.  The bump in displacement allowed similar power with less stressed engine internals, a good thing, considering the reputation of the earlier 750 Combat motors…

With a 10:1 compression ratio and 65hp, the Combat was introduced as the hot-rod version of the Commando, and the name proved unintentionally apt, with the high-compression motors regularly grenading spectacularly: main bearings and broken pistons were shockingly common.  This widely-publicised  disaster was another the nail in the coffin for Norton’s reputation and the company continued to spiral into debt, with the last machines rolling off the line in 1977.

The 850’s were introduced in the Spring of 1973 and, if the badging on the side-panel is correct, this Commando is a 750 produced earlier in the year.  The seller is a fan of old British motorcycles, but is listing this on behalf of his brother’s widow:

This is a spectacular Commando that was given a complete, ground-up professional restoration by my late brother, and I am selling it on behalf of his wife.

 The restoration was completed in 2008/09 and is correct to all specifications with the exception of the alloy tank, alloy wheels and stainless spokes and stainless rear mudguard, plus braided stainless brake lines.  There are many new, better-than-original-quality parts.

 I am a Velocette guy, but nothing I have ever ridden is as tight, responsive and sure as this bike. The handling is just as superb as the appearance.  I’d love to have it for myself but the 7 bikes I already own make that impossible.

Technical details are spare, but the seller appears happy to answer any serious questions, and he’s posted pictures of what appears to be a very beautiful bike.  From the work that’s gone into the restoration, I’d assume the motor’s been built to be far more durable than the original, and the Buy It Now price he mentions in the listing seems very fair.


1955 NSU Sportmax x2

If there is a shopping mall for Vintage and Classic Motorcycle it would be an auction set up by one of the large Auction houses. Bonhams is one of those houses that puts on events in both the US and Europe. If you are in the market for a motorcycle, whether its in boxes, original paint, or full restoration, you can find it for sale. Two Motorcycle that caught my eye offered at the October 16th Stafford show in England are both racing NSU motorcycles from the 1950’s.

NSU was never a force in motorcycle sales in the US, but in both the 1930’s and again in 1955 they were the larges manufactures of motorcycles in the world. With the volume of motorcycles sold, they also played a large part in International Motorcycle racing. These two 1955 race bikes are examples of what was offered by NSU the year the beat out MV Agusta and Moto Guzzi to win the World Championship in the 250cc class. Never big on displacement, they were still big

This “Dolphin” fairing NSU offered

The original Sportmax offered here was purchased in Paraguay in 2004 by the current vendor and imported into Spain that same year (the customs documents on file). Its history has been established by Mr Hartmut Schubert, an NSU specialist and historian in Germany (register entry on file). This Sportmax is probably the one raced by Rupert Hollaus in Germany (a conclusion supported by the unique construction of its fairing, which is of the type used by the factory racers) before it was sent to NSU’s subsidiary in Argentina. There it was raced by Fefro Meo, Miguel Angel Galuzzi and Jorge Cupeiro in local races to promote the NSU brand. A poster advertising one of these events in Buenos Aires and depicting an NSU is included in the sale. The Sportmax was also used by a Hungarian expatriate, Anton von Dary, to establish a number of speed records on the Buenos Aires to Ezeiza highway in December 1955


NSU was not only competing on the race tracks. In the late 1950’s NSU loaded up 6 different motorcycles ranging from 50cc to 500cc and headed to Bonneville. In the following weeks they were able to collected records for all six displacements. The took records with and without blowers. They took records with and without fairings and streamliner bodies. They took records measured in both miles and kilometers per hour. They dominated the salt and six of their records stand to this day. Having been to Bonneville I have respect for anyone, or any motorcycle that can go really fast on the salt.

The naked Sportmax

The original Sportmax offered here was raced by Raphaël Orinel from Thimister, Belgium in national events and selected rounds of the FIM World Championship, commencing in 1960 at Chimay, Belgium where he finished out of the points in a race won by Carlo Ubbiali (MV Agusta). The season culminated with 3rd place overall in that year’s Belgian 250cc championship. The following year saw Orinel finish in 11th and 9th places at the French and Belgian Grands Prix respectively, after which it seems the Sportmax was confined to national events until 1962. In that year its solitary outing on the international stage was at the French Grand Prix where Jim Redman headed a Honda clean sweep of the podium places in the 250 race. By now the Sportmax was hopelessly outclassed at international level and Orinel switched to a Honda four. It appears that Raphaël Orinel decided to retire from top-flight racing at the season’s end, as his name does not appear in the GP records after 1962


Lots of Classic Sports Bike enthusiast have blinders on for any motorcycle that is less then 500cc. So many manufactures focused their production on inexpensive, small displacement transportation, and because of this, there have always been small displacement races. Winning on Sunday will always sell on Monday. NSU proved this, and because they made lots of motorcycles, they had lots of money to spend on racing and these two motorcycles are an example of what their money was able to do.