Dave DeBaene’s 1938 NSU 501 OSL

A reader who’s restored several bikes including a Bultaco Pursang and helps maintain bikes for a museum shares his NSU 501 OSL.

Reader Contribution by Dave Debaene
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by Dave DeBaene

Rider: Dave DeBaene, Moline, Illinois
Age: 66
Occupation: Manufacturing engineer, John Deere (retired)
Rides: 1938 NSU 501 OSL

Dave’s story: “I have been a motorcycle enthusiast since I was 12. I started with a scooter my oldest brother found for me. I raced amateur flat track for four years before I married. My first race bike was a Hodaka Super Rat. I also raced a Bultaco 175 Sherpa, and 250 and 350 Pursangs. After having kids I quit riding until my daughter graduated from college (2001). I then purchased a 1975 Harley-Davidson FLH project bike. Just before retirement I built a Honda FT street tracker, and then a 1980 Honda CB750 café racer. I started motorcycle restoration with a 1972 Bultaco Pursang. Since then I have restored seven more bikes, and I just started on a 1951 Triumph 6T Thunderbird. I help in maintaining the bikes for the Moto Armory museum collection. I have acquired most of my projects from the museum.

“The NSU I restored was originally to be sold at the 2018 Mecum motorcycle auction in Las Vegas. The bike looked really rough but it appeared to have good bones. I loved the looks of the bike (even in the condition it was in). I must admit after initially buying the bike I had some concerns that parts availability would be a problem. I found a source in Germany (NSU-Schoenhaar) that I relied on for most of the parts. The bike is titled as a 1938 but, after sending the frame and engine number to NSU-Schoenhaar I was told the frame is 1940, and motor matches 1939 production numbers. My first purchase was a parts list and service manual. Unfortunately the parts list and manuals are printed only in German. Since then I have made good use of my translator app. One of the first things I noticed was the bike’s rear brake pedal and actuator splines were stripped. Neither were parts I could buy new or used. I purchased a Honda CB750 brake pedal and shaft spline to machine in order to incorporate into a working brake. After looking over the bike it appeared most of the parts were functional. It appears after the rear brake splines were stripped, the bike was parked. That may have been a good thing in that may have kept the bike off the road and allowed it to become a survivor. Some of the other adaptations for the restoration were making a kidney shaped contact point cover, making a new rear taillight mount and making replacement hardware (mostly 8mm). As with most restorations, hardware gets damaged and or replaced with incorrect hardware. For many of the 8mm hardware on this bike I machined new nuts and bolts to best represent the original. All of the hardware was sent to Billmark Plating in Fort Worth, Texas, for cadmium plating.

“Some of the changes from stock include new rims from Central Wheel (the original rims were too pitted to reuse), spokes from Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim, leather toolbox covers from Heather’s Leathers, paint by Jim Bantz, and pinstriping by Vickie Racer, Big River Custom. New cables were made from new-old-stock Wassell cables. The coverings best match the vintage look that I want.”

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