1954 NSU Max TT: The Odd Man Out

Designed to compete in the International Six Days Trials, this 1954 NSU Max TT is one of only 50 production bikes.

| January/February 2013

  • 1954 NSU Max TT
    NSU was at the very first Isle of Man TT race in 1907, where NSU’s British manager, Martin Geiger, rode an NSU single to a fifth place finish.
    Photo By Rick Schunk
  • 1954 NSU Max TT Close
    By the early 1950s NSU was ranked the world’s largest producer of motorcycles, ahead of even giant BSA.
    Photo By Rick Schunk
  • NSU Max
    Mike first became aware of our feature Max TT when it showed up on eBay in Mound, Minn. It was incorrectly listed as an NSU Super Max, and it wasn’t long before the seller was notified that his machine was a rare bird.
    Photo By Rick Schunk
  • NSU Max Engine
    The 247cc single-cylinder engine hangs from a pressed steel frame.
    Photo By Rick Schunk
  • Mike Crane NSU Max
    Mike Crane takes his 21 horsepower Max TT for a spin in the dirt.
    Photo By Rick Schunk

  • 1954 NSU Max TT
  • 1954 NSU Max TT Close
  • NSU Max
  • NSU Max Engine
  • Mike Crane NSU Max

1954 NSU Max TT
Claimed power
: 21hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 80mph (est.)
Engine: 247cc air-cooled OHC single, 69mm x 66mm bore and stroke, 7.7:1 compression ratio
Weight (wet): 332lb (165kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.7gal (14ltr)/55-65mpg (est.)
Price then: $745

The NSU Max was not your average motorcycle. A pressed steel frame, leading-link front fork, mono-shock rear suspension and “Ultra Max” valve train were all features that set the Max apart. 

But it was exactly that technological innovation — coupled with NSU’s unique styling — that caught Minnesota motorcycle collector Mike Crane’s attention. “The first time I saw an NSU was at Mid-Ohio in 1995,” Mike recalls. “It was a Super Max, and I fell in love with the shape of the frame, the solo seat and the chrome on the gas tank. Overall, it was the styling, the Ultra Max valve drive and the build quality that drew me to the marque.”

Three years later Mike bought his first NSU, a Super Max, and he’s since added several NSUs to a burgeoning collection. Including corpses of cannibalized machines, Mike figures he has 20 NSUs, ranging from an early 1905 model to several much more pedestrian mounts, including Quickly mopeds. Mike likes them all, but there is little doubt that the prize in his fleet of NSUs is this rare 1954 Max TT — one of only 50 to have left the factory.



NSU develops

NSU is probably best known for its cars and motorcycles, but the company started in a completely different line of manufacturing. In 1873, two German engineers began producing knitting machines, and the fledgling concern soon moved into a factory based in Neckarsulm, Germany. NSU stands for Neckarsulm Strickmachen (literally, make stick, as in knitting needles) Union, and, because they turned out high-quality machines and components, NSU began producing bicycles, capitalizing on the two-wheeled pedaling craze that swept the world in the late 1800s.

Putting power in a bicycle frame was the next logical step, and NSU managed the feat in 1901 when they bolted in a Swiss-made Zedal engine. Soon NSU was making its own V-twin and single-cylinder engines, and NSU did not shy from putting its metal to the test, taking part in significant race and speed trial events. NSU was at the very first Isle of Man TT race in 1907, where NSU’s British manager, Martin Geiger, rode an NSU single to a fifth place finish. 



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