Immediately after the Second World War, one of the most popular imported motorcycles in America was a German bike called the NSU, which stands for the Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union. That translates as the Neckarsulm Knitting-machine Union. The company got into the bicycle business in the 1890s and started building motorcycles in 1901. NSU invented the swing-arm suspension in 1914, built about half the bikes used by the Nazi war machine, became the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in 1955 and finally stopped making motorcycles in 1963. Volkswagen bought NSU in 1969 and now the company is called Audi.
In 1956, a 15-year-old named Dean Allie got one of the bikes – a 1938 NSU 251-OSL – as a Christmas present. It was a single cylinder, 250 cc bike. The German Army used them as messenger bikes from 1938 through 1940.
The Allies lived in rural Minnesota – which is so famous for its lakes that the original professional basketball team in Minnesota is still called the Lakers. The Allies’ local lake was Swan Lake, about halfway between Minneapolis and Fargo, and the boy soon took his new toy out onto the lake’s frozen surface. When the bike broke through the boy survived only because his police style jacket stayed water tight and full of air long enough for an ice fisherman to pull him out. The bike was lost.
The incident made all the local papers in December 1956 and the tale of the boy and his bike survived. Fishermen dragged the lake in hopes of recovering the bike the next Spring. Scuba divers searched for the kid’s motorcycle that summer. Halfway through the Eisenhower Administration, the bike simply disappeared.
Dean Allie is now 71 and on November 29 somebody finally found his missing motorcycle. A commercial carp fisherman named Ken Seemann snagged the bike in his net, dragged it ashore and began asking questions. The next day a longtime resident told him the old story of the boy and his bike. Seemann told the story to a long haul trucker and motorcycle enthusiast named Ron Miller. Miller then took possession of the motorcycle and tracked down Allie.
The motorcycle was scarred by 56 years underwater. The gas tank has rusted through. The seat and the headlight are ruined and it needs a new exhaust pipe. But, according to Miller the cylinder was dry and the rubber was still good. And, according to Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press Dean Allie cried when he saw his motorcycle come back. Then he quickly dried his tears and gave the bike to Miller – at least according to Miller who doesn’t think the bike will ever run again but that people will be interested in it anyway.
“It’s priceless. Not for sale,” Miller told Fritz Busch of the New Ulm Journal who also took the photo above. “I want to tell the story about how it was found and show it to people the way it is.”
Miller told the Mankato paper that all Allie wants is a photo of his old motorcycle after Miller cleans it up. He also told the Free Press that he considers the old NSU “found treasure.” What Miller most wants is “to get the story out. It’ll go on display.” He told the same paper he wants to show his treasure at “motorcycle dealerships” and “civic celebrations.”
Maybe sometime he will let Dean Allie sit on it.