If You Love A Motorcycle Let It Go

December 26, 2012

All Posts, News

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.

Act Two

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.


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6 Responses to “If You Love A Motorcycle Let It Go”

  1. troyez Says:

    Great story! I’m not surprised that the bike is still largely intact, those cold, northern lakes suspend time for much of the stuff that’s on the bottom. I hope the bike gets restored too, and Mr. Allie gets his wish.

  2. Va.Bob Says:

    so that’s where The Motor Company got the idea for the Sportster tank.Damn infringers.

  3. Jim666 Says:

    That is a great story Rebel,
    never new this but, I was telling my Dad this story and he said his father my grandfather had one of these bikes traded a .22 rifle for it in the 40,s , I do however remember Henderson,s a Crocker a few Indians and of course 4 or 5 Harleys over the years he was still alive,he was born 1904 Died in 1976, started riding in the 20,s
    I guess motorcycles are in my blood.

    thnx for printing this Rebel hope you had a great Christmas

  4. Chip Says:

    Wonder if Audi would want to get involved (well, all except the “Nazi War Machine” heritage part).

  5. Base Says:

    Great story,,,

    We used to have a Harley on my Grand Fathers dairy farm, used to haul milk out & feed in and other chores. Talking to my sister on Christmas day we started reminiscing about those days. I always thought it was an old Flatty service trike, she thought it was an old Military side car. So now we are both on the hunt for photos to see who’s right. Regardless, what I wouldn’t give to have that old Iron. Trike or side hack wouldn’t matter, just to have that bike and the connection to my grandfather & family would be a grand thing in its self….

    Happy New Year, be safe out there,,, Base

  6. swampy Says:

    Wow, Rebel, that was a great story and a bit of history too. Jim666 mentioned Crocker, I always thought they were beautiful motorcycles and heard that they were tough as hell. Too bad they folded in 1942. I often wonder what became of my ’68 FLH. I should never have sold her, after all, she was my first Harley.
    Respects, swampy

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