NSU Delphin III




On April 12, 1951, an NSU 500 with supercharger and a two-shaft, two-cylinder engine (which was derived from NSU's 350 and 500 racers of 1939) set a new world speed record for motorcycles.

The NSU ran the kilometer at a speed of 290 km./hr. (180.1 m.p.h.). On July 2, 1955, the New Zealander Joe Wright broke the 1951 record with a Vincent HRD, attaining a speed of 185.15 m.p.h.

When NSU officially withdrew from world championship racing in 1954, the company's technicians began making secret preparations for record-setting runs. Even after NSU's surprise win of the 250-class title with its Sportmax in 1955—the motorcycle had not been built specifically for racing—the company decided to continue with its plan to try for speed records on the straightaway. Following Wright's record-breaking run in 1955, the NSU people got back to work in earnest.

At the beginning of the summer of 1956, a whole army of technicians, engineers, and racers went to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to get ready for the trials. NSU had prepared several special motorcycles for the Bonneville runs, but only two of them were earmarked to make attempts at setting a new record. These were the Baumm II and the Delphin III. The Baumm's engines ranged from 50- to 250-cc. displacement, while the Delphin III was built for the more powerful 350- and 500-cc. engines.

The Baumm II was known as the "flying deck chair." The maximum height of this motorcycle was less than two and a half feet. It could house three different engines: a 50-cc. single-cylinder, two-stroke model that was derived from the Quickly series and equipped with supercharger, which generated 10 h.p.; a 50-cc. single-cylinder, four-stroke model with rotating valve, which generated 12 h.p. at 16,000 r.p.m.; and the famous Grand Prix Rennfox 125, which could generate up to 42 h.p.

The Delphin III could accommodate either the 350- or the 500-cc. engine with supercharger. It had been built specifically for its rider, Wilhelm Herz. Its detailing was so exact that he had to be kept on a very strict diet so that a sudden gain in weight would not make him too big for the space allotted him.

The torpedo streamlining of the Delphin III included a stabilizing fin to the rear similar to the one that had made it possible for Herz to reach his 290 km./hr. in 1951. The only problem with the 1956 version was that its precise design left out the little extra space which was actually needed. Whenever the vehicle bumped on the track, Herz knocked his helmet against the dome. Finally Herz had to race exposed to the wind, riding without the protective dome.

The total weight of the motorcycle, without a driver, was approximately 570 pounds. The maximum height was about three and a half feet. The weight-power ratio was 2.4 kilograms (about 51/4 pounds) per unit of horsepower.

Before going to the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Delphin III was carefully tested on the Munich superhighway. In first gear the motorcycle reached 125 m.p.h. Prospects could not have been better.

Another sign of luck was that Herz had canceled his reservation on the ill-fated Andrea Doria (which sank on July 26, 1956) and sailed to the United States on the more fortunate Cristoforo Colombo.
The trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats started late in July, and fifty-four world records were broken, with many of them being set by the NSU motorcycles.

The NSU enterprise proved a total success. It culminated in the new world speed record that was set by the Delphin III on August 4. Herz reached the fantastic speed of 211.04 m.p.h., topping Joe Wright's record by some 25 m.p.h. This feat was especially remarkable because the motorcycle ridden by Wright had a 1,000-cc. engine, while the Delphin Ill's engine was a 500-cc.

Motorcycle: NSU Delphin III

Manufacturer: NSU, Neckarsulm

Type: Purpose build to set world record

Year: 1956
Engine: NSU two-cylinder, four-stroke, with two-shaft overhead distribution and bevel gear shafts. Rotating supercharger.

Fuel methanol.

Displacement 498.7 cc. (63 mm. X 80 mm.)
Cooling: Air
Transmission: Four-gear block
Power: 110 h.p. at 8,000 r.p.m.
Maximum speed: 211.04 m.p.h.
Chassis: Continuous double cradle with tubular elements, faired housing.

Front suspension: parallelogram suspension

Rear, telescopic
Brakes: Front and rear, central drum