Death Has a Revolving Door: Nimbus Motorcycles

DTW spotted this interesting machine: it’s a Danish-made motorcycle from the people who brought you Nilfisk vacuum-cleaners.

1959 Nimbus Model "C"
1959 Nimbus Model “C”

Most countries in Europe had a domestic motorcycle manufacturer or two up until the 1950s. Ireland is almost an exception, having only the Fagan company manufacturing Villiers models for a brief spell between 1935 and 1937. Rather more successful and long-lived, Nimbus produced motorcycles in Copenhagen between 1934 and 1959.

Fisker and Nielsen started making electric motorcycles in 1909 and turned to petrol driven machines when they introduced their Model A in 1934. That’s the same Fisker and Nielsen who made Nilfisk vacuum cleaners. Nimbus produced around 25,000 model “C” cycles, and about a third were sold to the Danish postal service and military. The example shown here was seen a month or so back. It is a military spec item and is, according to the owner, fairly close to the original appearance and fittings.

Nimbus isn’t quite dead. The Copenhagen Post reports  plans to resume production. “Claus Støvlbæk Clausen wants to redesign the Nimbus C-model so that it lives up to the safety and environmental standards of today and hopes that production will begin sometime in 2015.” The article quotes Clausen as saying “I got the idea in the shower and hurried down to call Nilfisk-Advance, which still has all the rights for the naming and technology rights”. Some details will change in order to meet modern requirements and

1950 Nimbus model "C"
1950 Nimbus model “C”

production may begin in 2015. As it is, about 4000 Nimbi are still running. Most are in Denmark but some are also found in the US and Germany. There is an existing pool of original parts still left over (nearing depletion, though) but it might be possible for the new firm to remanufacture spares for those owners who run one of the survivors. This means they can perhaps cater to existing owners’ needs as well as sell new bikes.

The owner of this one (top photo) reported that the simple design meant repair and maintenance could be done with a few ordinary tools making it an undemanding ownership proposition. I can report that the machine made an agreeable sound, a long way removed from the thuggish blat of Harley-Davidsons, for example. While I am not a connoisseur of motor-cycles, this one has an appealing simplicity to its design, very much a form-follows-function approach which you can also see in older Volvos.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

4 thoughts on “Death Has a Revolving Door: Nimbus Motorcycles”

  1. I was about to buy a Moto Guzzi Falcone once, only for financial difficulties to raise their head two days later and make me change my plans. This has that similar look, and shaft drive too. I like the exhaust. Is that a 4 cylinder engine? That is an oddity in what seems quite a small bike – the Guzzi was a 500cc single.

    There is a market for retro looking bikes but, beneath the skin, most of the current ones have none of the problems of unreliability and dripping oil that the originals had. Would a revival of this have a market? Royal Enfields have a loyal customer base who like to ride around in piss-pot crash helmets and greatcoats, but they are made in India. I imagine Danish production costs would make this rather expensive and that the updating could lose the charm.

    Personally, I’ve got to an age where owning an old looking bike is too much of a cliche, so my own bike looks modern, even if the engine goes back 40 years. In likelihood of success, this reminds me rather of the attempt to revive the Hillman Hunter that I read about on some website a year or two back but I’m always a sucker for unlikely propositions and would be very happy to be proved wrong..

  2. This motorcycle 750ccm Nimbus “Bumblebee” Are the nickname because of the wonderfull sound from the exsaust. Around 13000 were made from 1934 to 1959. Nearly 5000 Are stil running i Denmark, many i Norway & Sweden. USA, Russia, Nederland, germany Australia too. A few years ago 2 norwegians drove around the world on two Nimbus. A 1937 and a 1938. Two years and 70 000 km. Try to do That on a modern motorcykel.

    1. Thanks for commenting in a long ago written article John. Although I read a lot from the archive I don’t think it would catch my interest.
      But this bike is really interesting in design and in its engineering simplicity not to mention the reliability -twice the round of the world! Lets go baby!!
      Now I must find and listen to the “bubblebee” exaust sound in Youtube. 750cc is not a small engine for a bike so it must make some volume. I hope it is the antidote to the puff-paff sound of the americans Harleys!

  3. It’s nice to be reminded of a time when motorcycles were a means of transport, and not egregiously boastful recreational toys. I suppose the nearest British equivalent was Phelon and Moore’s Panther, made until 1967 in Cleckheaton, and although mechanically quite different from the Nimbus, similarly durable and timeless.

    I recall reading that the survival of the Nimbus was partly down to very low insurance costs in its home market even for young riders, making it the cheapest means of personal transport available to Danes.

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