Nim­bus: The real num­bers

Old Bike Australasia - - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR -

Firstly, I would like to thank you for piec­ing to­gether the ar­ti­cle ‘Dan­ish de­lights – the Nim­bus’, in OBA 77. Un­for­tu­nately, and un­known to you, there are, for me, too many in­cor­rect facts in some of the ar­ti­cles and I would like to try to get it right. Over the years, I have read many var­i­ous ar­ti­cles in mag­a­zines and web sites about the Nim­bus mo­tor­cy­cle and its his­tory and for some rea­son al­most all of them have wrong in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially when it comes to the year that Fisker & Nielsen stopped pro­duc­tion of the Nim­bus mo­tor­cy­cle. Peder An­der­sen Fisker started his own busi­ness in Copen­hagen un­der his own name, Fisker, man­u­fac­tur­ing elec­tric mo­tors. A pre­vi­ous work col­league, Hans Mar­ius Nielsen, joined Fisker shortly af­ter and the busi­ness name changed to Fisker & Nielsen. In 1910, P. A. Fisker had de­vel­oped an elec­tric vac­uum cleaner which he in­tended to mass pro­duce. Nielsen did not want to do that. The re­sult was that Fisker bought Nielsen out of the busi­ness and Fisker con­tin­ued on his own. Un­for­tu­nately, that ex­port mar­ket came to a halt with the out­break of WWI in 1914. The busi­ness name Fisker & Nielsen re­mained, all the way till 1989! Fisker thought an­other prod­uct had to be de­vel­oped and as early as 1916, started the idea of a mo­tor­cy­cle. Draw­ings of the Nim­bus and patent ap­pli­ca­tions are dated 1917. The first pro­to­type was com­pleted in 1918 and this was fol­lowed by sev­eral vari­ants. How­ever, it had no name be­fore 1919, when P.A. Fisker felt pro­voked by a no­tice about a mo­tor­cy­cle rally in a news­pa­per, which read: Also see Man­u­fac­turer Fisker with his homemade 4-cylin­der. This prompted Mr. Fisker to be­stow the mo­tor­cy­cle with the name Nim­bus. It could be pro­nounced in most lan­guages and was well ac­cepted in Den­mark too. Nine copies were pro­duced be­tween 1919 and 1920, which was a very small pro­duc­tion, prob­a­bly due to eco­nomic prob­lems. In 1920 P. A. Fisker turned the busi­ness into a Pty. Ltd. in or­der to get an in­jec­tion of cap­i­tal, as his bank did not want to help him with his mo­tor­cy­cle ad­ven­ture. To round this up, it is clearly doc­u­mented that the Nim­bus ‘Stove pipe’ was man­u­fac­tured from 1918 to 1928. There were only 1,252 ever made. The Nim­bus from 1918 to the end of 1923 were des­ig­nated Nim­bus A. Ma­chines from 1924 to the end was des­ig­nated Nim­bus B, which had a dif­fer­ent front fork sys­tem. Ma­chines from 1927 and 1928 were as­sem­bled from parts al­ready made in ear­lier years. Fisker took the de­ci­sion in 1924 to cease pro­duc­tion in 1926, due to the Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duc­ing a tax for ve­hi­cles, such as cars and mo­tor­cy­cles, even if they were made lo­cally. That broke the fi­nal straw for Mr. Fisker. The Nim­bus ‘stove pipe’ had its 100th year an­niver­sary in 2018, cel­e­brated amongst hun­dreds of Nim­bus en­thu­si­asts in Den­mark with a big rally end­ing in Copen­hagen where the Nim­bus fac­tory once was. The Birth and the end of the Nim­bus C P. A. Fisker’s son, An­ders Fisker was a keen mo­tor­cy­clist and he fin­ished an engi­neer­ing de­gree (Me­chan­i­cal) in 1932. Straight af­ter An­ders Fisker had fin­ished these ex­ams, he be­came em­ployed with Fisker & Nielsen Pty. Ltd. An­ders Fisker had al­ready worked on a project to re-ig­nite the mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­ing. This project showed vi­able fi­nan­cial prospects, if a min­i­mum of 1000 Nim­bus could be pro­duced per year. The project was pre­sented to the board of Fisker & Nielsen Pty. Ltd. and ac­cepted. There were no empty fac­tory build­ings avail­able to start this project, so P. A. Fisker or­dered a new build­ing to be built in such a way it could have an­other two sto­ries added later. The con­struc­tion took place in 1932 and 1933. P. A. Fisker paid cash (One mil­lion Dan­ish kro­ner, ap­prox­i­mately A$200,000.00), mean­ing there was no bank loan for that build­ing. An­other two mil­lion kro­ner were spent on all new ma­chin­ery and tool­ing to man­u­fac­ture the new Nim­bus. The Nim­bus C was de­vel­oped be­tween fa­ther and son in the base­ment of the fam­ily home in Copen­hagen in the years of 1932 and 1933 and by 1933 a pro­to­type was run­ning. Man­u­fac­tur­ing started in early 1934 and the first ma­chines were de­liv­ered in mid-1934. The en­gine was yet again a four-cylin­der 746cc, but this time built in one cast iron block, with a bore of 60mm and stroke of 66mm. The sump was cast alu­minium. The en­gine had an over­head camshaft in an alu­minium hous­ing, which was bolted on top of the en­gine block in­de­pen­dent from the one-piece cylin­der head and in­let man­i­fold. The camshaft ran in two bronze bushes. The valves were ac­ti­vated by a tap­pet arm ex­posed from the camshaft hous­ing which piv­oted on a hard­ened pin. Un­for­tu­nately, the valves had no lu­bri­ca­tion. The com­plete mo­tor­cy­cle weighed 185 kg. The Nim­bus C had var­i­ous changes from 1934 to 1959, notably dif­fer­ent front forks. The Nim­bus C was in fact the first mo­tor­cy­cle to have a tele­scopic front fork, although it was not oil damp­ened un­til 1939. From 1934 to 1938, it was slid­ing tubes and in­ter­nal springs lu­bri­cated with grease. The Nim­bus C was never ex­ported, as the home mar­ket de­manded more than could be man­u­fac­tured. How­ever, one at­tempt was made in 1939 where a deal was done for ex­port­ing 100 ma­chines to the Yu­gosla­vian Air Force. The ma­chines were made, paid for and ready to be shipped but they were never shipped due to the out­break of WWII in Septem­ber 1939. Fisker & Nielsen dis­man­tled the ma­chines in the way of tak­ing the en­gine out of the frame and the lot was stored away in sep­a­rate build­ings in Copen­hagen, well away from the Nim­bus fac­tory. The Ger­man Forces later found the sales con­tract be­tween F & N and the Yu­gosla­vian Air Force in the Gov­ern­ment build­ing in Bel­grade. The Ger­man Forces in Den­mark fronted up at F & N and de­manded the Nim­bus mo­tor­cy­cles to be handed over. The 100 Nim­bus, many with side­cars, ended up in Ger­man-oc­cu­pied Nor­way. The first and only an­nounce­ment that the pro­duc­tion of Nim­bus and side­cars had ceased came via a let­ter, dated the 6th of May 1959, sent to all the Nim­bus deal­ers, coun­try­wide. The orig­i­nal let­ter was sent around in­ter­nally to all de­part­ments within the Nim­bus fac­tory to be signed by all heads of de­part­ments. No Nim­bus were ever made from leftover parts. F & N sup­plied spare parts for an­other 15 years es­pe­cially for the De­fence Force, which had a large num­ber of Nim­bus and side­cars. The Dan­ish Post and Po­lice also used Nim­bus. The to­tal num­ber of Nim­bus C made is 12,715, start­ing with num­ber 1301 and fin­ished with num­ber 14015. Lars Glerup Queens­land

The of­fi­cial let­ter from Fisker & Nielsen in­form­ing deal­ers of the halt to pro­duc­tion of Nim­bus in 1957.

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