Sunken Motorcycle Fished Out of a Lake After 56 Years

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A Minnesota man has been reunited with his 1938 NSU 251 OSL, nearly 56  years after the German motorcycle sank to the bottom of a lake.

In 1956, Wyman Ailie bought the motorcycle for his then-15-year-old son Dean from a farmer who brought the bike back with him from Germany during World War II. That December, Dean Ailie went for a ride with his friends and on his way home, decided to take a shortcut across the frozen surface of Big Swan Lake in Dassel, Minn.

He had taken that route safely on the way out, but the way home was a different story. The ice cracked underneath him, and rider and motorcycle fell into the water. According to reports, air trapped in Ailie’s leather jacket buoyed him up to the surface where he was rescued by a pair of nearby fishermen. The NSU however was lost to the lake.

Until last month that is. On Nov. 29, 2012, nearly 56 years after Ailie’s episode, the NSU 251-OSL has surfaced, once again thanks to fishermen. This time, it was commercial fisher Ken Seemann, who had been seining for carp when his nets caught something heavy: an old German motorcycle.

Ailie’s crash through the ice in 1956 was fairly big news for the area at the time, and it didn’t take long for people to help Seemann connect the motorcycle to Ailie, now 71, who still lives nearby. Ailie was soon reunited with his beloved motorcycle.

Considering how long it sat at the bottom of the lake, the motorcycle in a surprisingly good condition. It was coated in rust, the seat had long dissolved and the fuel tank has some holes, but the cylinder was dry and the tires still contained some air.

Ailie initially wanted to keep the recovered motorcycle but Seemann and his business partner Jeff Riedermann to an associate, Ron Miller, a motorcycle collector. Ailie handed the motorcycle to Miller who plans to clean it up and display it.

[Source: Mankato Free Press, Herald-Journal]

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  • Herbert Jahn

    What a great story. Nice it could be recovered! I have a NSU Sportmax Replika and also A NSU Max-Standart. I still look for an other hot Max engine. It is to bad Audi seems not to look even after the brand name NSU and also the Sportmax name–it end you in Politics and Tires if you look for it on the Internet.-Thank you for posting it!

  • Doug Shrimpton

    What a stroke of luck. Good luck with the restoration.

  • Ron

    Thanx for your comments, I am the one with this bike and I’m wondering if anyone knows where I can find the serial number on the frame, I’ve looked this thing over inch by inch and can find it…. Thanx

  • http://www.motorcycle.com Dennis Chung

    My Polish isn’t that good, but if a Google Translation of this post (http://www.nsu.riders.pl/phpBB3-Bridge/index.php?f=5&t=153&rb_v=viewtopic) is accurate, it sounds like it should be under the seat on the left side.

    Here’s a couple of pictures linked to from that page that should help:
    http://www.nsu.riders.pl/index.php?option=com_g2bridge&view=gallery&Itemid=85&lang=pl&g2_itemId=84641
    http://www.nsu.riders.pl/index.php?option=com_g2bridge&view=gallery&Itemid=85&lang=pl&g2_itemId=83909

  • RonHappy new year

    Thanx for the info Dennis ! I’ll let you know what i find.

  • Ron

    ok, cant find a serial number on the frame, i dont even see where the rivets could have been, does anyone know how i can identify this bike with engine serial numbers ?

  • Jacqui

    I have keep the original tank of my 250 NSU osl now in
    moto-cross trim, with a small 100 Peugeot tank.