9. NSU

NSU Motorcycle

NSU got its start manufacturing knitting machines in 1873, expanded to bicycle production in 1886 and then motorcycles in 1901. The factory was severely damaged in WWII but by 1955 had rebounded to become the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer producing upwards of 350,000 bikes that year.

Prior to that, in 1951, NSU set the motorcycle speed record of 180 mph on a 500cc turbocharged model. NSU also held speed records in various classes from 50cc to 500cc. In 1956, Whilhelm Herz broke the 200 mph barrier aboard a turbocharged 500cc NSU streamliner. NSU also won multiple Grand Prix World Championships in the 125cc and 250cc classes between 1953 and 1955 on machines such as the replica pictured above that privateer Hermann-Paul Muller piloted to the 1955 250cc world championship. In 1969 NSU was merged into the Volkswagen Group and effectively discontinued.