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LOT 176

The ex-Steve McQueen 1939 Nimbus 750cc Model C Luxus Combination Frame no. 4486 Engine no. 4486

Estimate: US$65,000 - US$85,000
Lot 176
The ex-Steve McQueen
1939 Nimbus 750cc Model C Luxus Combination
Frame no. 4486 Engine no. 4486

The ex-Steve McQueen

1939 Nimbus 750cc Model C Luxus Combination

Frame no. 4486
Engine no. 4486

• Purchased from the 1984 Steve McQueen Estate Auction
• Refreshed in 2009 by previous owner
• Unique 4 cylinder model

Unusual in producing 4-cylinder machines only, the Danish firm of Fisker & Nielsen of Copenhagen, makers of the first commercial vacuum cleaner under the Nilfisk brand, introduced the Nimbus motorcycle in 1919. Their products were of advanced design, strong but not heavyweight, using shaft final drive and pressed steel frames – pieces rivetted together - from the start of production. The company also pioneered the telescopic front fork in the 1930s. Motorcycle production was suspended in 1928, and when the Nimbus reappeared in 1934 it was with an air-cooled 746cc in-line power unit with 22 horsepower, designed by Peder Fisker and his son Anders, that showed strong automobile industry influence, with an integral crankcase/cylinder block in cast iron and a detachable alloy sump. The cast-iron cylinder head was topped by an alloy housing for the single overhead camshaft, the latter being driven by shaft-and-bevel gears. 'It does, however, have exposed valve gear, with rocker arms and valve springs dancing merrily while it runs.'

A single-plate clutch transmitted power to the 3-speed gearbox. Foot change for the gearbox, a beefier front fork but still with a hard-tail rear (both rider and pillion saddles have 'big springs' to partially compensate), and larger brakes had been added by the end of the 1930s but from then-on the Nimbus changed little until series production ended in 1959. Production was always on a limited scale, even though they were popular with the Danish military and post office through 1972, but such is the build and materials quality of the Nimbus that many remain in service today. It is thought that less than 200 Nimbus motorcycles have been imported to the USA.
From factory data, the Nimbus, as a solo, was originally sold by F&N on March 27, 1939 to Nimbus dealer Lauritz Johnson. It was originally red. The sidecar, whose chassis is thought to be a generic RB, was added later, exactly when is not known. Also unknown is the manufacturer and the date of manufacture although it is perhaps an Engstrom from the 1950s with a modified windshield.

This Model C Luxus Nimbus and sidecar first 'hit the radar' in 1984 for it came from the Steve McQueen collection having been sold at the Hollywood hero's estate sale auction at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Las Vegas on November 24 and 25 that year. Reputedly the buyer, one Robert Mercer, had flown in specially to buy the Nimbus which he placed it in his extensive collection in San Jose, California. Some years later he relocated, with his collection, to North Carolina. In 2009, the story continues, Mr. Mercer decided to refresh rather than restore the outfit with the help of local expert Larry Yount, who in turn called on Kaj Pedersen, the president of the Nimbus Club USA ,for advice. The refresh took a year as great care was taken to maintain the existing McQueen patina; McQueen had looked after it well. Robert Mercer kept the outfit until his death in 2016.

The ex-McQueen 'outfit' - motorcycle and sidecar together - is in excellent, restored condition and is properly geared for sidecar use.


As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.

Saleroom notices

Please note, the lot has been withdrawn from the auction.

Specialist section


  • 4 October 2018, 12:00 - 17:00 CDT
  • 5 October 2018, 08:30 - 17:00 CDT
  • 6 October 2018, 08:30 - 12:00 CDT

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