The Nimbus in the Barn

After buying my Nimbus, one of the first things I did was contact Ed Oleson in Ontario who is the Nimbus guru here in Canada. I had met him at a couple of the CVMG (Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group) rallies in Paris, Ontario several years ago which is where I saw his Nimbus for the first time. Prior to that I hadn’t heard of the make and Ed’s bike was (and still is) immaculate. Certainly it made enough of an impression, that after some years of looking I was finally able to buy my own.

While discussing my bike and giving me a few suggestions in the ‘care and maintenance’ area, Ed casually asked whether I’d ever seen a red Nimbus here in Calgary. I hadn’t, but I promised to ask around. They are different enough from anything else on two wheels and also quite rare here in Canada, so I was certain if anyone had seen one they would be sure to remember. In very short order, I was able to connect with another CVMG member here in Calgary, who not only knew of a red Nimbus, but was also able to show me a photo of it and promised to invite me over to take a closer look. More time passed till just last week, when I was finally able to get a good look at the mystery machine and take a few photos.

Every machine has a story to tell. This particular Nimbus started life as a Danish military model, having the small head lamp and the speedometer mounted on the right headlamp mounting bracket. Of interest is that the frame number is within twenty-five numbers of the last Nimbus recorded to have been made, making it perhaps a bit special from a collector perspective. It was originally painted in olive drab and belonged to Ed’s brother Anders, who lives in Denmark. Anders had a sidecar attached, and after an eventful life in Denmark (which included being stolen and retrieved at least once), a deal was made and the sidecar was sold to a buyer in Belgium and the bike itself was crated in a one cubic metre crate for shipment to Ed here in Canada.

Given the Nimbus has a wheelbase of 1.4 metres, to fit it into the shipping crate required fully disassembling the machine, and so Ed painted it and put it back together in his basement during the winter of 1972/1973. The photo below shows Ed’s daughter on the newly restored machine, and the photo at the top of the page shows the bike just after being carried up from Ed’s basement and made ready for its first ride. After being shown at several rallies, including the inaugural CVMG rally held in Welland, Ontario in 1973 where it was one of 37 entries, Ed sold the bike to Frank Tucker here in Calgary, Alberta in the spring of 1975. Ed promptly went and bought another Nimbus which he still has, and is the one I first saw roughly eight years ago. It is red also, but that is story for another time.

Frank was well known as a collector and restorer of Indian motorcycles in Alberta, and he had a passion for four cylinder machines specifically. He was either a founding member, or at least a very early member of the Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club here in Calgary in the early 1940’s. One of his 1940 four cylinder Indians (he had several) was recently restored to as new condition, but he also owned other makes including the Nimbus. Below is a photo taken in 2002 of Frank with his grandson on the Nimbus which was taken at a motorcycle show here in Calgary.

Sadly, Frank died in December of 2003 and while most of the rest of his collection has been sold off in the thirteen years since his passing, the Nimbus still remains. Normally covered with some dust covers, it is sheltered in what can best be described as a very busy shed, but it is safe and also dry.

The engine is dry seized, the tires are well passed their ‘best before’ date and the glass lens is cracked on the speedometer, but otherwise it seems complete and looks to generally be in pretty good shape. I suspect a bit of releasing oil down the spark plug holes would probably free the stuck engine, and the other issues are cosmetic and easily addressed. The ignition key was missing, and while I know you don’t really need one to start the engine, I had a spare Nimbus key which I have given to the family. It is now tie-wrapped to the steering damper.

The plan is for it eventually to be passed down to Frank’s grandson shown in the motorcycle show photo earlier, who hopefully will someday recommission it and ride it again. Until that day comes, the red Nimbus patiently waits.

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1 Response to The Nimbus in the Barn

  1. Hi Ian,

    Nice write up on this old barn Nimbus, it is always fun to see where these come from and where they have been hiding.

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