You’d be forgiven for looking at the stats of the mid-1960s designed NSU Ro80 and thinking it was a much newer car. At the very least, it seemed quite futuristic compared to what was coming not only out of Detroit, but out of the rest of the world at the time. Aerodynamics were key to its slippery shape, unlike the rest of the world that relied on “jet” styling accents and fins to look fast. A tall, airy greenhouse provided excellent visibility for its passengers and driver. Underneath, power steering, 4-wheel independent suspension, 4-wheel disc inboard brakes and a semi-automatic gearbox with vacuum assisted clutch were the highlights – items that in some cases wouldn’t be found on mainstream cars until very recently. Then there was the engine; at only 1 liter, it didn’t sound like much to write about – but it was a twin-rotor Wankel engine with over 100 horsepower. Indeed, the power output wasn’t much less than most inline-6s of the day with 2 1/2 times the displacement. Couple that into a reasonably lightweight sedan and the performance of the NSU was certainly above average.
Looking at the NSU today, it’s easy to see design elements that were incorporated into later designs, mostly from the 1970s and 1980s. NSU’s parent Audi developed the exterior design elements further a decade and a half later into the Audi 100, most notably. Squint, and you can see it. But when I look, I also see elements from BMWs, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Lancia, Fiat, and even Toyota, Mazda and Nissan – this was truly an influential design. For the most part, it was also a fringe automobile though, so not many people knew them or about the advanced platform that had been developed. They were also a bit too far ahead of the curve, suffering rotor-tip seal problems that wouldn’t really be solved for another decade by Mazda. On top of that, they were quite expensive at the time – meaning that for well-heeled buyers, the unreliability was even more unacceptable than normal. More recently in the past decade, the avant-garde Ro80 has finally been recognized by the world as a truly special page in history and a turning point in automotive design. That’s why it’s so special to see them pop up for sale, especially in America where they’ve always been rare:
It’s not often that you get to see an NSU these days, especially in the United States. It’s even more rare to find an NSU race car in the U.S.; but especially rare would be the cars that have substantial race history. In the case of this car, that history includes being raced since new – something very few cars can claim. Want some history? This car was extensively upgraded to a 1200CC motor some 47 years ago. Take that, Porsche crowd! The TT was renowned as a good racer, with plenty of balance, braking and light weight to make good use of its relatively modest power output. Looking ready to hit the track still nearly 50 years later, this TT is for sale today on Ebay:
If NSU isn’t the most recognizable name to you in German car history, you’re not alone. Few remember one of the more creative producers of cars and motorcycles out of Germany, notably, NSU developed the first Wankel rotary engines, pioneered small car designs, and notably developed the first real aerodynamic family sedan in the often praised Ro80. Additionally, the Prinz-based TT and TTS would offer a practical and very sporty package to the masses in Germany; sound familiar, Mr. 02? Imported in small numbers, there are still a few examples floating around, though show up at most shows and you’ll leave many scratching their heads. Today there is a beautiful example of one of the less-celebrated models available, a pristine Prinz 1000:
Model: Prinz 1000
Engine: 1.0 liter inline-4
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Mileage: 61,000 mi
Price: $20,000 Buy It Now
You are bidding on an absolutely unique 1966 NSU Prinz 1000 with a four synchronized speed transmission. It was repaired, customized and updated in 2009. It was stored until October 2012 when it was registered and driving it since, taking it out only in nice weather. The engine is standard 998 cc but with a TTS camshaft, manifold and Solex carburetors. TT Oil cooler. It is also updated with a Bosch 65 Amp alternator, Bosch Solid state ignition, remote oil filter, oil thermostat and oil temperature gauge. Priming electric fuel pump. Custom header. The compression ratio is standard 1:7.5 allowing the use of regular gasoline. The car is extremely desirable, people are taking pictures of it every where I go. However, I do not claim the car is perfect and the buyer should have expectation of typical minor blisters, chips and small scratches. Seller makes no guarantee, or warranty expressed or implied of this car, it will be sold “as is”. The buyer is responsible for all shipping charges. Please feel free to e-mail me any questions you may have or call : 954-296-1374.
If you’re looking for a unique alternative to the BMW crowd and a trick piece of German history, look no further. This car has been resto-modded for better performance without sacrificing the outward originality of the package. The TT and TTS components are both desirable and rare. With lots of work completed, there are certain to be many less headaches than your normal NSU acquisition would entail. Some people really like standing out from the crowd, and what better way is there to do that than with a small red rear-engined German oddity? With microcars all the rage, this car seems well and competitively priced compared to clean 2002s and is a bargain compared to what an kind of Isetta you’d end up with. When it comes to NSUs in the U.S., they don’t get much better than the condition of this car.