NSU “RO 80″, 1971.
The NSU (Neckarsulmer Strickmaschinen Union) was founded in 1873 to produce knitting machines. In 1880 it began to produce bicycles and, by the end of the century, it was producing motorcycles.
It began to make cars in 1905 but production was interrupted in 1928 when the Hellsbronn factory was sold to Fiat. It was not until 1958 that the German manufacturer re-started car production by presenting the famous Prinz, a small utility car which found considerable commercial success also in Italy.
In the beginning of the 1950s, the NSU set up close relations with the engineer Felix Wankel, an all-time advocate of rotating piston engines. The result of this collaboration was the two-seater spider car, produced in 1964, with its precise and racy lines. Although it only had a 500cc engine, it could reach 150 km/h.
With the spider’s good results, which had positively overcome the problems of wear and tear and reliability for which Wankel engines were renowned, the NSU proceeded by developing a medium-sized saloon, the RO 80, which was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1967.
With its aerodynamic wedge-shaped lines, very low front and high and spacious boot, designed by Claus Luthe, and its optimal performances and smooth ride, enhanced by a lack of vibration from the rotating piston engine, the NSU RO 80 received a favourable welcome from the trade press, which nominated it as the Car of the Year in 1968.