A small economy car that competes with the Beetle
Who remembers NSU? His ultimate downfall feat is called Ro 80: Ro rotary. NSU is truly the first car brand to incorporate a rotary piston engine.
After ceasing automobile production in 1929, NSU became the first world leader in motorcycle production in the 1950s. By the 1950s, the motorcycle market was running out of steam, and the automotive industry seemed to have a bright future.
In 1957, NSU revived the automotive industry with a small two-door: the Prinz.
The first Prinz is a small four-seater saloon that borrows its motorization from motorcycle technology: an air-cooled 600 cc two-cylinder engine developing 20 horsepower, mated to a non-synchromesh four-speed gearbox.
Light (510 kg), efficient enough to reach 100 lm/h. It is quality, reliable and economical. The customer was offered a real car for the price of a minicar (BMW Isetta, Messerchmitt Kr 200, etc.).
A sign of a successful turnaround, NSU sold 95,000 cars between 1957 and 1962.
NDU is already thinking about the future. Prinz 4 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1961e name is presented. It’s obviously bigger to accommodate passengers better, and the Klaus Lüthe-designed body makes it a miniature Chevrolet Corvair. At 3.40m long, it still has two doors, but its lines are attractive, placing it as one of the most beautiful models of the era.
For mechanics, the Prinz 4 is always based on a two-cylinder engine with 600 cm³ and 30 hp. The suspension is independent and disc brakes are available as an option on the front axle. It directly competes with the Beetle 1200 with a top speed of 116 km/h!
Since 1963, NSU has developed a larger and more welcoming 1000. The 1000 moves to a 996 cc 4-cylinder aluminum engine with 43 hp. True to its approach, NSU keeps the air cool. Unlike the Renault 8 and 10, where the engine is longitudinal, the engine is transverse.
A more luxurious version of the 1000, the 1000 L, was very well equipped for its time: individually adjustable front seats with three-position backrest adjustment, fresh air supply independent of heating, windshield washer, electric clock and optional rear Prinzair air suspension.
Prinz for sports
In 1965, the Neckarsulm brand introduced the sports version of the 1000, the 1000 TT. The TT is named after the Tourist Trophy, a British motorcycle race held on the Isle of Man, where NSU monopolized victories.
The TT is known for its dual circular headlights instead of oval ones. The engine increases to 1085 cm³, and the power increases to 55 hp, which allows to reach 150 km/h, considering the light weight of the Prinz. Reliable and light, its rear engine makes it particularly comfortable with a light front axle that compares to the R8.
But NSU does not want to stop there and prepares a rally bomb: TTS.
Recognition through competition
In 1967, the TT grew to 1200 cm³ and 65 hp: the TTS was created for motor racing. It is equipped with the smaller engine of the TTS 1000 to be able to compete in the 1000 cc class.
A special camshaft, increased compression, an oil cooler and a two-barrel Solex carburetor produce 70 horsepower and a top speed of 160 km/h. Race preparation allows it to reach 80 hp and 180 km/h, resulting in numerous class victories in international races.
Note that this year marks the disappearance of the Prinz in 1967: the cars are now called NSU TT and TTS.
In 1969, NSU – on the verge of dissolution after the failure of the Ro 80 and K70 – was bought by Audi, which took over ongoing research to be shared with Volkswagen.
The TT and TTS continued their careers until production ceased in July 1972: around 50,000 TTs were sold with the 1.2 liter engine and 14,292 TTs with the smaller 1,000cc. Between 1968 and 1970, 70% of production was exported to Italy, which loved these very reliable small cars.
In total, 625,000 NSU Prinz will be registered over 12 years of production.