Monday, May 10, 2010

1970 NSU Ro80

This has been on eBay before. I thought I had written about it before, but I'll be damned if I can find the post. Either way, it's worth looking at the Ro80 again...

This was the car that killed NSU.

It was a brilliant car. Modern and beautifully designed, it had one flaw. The engine. The early NSU rotary engine was wholly unreliable.

The Ro80 received glowing reviews when it was introduced. (European Car of the Year, etc., etc.) Early on there were waiting lists to buy one. Not for long, though... Within months (literally) the engines started to fail. Owners were put back on waiting lists. This time it was to get the engine replaced under warranty. There were no more waiting lists to buy one.

The cost of replacing these engines crippled NSU. In desperate financial condition, it was bought by Volkswagen.

The problems with the Ro80's engine were eventually solved. The car continued to be sold until 1977, but by then few people wanted it. The early cars killed its reputation. The Ro80 was the last car to be sold as an NSU.

Usually a car like this would be nothing more than a footnote. A bold move that failed. But the Ro80 had an influence on cars that we still see today...

VW merged NSU into its Auto Union brand. The new company was called Audi NSU Auto-Union A.G. Or Audi, as we know it today.

NSUs management was moved to Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt. Their influence is unmistakable. The basic design of the NSU body can be seen in the Audi 80/90. It can still be seen in the A4, A6 and A8 today. (Also, Audi's A6, A8 and R8 cars are built at the old NSU plant in Neckarsulm, Germany.) It has been said that without NSUs engineering influence, Audi would not be the premium brand it is today.

Until recently I looked at these cars as curiosities. In the past year or so I've come to realize just how important of a car it was. Now, on that list of cars I'd like to own one day, is an NSU Ro80.

This car appears to be in good, restorable condition. It is being offered on eBay with no reserve. Located in Livingston, NJ, you can find the eBay listing here.

My earlier NSU Ro80 post can be found here.

NSU Trivia:

Had the NSU rotary engine been relaible, NSU may have been in a position to buy VW. Virtually all the world's major motor manufacturers purchased licenses from NSU to develop and produce the rotary engine, with the single notable exception of BMW. Only Mazda builds a rotary today.

NSU and Citroen set up a company called Comotor (Comobil) to build engines for Citroen and other car makers. Citroen built just 847 GS Birotor cars, before pulling the plug on the venture. Citroen was so dissatisfied with the sales and reliability of the car they attempted to buy back and scrap every Birotor made. A few survive and are supposedly remarkable cars to drive. You can see some pictures of a Birotor here.

3 comments:

Jon said...

I have always admired the lines on the NSU. With a little tweaking, they look like they could have been drawn last week, and not fourty years ago.

I think VW really blew it when they made a short lived version called the K70.

While the K70 had a watercooled engine and front wheel drive, the body lacked the details that made the NSU a timeless design.

Richard said...

Agree with you all, the design is beautiful especially when you compare other four door cars of the same era, nothing came close.

Needs a rebuild though? Ouch, that sounds expensive, maybe impossible(?), 13b rotary engine might be the easy route.

Ram said...

After first seeing this car in 2004, I saw it again at auction in around 2008.

It was listed again in 2010 and I was outbid.

The seller relisted it again two weeks later and again I was outbid.

I capitulated to the winner and emailed the seller to let me know if the deal fell through.

Two weeks later, Bruno called me and the car was mine!

I'm now in possession of it and have great aspirations for her!

Best wishes,

Ram