A-Z Of Marques No 53: NSU

The marque: Made in Germany; 1905-1929; 1958-1977.

The history: Neckarsulmer motorcycles and bikes preceded the production of NSU's first cars in 1905, licence-built versions of Belgian Pipe cars. Their own designs soon followed, and the largest NSU of this era was a 3.3-litre, four-cylinder saloon. Production was shifted to Heilbronn in 1927, but ceased when this facility was sold to Fiat. Car production was not resumed until 1958, with a 583cc ohc vertical-twin rear-engined Prinz. NSU hired Felix Wankel in 1951 to develop the rotary engine for its motorcycles. NSU's finest hour came in 1963 when it launched the Spider, developing 50bhp from the equivalent of 500cc. They went on to the Ro80 saloon which, had its Wankel engine proved more reliable and more fuel efficient might have turned NSU into one of the greats rather than an also-ran. NSU was bought by VW Audi in 1969.

Defining model: Ro80 of 1967; Wankel engined glimpse of the future.

They say: Avantgardismus.

We say: Unfortunate initials.

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