NSU Ro80. Now better than ever

NSU RO80 openwork photo
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And then suddenly there was a car that took the steady development of the car 'as we know it' with a 'technical leap' to the 'next level': NSU presented its Ro80 under the battle cry: “Advantage through technology”. With its wedge-shaped carriage, the large NSU Ro80 seemed to be generations ahead of the competition. But the real surprise lies under the hood: a two-disc rotary engine. And that gave some problems in the beginning.

And in February 1968 a dark trophy was awarded in Amsterdam because the NSU Ro80 in 1967 was voted Car of the Year by a majority of votes. And that trophy had already proven itself as the kiss of death.

NSU Ro80: name hassle

That is a well-known phenomenon in the car and motorcycle world. For example, at the insistence of Peugeot, who claimed the '901' in the middle of three-digit designations, the Porsche 0 became Porsche 911, which did not detract from its success. The Hercules Wobbly - Another Wobbly! - was sold in England as DKW because the name Hercules already had an owner there. The project name Typ 80 could not be kept because Mercedes-Benz already had a car with that designation. 'Rotary 80' could not be used because Rotary clubs already existed. And funnily enough, many 'Rotarians' are classic fans.' Delphin 'looked too much like Renault's Dauphine. 'Rota' looked too much like the name of engine builder from Austria and so NSU Ro80 remained. Problem solved!

Nice lines

The NSU Ro80, broadly designed by Claus Luthe, was a revolutionary design that shook the car world in 1967 to its foundations. Luthe later became known to BMW with the BMW 5 series and the BMW R100 motorcycle. Josef Erlewein designed the bodywork and Otto Erlewein the interior. That was by the way futuristic, and the management of NSU decided that it would have to be a bit quieter not to frustrate more conservative drivers.

And the revolutionary NSU Ro80 was born in the wind tunnel, also so modern. The aerodynamically ideally shaped body surfaces of the NSU Ro80 hardly offer any air resistance - for the figure enthusiasts: the air resistance coefficient is only 0,355. The low air resistance was quite important for the NSU.

Wankel engines were - and are - more thirsty than regular car engines. Air resistance was not such a thing for 'normal' cars at that time. But would have worked out badly if the NSU Ro80 would have had a lower wind splitting factor. The high stern and the characteristic round shapes only became the rule in the 1980s.

We drove our first NSU Ro80 ever in the south of the country

The car was from a paranormal healer and his young follower. The man was able to cure even terminal cancer patients by telephone. We have not discussed the paranormal repair of NSUs. The NSU Ro80 was a separate car for few conventional people. And a very nice car too.

And such a Wankel engine is really just the smart brother of a four-stroke engine. The working cycle of the Wankel engine proceeds according to the four-stroke process: the sucking, compressing, igniting and exhausting of the burnt gases is effected by the flanks of the triangular rotor.

The great thing is that such a block runs best when it is heavily loaded. The lesser is that the braking power on the engine is pretty much like a two-stroke: not so.

(Folder text): "The engine power was transferred to the front wheels of the NSU Ro80 via a torque converter and automatic selection. A clutch pedal was missing in this semi-automatic transmission that had three shift positions with a speed action radius up to 125 km / h in the second position, in which it was also possible to drive away and thus guarantee shift-free city driving. Of course, accelerating in the first gear gave a greater acceleration. In the third switch position, the NSU ran flat at 180 km / h. "

And whether those revolutionary Wankels were reliable?

Just like with every new concept, there were teething problems. But the factory was flexible with that. The story goes that NSU Ro80 drivers facing each other greet each other with their fingers raised. The number of fingers indicated the number of exchange engines they were ready for. But a 'mature, late' RO80? Thanks to a host of technical changes and enhancements, it is just as good as it is.

Today the engines can be made reliable by modern solutions and developments that did not exist in their birth time. By using ceramic sealing strips on the tops of the rotors, the trochoids practically no longer wear out, engines even reach considerably higher mileage than before.

The sound it produces is remarkable (irregular sputtering at low revs, nice singing buzz at higher revs). It sounds a bit like a small six-cylinder. A good NSU Ro80 happily marches over the barrel. And he does it stylishly and elegantly. And much faster than you can drive here because otherwise Schiphol cannot expand further.

The wankel motor no longer inspires fear today, but you do need a specialist to check and keep it in order.

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NSU Ro80


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  1. Has been driving a Ro 80 for the 1975 year of manufacture for three years, completely hassle-free. Every time I drive this car it gives a special feeling what you totally don't have with another car.

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