Published on March 31st, 2023 | by Subhash Nair0
NSU Prinz Was A German ‘Comeback Car’ We Never Experienced
Few Malaysians know of the Prinz let alone the NSU brand.
Audi exists today as a brand on its own – but in reality its history is shared with a number of other brands that merged together – Audi, Horch, Wanderer, DKW and finally in 1969, NSU. The last of these brands has quite a storied history, being one of the few carmakers to pioneer rotary Wankel engines. Today on the brand’s 150th anniversary, Audi have highlighted one of their important models – the NSU Prinz, which was probably never brought into Malaysia at all.
In 1955, NSU was the largest 2-wheeled manufacturer in the world and the largest employer in the Neckarsulm region of Germany. As motorcycle demand began to taper, NSU looked to reinvent itself and created their first ever car – the NSU Prinz in 1958.
Before making a four-wheeled vehicle, NSU experimented with a three-wheeled prototype called the Max Kabine. During prototyping, the Max Kabine was not promising and it was dropped in favour of a full-fledged compact car project.
To make the Neckarsulm plant ready for automobile production, NSU took a bank loan of 30 million marks and a guarantee granted by the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
By mid-1956, the first three prototypes of the NSU compact car were being road tested and a year later, the NSU Lido was shown as a pre-series production car. The Lido was later renamed the Prinz in its production form. The Prinz had 2 doors and a self-supporting all-steel body. There was enough space for four adults and a rear-mounted engine with 2-cylinders and 20hp output.
The Prinz I was the basic version and only came in light green whereas the Prinz II was the ‘export’ version and came with extras such as chrome stabilizer bars, Prinz lettering on the side, an instrument cluster and wind-down windows. Best of all, it came in a large selection of colours from Calla White, to Indigo Blue to Lava Gray. The pricing for the Prinz began at 3,645 marks.
The first NSU Prinz rolled off the lines in March 1958, but was not an immediate sales success. For the first 2 years, only 1,648 Prinz I models were sold. The Prinz II gained 62,587 customers in its three-year production run. Later a Sport Prinz model with a unique body was unveiled in 1959.
Later a Prinz III came about and sold 30,332 units between 1960 and 1962. It was the Prinz 4 that would take sales up a notch with 576,619 units being made by 1973.
After the success of the Prinz 4, NSU was convinced of its ability to compete in the car market and proceeded to enter the lower mid-sized class with the Prinz 1000. In Germany there are still loyal Prinz fans that regularly organises rides, club meetings and races.