Published on April 27th, 2023 | by Subhash Nair


NSU Ro 80 Was A Rotary Powered German 4-Door From Half A Century Ago

NSU Ro 80 is a throwback to when this German company pioneered rotary engines.

In 1967, NSU Motorenwerke AG unveiled the NSU Ro 80 at the IAA International Motor Show, a car that astonished the automotive world. With its futuristic design and extravagant drive, the Ro 80 inspired the public but failed to become a sales hit.

After the merger in 1969, the Audi 100 and NSU Ro 80 were manufactured in Neckarsulm.

Nevertheless, it set new standards in technology and aesthetics, becoming the world’s first production car with a twin-disc Wankel engine. Let’s explore the history of the NSU Ro 80 and its impact on the automotive industry.

NSU Ro 80: The Car of the Future

The NSU Ro 80 was a sporty touring sedan that set new standards in road-holding, safety, comfort, and performance.

Its wedge-shaped body line with a flat front end, a low, slightly rising beltline, and a raised rear end enabled a drag coefficient of 0.35, creating an overall appearance perceived as futuristic by contemporaries. NSU developed the car in a wind tunnel, ensuring that form followed function.

The NSU Ro 80 is the first German automobile crowned "Car of the Year 1967“.

The Ro 80 was the first production car with a twin-disc Wankel engine, a revolutionary technology that offered advantages such as lighter weight, smaller space requirement, low-vibration operation, and fewer components compared to a conventional piston engine.

The NSU Ro 80 at its presentation to the IAA 1967.

The NSU Ro 80 adhered to the adage, “Form follows function” with its futuristic design, inspiring admiration from visitors at the Frankfurt exhibition halls in 1967.

The NSU Ro 80 in sepia, 1969.

The Rise and Fall of the NSU Ro 80

One year after its launch, international trade journalists voted the NSU Ro “Car of the Year”, making it the first German vehicle to earn this distinction. Despite its critical acclaim, the Ro 80 did not achieve lasting commercial success, and the oil crisis of 1973 further drove gasoline prices up, causing customers to turn to more economical vehicles.

Self-assured: an English advertisement for the NSU Ro 80 from 1970.

As a result, the rotary-piston engine became a thing of the past, and the NSU Ro 80 ceased production in 1977. During its lifetime, a total of 37,374 NSU Ro 80 units were made.

Tiptronic Gearbox

NSU Ro 80: A Cult Classic

Even today, the NSU Ro 80 has a loyal fan base, and numerous clubs are reviving the history of the traditional brand at regular meetings, rides, and events. Check out this article for a throwback to another NSU model, the Prinz.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑