NSU 1000. The “Prinz” was dropped from the name in 1967.
In 1963 NSU introduced the NSU Prinz 1000 and entered direct competition with the VW 1200. I enjoyed a few short hitch-hiking trips in a NSU 1000, I drove one for a few meters in reverse and 1st only to move it out of the way, and I was a passenger in a NSU1200 when commuting to a summer job.
A French advertisement of the NSU Prinz 1000.
The Prinz 4 was the basis for the new, longer and more powerful Prinz 1000. The overall length grew by 353 mm to 3793 mm and the wheelbase grew from 2040 mm to 2250 mm. Beneficiaries were the luggage compartment up front and the cabin.
Comparing the Prinz 1000 and the Prinz 4 L.
However, the car looks more substantial than the modest dimensional gains would suggest. I credit the styling details for that. The blunt nose was characterized by big oval headlight lenses, a chromed strip and a slim chrome bumper. It gave the Prinz 1000 an instantly recognizable face. The chrome adorned wraparound shoulder line dominates from any angle and visually stretches the body longer and wider. The car’s stance gained from larger wheels and a more upright camber angle of the rear wheels. The greenhouse continued to use very thin pillars. The tapered C-pillar was now slightly more slanted than in the Prinz 4. The rear edge of the roof kept that slight overhang of the Corvair. The car’s flanks received grilles for the cooling air intake on the left and exhaust on the right. On either side the grilles were underscored by fine creases that wrapped around the rear quarters and turned into a brows above two triplets of tail light lenses.
The Chevrolet Corvair stood model for the NSU 1000 C.
These lenses were sometimes referred to as jelly jars owing to their shape and colors. The reversing light lenses were pointing straight down and bounced the light off the slim chrome bumper. The skirting below the bumper was sporting shallow flutes. The roof may have looked a little bit too high, however it was significantly lower than that of its competitive target the VW Beetle. Taken together these subtle details distinguished the Prinz 1000 very clear from the Prinz 4 no matter from which angle it was viewed. . Obviously Claus Luthe took the Chevrolet Corvair to the laundry and returned with a squeaky clean but shrunk versions of it.
A look in the interior of the NSU 1000 C.
A Sportprinz, a NSU 1000 and a Typ 77 in Jacques Tati’s movie “Trafic”. Tati preferred showing German cars with their faces rearranged.
The instrument panel carried a large round speedometer flanked by two small round dials. All the controls were close at hand. Foot space was still cramped by large intruding wheel wells. The steering column was standing rather upright therefore the wheel was reminiscent of a bus.
The core pieces of the front suspension and steering were carried over from the Prinz 4. The wider drums or the available front disk brakes and wider tires gave the Prinz 1000 a wider track. In the rear the swing axles made place for semi trailing arms like those in the Porsche 911/912 or BMW Neue Klasse. However, the drive shafts connect to the hubs by way of rubber disks rather than constant velocity joints. Separate coil springs and dampers soak up the bumps in the road. A stabilizer bar keeps body roll in check. The weight distribution was almost even between front and rear. As a result the Prinz 1000 and its stable mates earned fame and admiration for their handling prowess.
The NSU 4 cylinder drive train – a thing of beauty.
At the heart of the new car is a new transversely mounted engine with 4 cylinders that consist of two cast iron twin cylinder blocks based on those found in the Prinz 4 mounted to a new crank case and capped by a single aluminum head. This head carries a single cam that actuates 8 valves by way of rocker arms. Each rocker and valve is accessible through its own cover, a feature that makes this engine very pleasing to look at. In the Prinz 1000 a single carburetor feeds the combustion mixture through a manifold into the inlets at the front. The exhaust openings are pointing towards the back. In other words it is a cross flow design.
A cutaway rendition of the NSU 4 cylinder drive train.
One might expect that the cam would be driven by NSU’s own Ultramax drive eccenters and connecting rods. But instead NSU engineer Helmut Ebert figured out that a duplex chain will do this task at a lower expense. In a comment to an article in Auto, Motor und Sport – Klassik he explains how this solution came about and provides a glimpse of the inner workings at NSU:
“I am now a Canadian citizen and I enjoy every article and video that is dedicated to the NSU 4 cylinder engine. I found my first job as junior engineer in the NSU engine development department. I received very good training as I was tasked to evaluate the merit of suggested changes to the engine. At the beginning I did not like that at all – I was an engineer not a technical draftsman. Then I quickly realized that this way I was learning what had to be considered in order to avoid technical problems in new construction (tolerance calculations), to reduce cost, to improve quality, etc.
A colleague was allowed under Albert Roder to create the design of a 4 cylinder engine of 800 cc displacement. It was based on a concept similar to that of Porsche. The work on it was suddenly aborted when management placed all hopes on the rotary engine. There was a certain competition between the two development projects, the rotary guys called our 2-cylinder engine a parallel shaker which irked my highest boss Albert Roder a lot. To calm him down I suggested he tell them to first make their three-edge-scraper as reliable as our engine. After that I got a raise.
The colleague who created the design of the 4-cylinder engine and who was a big motorsports enthusiast meanwhile left the company. He went to the motor press. I was tasked to pick up the project and had no problems to receive the go-ahead for major changes. My goal was to reduce the development risk as much as possible and to use existing production tooling as much as possible. Of course I had to provide for the patented and very reliable Ultramax drive for the cam shaft. Then Albert Roder exited due to age and Ewald Praxl became his successor. He came over to me and said that management accepted my design and that I suppose to match the values of the cylinder spacing with those of the 2 cylinder engine and that the engine should now have 1000 cc. I clamped up a new sheet of drafting paper and began with the revision.
Doing that I saw further opportunities for unification and cost reduction in replacing the Ultramax drive with a duplex chain. After demonstrating this I was allowed to do it within only a few days. The manufacturer Glas used a toothed belt for this but I did not want to suggest that and copy it because a broken belt would cause an engine failure. Nonetheless I had to make the designs for it and the engine ran with it too. Luckily this variation was not pursued any further. Because of familiar reasons I found my next job at BMW.” (translated by Wolfgang)
The engine kept the clutch and blower unit at the left end of the crank shaft. The power is then send by a pair of helical gears into the fully synchronized 4 speed transmission that also houses the differential. This arrangement allows for the replacement of the clutch without removing either the transmission or the engine in about 35 minutes. The Dynastart made way to separate starter and generator.
The Prinz 1000 engine actually displaced 996 cc and was rated at 43 hp (DIN) at 5500 rpm. It provided 7.3 kgm (52.8 lb ft) of torque at 2000 rpm. Later power output was reduced to 40 hp (DIN) in order to slot the car into a less expensive insurance bracket. The drop in horsepower did not affect the top speed of 135 km/h and the 0 to 100 km/h time of 18.4 seconds.
The cutaway drawing shows the efficient space utilization of the Prinz 1000.
While I could not find a direct comparison test it looks like the Prinz 1000 beat the VW 1200 in all aspects that matter: more luggage space, more interior space, more power and better fuel consumption. But it lost out on the size of the dealer net.
NSU 1000 in “Citta Violenta” 1970. Presumably the Beetles belong to Germans vacationing in Italy.
To better compete with the VW 1500 (Type 3) NSU released the Typ 77 which named NSU 110, NSU 1200, NSU 1200 C and 1200 Automatic. These had larger engines, first 1085 cc then 1177 cc making 53, 55, and in SC trim even 60 hp (DIN). The engines were praised for their tractability, being able to dawdle along at 2000 rpm for leisurely rides yet able to run for hours on end under full load.
The enlarged engines were then put in the NSU 1000 bodies which transformed them into veritable sport sedans called NSU 1000 TT, NSU TT and NSU TTS. These models – and the havoc they created – will be subject of Part 2 of this CC.
Like Pinocchio Typ 77 grew a nose and lied about something. Total length was 4000 mm, on a wheelbase of 2440 mm. The shiny piece upfront was not a grille and and rightfully ridiculed right away. To some it was a baking sheet to others it was a heat shield, inspired by the era of space exploration. The headlights were unified with the turn signals inside one bezel. The bigger nose also negatively affected the proportions of the car and the erstwhile famous handling suffered some. There was now room for 490 L of luggage up front and an additional 60 L behind the rear seat. NSU pointed out that a case of beer will fit in the front compartment. To appreciate the importance of this achievement you need to know what a German case of beer looks like:
These cases are 40 cm x 30 cm and 30 cm high (15.75″ x 12″ x 12″). They contain 20 bottles of 0.5 L barley juice. Try putting that into the front of a VW Beetle!
NSU 1200 C in “Derrick”, a German TV series.
The taillight jelly jars were replaced with oblong combination units. The Typ 77 was bigger alright, but certainly not prettier.
Fresh air supply is active when the engine runs.
However, the stretch provided more legroom up front. The pedals were now hanging rather than standing. Creature comforts were enhanced by an innovative idea: the new body was equipped with a forced air venting system by tapping into the engine cooling duct and thus continuously extracting air from the cabin through a grid in the package tray. Fresh air entered through inlets above the headlights and ducts to the cabin or by the heating system.
The interior made a decidedly less sporty impression with a then fashionable band speedometer and walnut trim. This car was also available with a semi-automatic transmission.
In a TV spot at the Frankfurt Auto Show the NSU spokesman was tossed a few softball questions, one regarding safety. In a well rehearsed piece of gum flapping he pointed to the car’s excellent vision, suspension and brakes and how these features help to avoid accidents and finished with: “Safety begins at the drawing board”. He made no mention of crash worthiness whatsoever. His evasiveness may have had a reason.
A NSU 1200 body under scrutiny.
Crash worthiness was certainly a weakness of these NSU models. This is not to say NSU’s body engineers were lacking in skills. In fact the soon to be released Ro 80 was famous for its safety both the active and the passive kind.
Total production of the NSU Prinz 1000, NSU 1000 and NSU 1000 C came to roughly 196.000 units.
From 1965 to 1967 about 74000 units of NSU Typ 110, Typ 110 S and Typ 110 SC rolled off the assembly line.
Between 1967 und 1973 about 256.000 units of the NSU 1200 and 1200 C were made.
NSU’s work on the Ro 80 and Ka 70 were evidence that the air cooled rear engine models were living on borrowed time. In 1969 NSU, DKW and Audi were lumped together as Auto Union and swallowed whole by the Volkswagen AG. The production tooling for the NSU 1000 and 1200 were sold and moved to PRETIS in Sarajevo.
NSU has the distinction of helping Uruguay launching its auto industry in 1963 by supplying assembly kits of the Prinz 4 and the Sportprinz. They soon developed their own 3 door wagon, the P6, and produced about 400 of them with the 2 cylinder engine.
Nordex NSU P 10, said to be Serial Nr. 001 in original factory primer. It used the headlights of the NSU TT.
Nordex NSU P 10 instrument panel and interior.
They followed that up with the P 10 using the 4 cylinder engine of the Prinz 1000 and produced about 100 of these. A prototype was sent to Neckarsulm for evaluation. Supposedly the driving experience was quite positive but there were plenty quality issues such as faulty welds and solder points, lacking comfort and noise insulation. When VW AG left Nordex in limbo they switched to French manufacturers, and in 1983 to the Chevrolet Chevette. At one time or another they produced anything from Mahindra pickups to Peugeot sedans, Renault trucks and Geely hatchbacks.
For lack of good footage of the 1000 and Typ 77 on the web I leave you with a teaser for part 2. A ride in the NSU TT. Listen to them giggle:
Wolfgang, Your NSU series are fascinating and detailed views of a car I only vaguely recall seeing out the corner of my eye in my college parking lot, maybe some 55 years ago.
How nice to finally find out about these mechanical marvels from someone who was there and can explain (and translate) the details.
+1. I’m always interested to read more about the lesser-known European brands. And you write so well.
This looks to me to be the car VW should have been building in the mid 60s. Or the car that should have given the VW some stiff competition. But things don’t always work out as they should, do they.
I was feeling some real Prinz-love until I got to that crash photo. But few of the cars we write about here are great alternatives to modern stuff when it comes to safety.
An excellent tutorial on a car not well known to those of us in the US.
On the plus side they are very easy to see out of, thereby hopefully avoiding an accident in the first place. Perhaps filling the front luggage compartment with empty cardboard boxes might help in impact absorbing terms…
I know you are poking a little fun with those card board boxes. The obvious problem though is the insufficient dimensional stability of the cabin. The cowl has caved in and the door and even the area behind the door are distorted.
True; higher standards of crashworthiness are demanded and expected these days, but it’s a pity this often now leads to large blind spots. I ride a bike (unmotorised) so have great all-round vision but no impact protection at all.
Yes. I used to love driving my old first-gen Suzuki Swift – it had a great power-to-weight ratio. That’s because it weighed only 660kg. Current cars that size would be half as much again. Great vision, fun to drive, but not much protection – in a crash I imagine it would have been like the NSU.
Do you have any Beetle crash photos for comparison? We’d need to know the speed of vehicles, too. If this was a 20 MPH impact, I’d be disappointed. But the basic fact is that there’s not much metal in these cars! The curb weight of my 1000 TT was 1450 lbs. There wasn’t room for redundancy there.
During the nine years I drove NSUs in the USA– not an easy task — I always felt safe, content and even empowered, because the only class competitor was the Beetle. I’d studied Nader’s critique “Small on Safety,” describing the ten built-in hazards of the VW. Besides the well-known handling defects, they also included a jack positioned in front of the fuel tank, to pierce it in a front-end impact, and weak seat mounts that ejected you out the window in rear-end collisions. I actually saw this happen, after a Beetle suffered “snap oversteer,” and it was horrifying.
Later, when I happened to give ol’ Ralph a ride across town, I tried to discuss these issues further, but he was bored- after I told him how few were sold stateside.
If I worried about any safety issue, it was the heating system, which, like the Beetle, could have gassed me with CO if a leak developed. So I kept one of those wonderful fresh air dash vents open, and I’m fine…
The NSU definitely was quite the stiff competition (on the domestic German market, at least). If you tally all the 4-cyl. rear-engined NSUs (Prinz IV, 1000, TT, TTS, 1200), they made about 1.1 million in 12 years.
Not much by VW’s standards, but that’s still 1.1 million people who didn’t buy a VW.
I haven’t anything concrete to base this on, but I think I read somewhere that the VW buy-out had a lot to do with killing the little NSU range, which was a thorn in VW’s side throughout the ’60s. They certainly killed it as soon as they could, once the merger was legally settled.
Great piece, Wolfgang. More more more, please please please!
I found one reference saying that only 900-1000 NSUs of all types were sold in America.
Certainly agree that they weren’t very crash worthy but I remember seeing the vw beetle in similarly compromising settings. When reading I was wondering why I hadn’t known about these the first time around. They look good. Why did they die, corporate misadventure?
Great article. I think the oval-headlight models looked pretty neat. NSU kickstarted the Egyptian auto industry with the Prinz-derived Ramses in the early 1960s.
Also, the NSU 110 was sold in the USA for a few years in the late 1960s. I’ve only seen a couple and that was decades ado. The US version had round headlights awkwardly located in the fake front grille.
Looks like a Valiant instead of a Corvair with that phony grille.
Related reading: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-european/curbside-classic-putting-the-nsu-prinz-on-a-pedestal/
I believe a friend of mine inherited an older (not sure which of Prinz 1-3, but not this Prinz 4) from his Father who passed away a few years ago. I have to check with him to find out, but his father originally bought it with the odd idea of using the motor for a tractor (not sure why you’d pick an obscure vehicle engine when parts are sure to be a pain to get)…which never happened.
Goodness knows where he found it…he lived on a farm outside Fargo ND…would have been 30-40 years ago that he had bought it.
The Prinz was so light, that when it got stuck in snow, the occupants would get out and pick it up and move it to a place that had better traction.
The Prinz 4 looks like a smaller version of the Renault 10 (which itself is based on the styling of the Corvair) that my Father once owned…of course the R10 was water cooled, but the engine (1100cc in the case of my Father’s ’68) would have been about
the same size as the Prinz 4’s.
NSU went on to be an early adopter of FWD and Rotary engines…the former is pretty common now (unlike in the 60’s) but the latter seems almost obsolete. Guessing NSU found the rotary to be hard to maintain engine seals; otherwise I’d guess we’d be seeing rotary engines in sporty Audi models nowdays…instead, Mazda gave it a go but even they seem to have given up on it. The variety of automotive flavors is much less now than in the 60’s (RWD vs FWD, piston vs rotary engines, air vs liquid cooling, etc.)
The warranty costs on the Ro80 engine crippled NSU – unfortunate because the rest of the car was way ahead of the competition.
Mazdas’ rotary engine may yet have a future as a range-extender for EVs.
Great seeing Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Hell Bier mentioned here! It’s one of my favourite German beers along with Rothaus Tannenzäpfle Bier.
Funny! I used to keep a case of Hacker-Pschorr around and when I visited my friend Willy in the Black Forest he offered Rothaus!
Hacker Pschorr was served in my favorite bar in Milwaukee in the mid-90’s
….and is in my Maryland fridge right now…
The ability to take in a case of beer is an essential metric in the usability of cars. However, Paulaner, another Munich brewery, now adapted its cases for even the flashiest BMW convertibles.
Interesting article. Would NSU have survived had they not gone Wankel?
Movie “Trafic” not to be confused with the later British miniseries “Traffik,” which to me was memorable in featuring some keen German narc detectives.
Perhaps. The K 70 was sold as a VW. Most importantly it served as the base for developing the VW Passat/Dasher. And that Dasher was the base for the Golf. I have to verify that though. Still, even without the Wankel debacle NSU was ripe for the picking by a stronger company. That distribution network had way too many holes.
Not sure about the relationship Dasher/Golf, the engine location was very different. Perhaps that’s just a modification, though. It would be interesting to know.
The Passat was not developed from the K70. It was just a body variation (fastback) of the Audi 80, which was fully developed by Audi and used the same basic configuration of the earlier Audi 100 and Audi 60/75/90.
If anything, it would be much more correct to say that the NSU K70 was obviously very much influenced by the Audis.
Thanks, Paul. Am I right with the Audi 80/Passat and the Golf? I’d think the Golf was an independent design by VW.
It was. It’s possible that NSU had various designs for their long-range planning, including a transverse engine compact, but the Golf was developed from what had been learned with the Audi80/Passat along with a new transverse engine.
Undoubtedly the Simca 1100 was the most influential compact car in Europe, and all the automakers saw it as the template for their future cars. Although they came to be known as the “Golf Class”, it would be more accurate to call them all “Simca 1100 Class” cars. VW was shooting for a better Simca 1100 with their Golf.
Another great, educational / entertaining piece, Wolfgang. BTW, I love “Mon Oncle” by Jacques Tati, though I haven’t seen the other film of his that you mentioned.
(Did anyone else spot the white Cougar in that still from “Citta Violenta”?)
Also, the revised taillamps of the Type 77 give me a bit of a BMW 2.8 CS vibe…
Joseph, you have to watch “Trafic”. Your library probably has it on DVD.
There is also a brown car that could be an Engel design, and there is a white car that could be a Simca or a Dodge.
It’s amazing how they pulled and stretched that old body, but never seemed to think to add four doors or (at least in Germany) modernize the GM flattop-inspired roofline that was distinctly dated by the late ’60s.
Unlike in France, two door cars continued to be very popular in Germany for a long time, and were not considered a liability., especially in the NSU’s class There was no four door BMW 2002/1602, for example.
Most cars produced here in Uruguay in fact were just assembled from CKD kits. A few cases were different, however, when factories would import drivetrain, suspensions, and all mechanicals, and install a locally produced body, usually in fiberglass. These fiberglass cars were usually GMs, (Grumett, a pick-up based in a late ’60s Vauxhall Viva and, later, in the T-body Opel Kadett with Brazilian Chevette mechanicals), the Opel Indiana (wasn’t an Opel, but a Vauxhall and the track was narrower than what the originally intended for the body, resulting in an awkard look).
Then we had several steel bodied trucks, the Indio, a larger model based in Bedford mechanicals and dressed in flat stamps trying to look like a Land Rover. There were many other entrepreneurships, all doomed when the market opened and subsidies for local production died out. No local produced cars are available now, but some assembly plants linger on. Take a look at some ads of mostly sad cars…
Was a 4-door version of the 4-cylinder NSU Prinz and Typ 110 / 1200 models ever considered? Since such cars would have seriously eaten into Volkswagen Beetle sales had they been given the go ahead akin to the similarly-sized 4-door SEAT 850, Simca 1000 and Renault 8.
Never knew the Prinz air-cooled 4-cylinder was originally conceived as an 800cc engine, while hearing it later formed the basis for the water-cooled K70 engines was the K70 engine ever capable of being stretched to displace 2-litres?
Another question comes to mind regarding the NSU Prinz replacement known as the NSU K50 project aka the Audi 50 / Volkswagen Polo, mainly whether it was originally planned to be powered by lower-displacement versions of the water-cooled K70 engine or precursors to what eventually became the Volkswagen EA111 engines?
And lastly despite the various prototypes Volkswagen were working on for what eventually became the Golf, some apparently believe the Golf to be the final NSU project known as the K60.
Not to my knowledge. Unlike in France, two door cars continued to be very popular in Germany for a long time, and were not considered a liability., especially in the NSU’s class There was no four door BMW 2002/1602, for example.
The K70 engine displaced 1.6 and 1.8 L. Just exactly how closely related they are is a bit iffy in my mind. Obviously, NSU used the air cooled four as a starting point, and wanted to save on development costs. But the K70 is of course water cooled and considerably larger. I’d have to do more research to determine exactly what is meant by “based on” in this case. That covers a lot of territory.
To my knowledge, there was no plan to ever use the K70 engine in the Audi 50 or any other Audi.
That last conjecture is rather absurd, if one knows of the very rushed development of the Golf. By that time, NSU had long been fully absorbed into Audi.
Sure, is it possible/likely that NSU had some early rough plans for a compact car? But that doesn’t mean it was taken up by VW.
Keep in mind that despite what the NSU fans like to believe, the K70 was a dud. Too complicated (inboard brakes), less-than competitive performance, expensive to build, and other issues. It was not received well and became a sales dud. And VW had to make numerous changes very quickly to try to make it more competitive.
It simply wasn’t as successful a design as the Audi 80/Passat, which was truly class leading in every metric.
That just leads to the question of what engine NSU originally planned for the NSU K50 project prior to later becoming the Audi 50 / Volkswagen Polo, since it NSU began the project prior to Volkswagen then it would suggest they had a different engine in mind to the EA111 unit?
Well written, informative article. When I was a kid visiting relatives in Germany, it seems every young hotshoe had a TT or a TTS.
They were the cheaper alternative to a hotted-up BMW 2002/1602, or an Alfa. When I spent the summer in Austria in 1969, they were very common too, and at night you’d hear their engines noise reverberating off the city buildings.
Wolfgang, I’ve long wanted to see a proper look at these NSUs here, and you’ve more than done them justice. Thank you for a terrific job.
When I was in Austria the summer of 1969, there were a lot of these, of all kinds, and I got very familiar with them. Very appealing little car. NSU did a remarkable job of developing the little micro-car Prinz 1 into these pocket rockets.
Thank you, Paul! It s really satisfying contributing to a blog I enjoy so much.
1. I have known about the NSU Prinz as I’ve long owned a 1/43 scale Gama die cast model of the car. I am sure I have never seen one in person but I know the car from the model.
2. Did Audi name the modern cars TT and TTS in respect to the NSU heritage?
Yes, I think they did.
The “TT” on the back of the modern Audi is exactly the same font as the lettering on the back of my 1970 1000 TT. It refers to the Tourist Trophy, a famed motorcycle road race on the Isle of Man.
The engine piece by Helmut Ebert is absolutely fascinating.
I remember these cars on the road – all a boy racer had to do was remove the hub-caps and prop open the engine cover.
NSU was originally a motorcycle company that expanded into automobile production as the brisk post WW2 motorcycle market began to fade away in Germany. There is an interesting side story to the automobile four cylinder air cooled engines used transversely in the NSU 1000 and later in the NSU 1200 TT capable of tuning to 85 DIN HP.
In 1966 these beautiful small four cylinder auto engines developed from the NSU motorcycle technology became the basis of the unusual for the time, beautiful, though heavy looking, four cylinder superbike motorcycles of Friedl Munch based in Altenstadt Germany. This was at the time when the only available semiproduction four cylinder motorcycle was the very limited production shaft drive MV Agusta 750.
Multicylinder motorcycles were soon to become available in the mid to late 1960’s during the developing sports motorcycle multicylinder enthusiasm and mania driving the introduction of the 1967 3 cylinder Triumph Trident, the BSA 3 cylinder Rocket, and the motorcycle world shattering 1968 introduction of the four cylinder Honda CB750 superbike which became the template for virtually all future muticylinder motorcycles to the present
But in 1966 Friedl Munch was the “first” with a relatively available four cylinder motorcycle, albeit expensive and custom, resulting in the surprising first European Superbike.
Friedl Munch had a long history of motorcycle engineering starting in the late 1940’s in the racing department of German Motorcycle manufacturer Horex, and then buying up Horex spare partsand motorcycles when Horex went into receivership/bankruptcy in 1958 with the waning of the Germany post war motorcycle market. He capitalized on the developing motorcycle sports market by building cafe’ racers.
In late 1965 or early 1966, Munch had seen the NSU (known as Naeh und Strick Union) auto and settled upon the idea of a motorcycle using that 996 cc engine. Munch then developed a double down loop frame based on the racing Norton Featherbed frame design, with an alloy casting rear wheel incorporating the rear drum, an alloy chain case acting as part of the rear swing arm suspension encasing the drive chain in an oil bath with a easily adjustable chain tensioner.
There was a front brake of Munch design, a massive 250mm (10 inch) multi leading shoe brake design magnesium alloy (Elektron) casting. Transmission was a gear primary drive to four speed gearboxwith a multi-plate clutch. One, two or four carburetors would be mounted by customer request, Price in the USA would be expensive at $3,995.00 in 1969
This 55 DIN HP NSU Motorenwerke engined motorcycle was called the Munch Mammut, was introduced at the Cologne International Motorcycle Show, weighing about 480 pounds, capable of 115 mph, very good for the time. ( For perspective the 1968 Honda CB 750, an actual 736 cc four cylinder motorcycle with five speed weighed 481 lbs dry, delivering 67 BPH and a top speed of 125 mph, price in the USA $1,495.00. The 1969 BMW R69S cost $1,695.00)
After the Cologne Motorcycle Show, Friedl Munch had 18 orders.
In response to the developing motorcycle multicylinder and horsepower arms war/race, Friedl Munch used the new 1177 cc NSU TT car engine fitted with a pair of Weber 40DCOE carburetors for a revised motorcycle that he then called the Munch4 1200TTS giving 88 hp. Unfortunatey despite the extensive use of magnesium the Munch4 weighed 650 lbs, but performance was improved meaning that the Munch4/Mammut could reliably reach 100 mph in 11 seconds, but with the tires of the time due to the increased weight and torque tire life was about 1000 miles.
In the early 1970’s Munch introduced the Sport-Munch that had 115 DIN HP, then the later Daytona Bomb with 125 DIN HP giving average speeds of 178 mph but with even worse, greatly accelerated tire wear only allowing four high speed laps on the Daytona high speed oval before tires were worn out..
In 1973, the Munch 1200 TTS-E became the world’s first production bike with fuel injection costing $5,135.00 when a 1973 BMW motorcycle cost about $2,000.00.
By the end of 1973 Munch Motorcycles was in financial distress, Friedl Munch stepped down from the Company which finally ended production in 1980.
It is estimated that fewer than 500 4 cylinder NSU based Munch motorcycles were produced with approximately 320 believed to exist today. Jay Leno is a current owner of one.
Friedl Munch sadly suffered a stoke in 1991, but with encouragement by Paul Watts, the president of the U.S. Munch Club designed one more motorcycle, now know as the Munch 2000, introduced in 2000 using a Cosworth 1998 cc liquid -cooled turbocharged transverse four, unrelated to the original NSU air cooled four, delivering 260 hp, priced at $80,000.00, built in Poland. Total production was about 15 before production ceased.
This is an amazing side note for the NSU four cylinder air cooled engine with motorcycle development roots, leaving the auto world, then returning to the motorcycle world as a superbike that remained in production longer than the cars of its origin. This in a way recapitulates the evolution of air breathing species who ultimately returned to the sea, i,e. mammalian return to the sea as dolphins and whales.
I agree with everything except this: “NSU was originally a motorcycle company”.
NSU was originally the “Naeh- und Strick – Union” or Sewing and Knitting Union.
Wolfgang, thank you correcting my misunderstanding. This is what I love about CC, gentle but necessary corrections of misunderstandings.
BTW my one and only introduction to the NSU TT, I can’t recall if it was a 1000TT or a 1200 TT, happened in the summer 1970. I and a group of friends had flown to Munich after college graduation to travel through Germany and Austria on a budget challenged shoe string, meaning we didn’t have much money to spend the entire summer, but it was a great trip.
We had flown from the US on a cheap charter flight to Munich, and then after taking the train from Munich to Salzburg, we found a small inexpensive Gasthaus run by a Frau Buchleitner on the same side of the Salzach river as the Hohensalzburg and a reasonable walk to the Benedictine Monastery’s St Augustine Brau Beer Garden. Our time in Salzburg was most enjoyable and agreeable. Later we split up and I rented and rode a bicycle with two girls that I had met along the way to Vienna staying in hostels along the way, in Wien and then back to Salzburg, and further into German . A great experience.
While at the Salzburg Gasthaus, a German couple from Munich (Munchen) arrived to stay for several days, overlapping our time there. My grasp of the German language was rudimentary (really barely minimal, but laughs help in the long run), but at least my friends had taken two years of college level German, so they were more easily able to speak with Frau Buchleitner and the German couple.
The Austrian Frau and the German couple had a rudimentary level of understanding English comparable to my understanding of German at first. What German I learned that summer has unfortunately evaporated over the years since.
The husband’s name was Willie and he had a delightful, laughter generating sense of humor, impish is the word. We were almost always reduced to almost tear filled laughter around him I laughed because how he transmitted humor was so humanly universal, although there were many times when I had to ask my friends for explanations about what was so funny.
Now Willie owned an NSU TT, and it was obvious that he was so proud of the little car. So one day, leaving his wife with the Frau, he invited us three to join him for a drive though Salzburg into the surrounding countryside ultimately driving us to the hillside where the Salzburg radio tower was situated. He drove with real gusto making that little engine sing through the gears. It was just great fun, a hoot, and so memorable.
Then after we returned to the Gasthaus, he let us in on his real secret that he didn’t want Frau Buchleitner to know about, he pulled out a wooden case, looked all around to assure himself that no-one else besides himself and we three were looking, he then opened the the case, sitting on the rear seat to show us his prized possession, a German pistol.
He was just like an excited little boy on Christmas morning showing us that Mauser, likely his most prized possession. Quickly he put the pistol away sliding it back into its hiding place in the NSU after our brief viewing, and then with a quick hop towards the house, with a broad, unforgettable smile and laugh, he waved us in to join him.
Then later we went with him and his wife to the St Augustine Brau Bier Garten for a delightful time, food, and beer.
This was my introduction to the TT and this is why I have always been fascinated, even enchanted, by NSU and especially the NSU TT to this day.
Thanks to you for writing a great series of articles, and thanks to you and Willie for returning me to memories of a long ago, lifetime ago, to a memorable experience.
And thank you for sharing this memory. I bet Frau Buchleitner treated you to a mean Kaiserschmarren.
Wolfgang, I have some wonderful memories of Frau Buchleitner who was an elderly woman with a son, an engineer, living in Munich. She managed her simple Gasthaus with a devotion to cleanliness. She was strict, kind, with a good sense of humor but with no visitors allowed, so we had to go out to socialize. She had fruit trees in her back yard that gave her the fruit for her homemade, delicious preserves.
Each morning she would leave to go to a bakery to bring back delicious Semmel rolls for us, one per person, served with wonderful creamy butter and her own fruit preserves, and the preserve that we all especially loved was her Johannisbeere preserves, served with hot, black tea. Tasty. A great start for each day, every morning, accented with her smiles, laughter, and encouragements for we three young Auslanders..
On Sundays she would serve us a sweet desert made of her preserves in a rolled crepe with a cup of black coffee heaped with a mound of sweetened cream that she called with a twinkling laugh ” Schlag mit Sagen”, or so it sounded.
Her treats were delightful, memorable over decades. Regarding Kaiserschmarren, yes, she served it once to us, delightful but her rolled crepes with her preserves, those were sublime. Her Johannisbeere preserves have never been equaled even when I have found German preserves in one of our local German import stores.
I stayed in Salzburg for about three weeks taking an introductory German speaking course that helped me for the rest of the summer while bicycling and hosteling through Austria and Bavaria.
So memories of Willie’s NSU, his Mauser, and Frau Buchleitner, her Gasthaus, and her preserves are intimately bound together as exceedingly pleasant times and memories. She was a kind, memorable woman, like a mother for three young men far away from home. Hard to believe that was 48 years ago.
My memory is not so good after all of these years, not Schlage mit sagen but schlagsahne—whipped cream. Whipped cream floating on top of black coffee. A treat!
Are you sure about that name? From what I have readen many years ago it was “Neckarsulmer Strickmaschinen AG”.
I’m really not sure about this “Naeh- und Strick – Union” business. “Union” was never part of NSU’s official name.
NeckarSUlmer AG = NSU.
From the NSU German Wikipedia page:
Der Name NSU, der ab 1892 als Markenname bzw. Markenzeichen verwendet wurde, ist ein Kurzwort für den Stadtnamen Neckarsulm, der sich wiederum von den beiden Flüssen Neckar und Sulm ableitet, die hier zusammenfließen. Für das Unternehmenslogo wurde anfangs aus dem württembergischen Staatswappen von 1806 eine der drei liegenden Hirschstangen entlehnt und zwischen ihre vier Zinken die Buchstaben N, S, U eingetragen. Entgegen einem weitverbreiteten Irrglauben leitet sich der Name NSU nicht von „Näh- und Strickmaschinen-Union“ oder „Neckarsulmer Strickwaren-Union“ ab. Ein Unternehmen, das einen dieser Namen getragen hätte, gab es nie.
Using the guidance of Wolfgang and also using motorcyclespecs.co.za as a reference here is the explanation of the origin of the NSU name, as follows:
NSU originated as the “Mechanische Werkstatte zur Herstellung von Strickmaschinen”, a kitting machine manufacturer established in 1873 by Christian Schmidt, a technically astute entrepreneur, in the town of Riedlingen on the Danube. The business relocated in 1880 to Neckarsulm, where the river Sulm flows into the Neckar. the name “NSU” is derived from the original name of “Naeh-und-Strick Union” which means “Sewing (Naehen) and Knitting (Stricken) Union”, not as one might conclude from the river “Sulm” that flows into the river “Neckar”. The name of the town Neckarsulm, however was derived from these two rivers. There followed a period of rapid growth and in 1886 the company began to produce bicycles, the first of them branded as the “Germania”, and by 1892, bicycle manufacturing had completely replaced knitting machine production. At about this time, the name NSU appeared as a brand name.
The first NSU motorcycle appeared in 1901, followed by the first NSU car in 1905. In 1932, the car factory in Heilbronn was sold to Fiat.
So the name of NSU arises from the original name of “Naeh-und-Strick Union”, shortened to NSU. Hope this helps eliminate further confusion, this eliminated my confusion regarding the name, with much thanks to Wofgang.
Yes, the Munch was an interesting footnote to NSU history.
But one thing just doesn’t make sense. Supposedly the first Mammut weighed 480 lbs, and the 1200 weighed 650. How did it gain 170 lbs!?? The 1200cc engine was still the same basic aircooled NSU four; it couldn’t have weighed much/any more than than the 1000.
It’s not a big deal, but I suspect one of these numbers may well be incorrect. And if I had to guess, it’s the first one, as 480 lbs sounds suspiciously light for a four cylinder bike using a car engine, light as it was.
Paul, after rereading the sources for my reply to Wolfgang, I can’t find any other weight sources for the Munch Mammut. I agree that the figure of 480 pounds for the first one is suspiciously light, especially in light of the later quoted weights of 650 pounds. So this has to be another internet accuracy paradox awaiting further comment and/or resolution.
Anyway, the Mammut was an interesting use of the SOHC NSU air cooled four cylinder engine, a return to NSU motorcycle roots, so to speak.
Ultimately the high performance mass produced Honda CB 750 superbike became the template for the UJM, the universal Japanese motorcycle, produced in large numbers, with increasing sophistication, and performance by Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki becoming responsible for sweeping away low hand production/limited production bikes like the Munch Mammut and Munch4.
Wolfgang needs to be applauded for a great series of enjoyable, and enlightening articles on the NSU two and four cylinder air cooled cars. Cheers to Wolfgang.
A quick search using German keywords brought up this:
Anfang 1966 Präsentation des Prototyps, IFMA 1966 Premiere des ersten Serienmodells, 1967 Beginn der Produktion. Den Namen „Mammut“ hatte sich aber bereits ein Fahrradhersteller schützen lassen – offiziell hieß das größte, stärkste und schnellste Serienmotorrad der Welt fortan nur noch Münch-4. Aus den 1085 cm³ und 55 PS der ersten Münch waren mittlerweile 1177 cm³ und 88 PS geworden. Das rund 260 Kilogramm schwere Monstrum rannte damit locker 200 km/h, das Fahrwerk war für damalige Verhältnisse ausgesprochen stabil.
260 kg = 573 lbs.
I think it will be difficult to get to the bottom of it.
That sounds about right. Thanks for digging this up.
A 1000cc NSU block weighs about 160 pounds. The same as an average driver, the manual helpfully pointed out, so it all balances out.
I thought of Munch as soon as I saw this article.
Great article, I love to read about the more obscure marques, especially the ones with freethinking engineers with wild designs.
Wolfgang, thank you for correcting my misunderstanding.
Among other things, these cars were also the inspiration for the Soviet Zaporozhets ZAZ-968:
The article and comments just made my morning. The holiday tale sounds ideal, even the limited budget is not too unattractive. Want-time-machine-now.
The industrial design of the wirtschaftawunder period is something I’m very interested in but English language texts don’t do it justice except for items exported widely. The reconstruction, recent technical advances, the division of the country, the cold war, and the pursuit of alternative solutions converge to make very interesting products.
Thank you for sharing this.
Great piece Wolfgang. I’ve seen images of those Nordex wagons in my online wanderings, but never stopped to see what they actually were. Now I know. cheers
With NSU having so much experience with a transverse mounted engine, can’t help but wonder why they went with a longitudinal placement in the K70? The K70 also looks like a stretch out of NSU’s core market too. A front drive 1.1L NSU would have been right in the fight with the Fiat 128 and Simca 1100.
VW has officially announced it is working on a cheap brand for the Chinese market. Makes sense now that Skodas are almost as nice as VWs, while GM is having great success with it’s low priced Baojun brand: 7th most popular brand in China last January, with sales up 23,5% y/y. Wonder if VW would revive the NSU brand for the Chinese cars?
Paul mentioned the inboard brakes on the K70. Found this illustration of the K70 powertrain. The early Audis also used inboard brakes. The Audi sales literature hailed the reduction in unsprung weight, but those cars were also known for brake issues, not to mention the surgery involved in replacing a rotor.
Rotors didn’t need replacing in those days, because asbestos brake pads were much kinder to the rotors than modern pads.
I’m not suggesting I’m a fan of inboard brakes – more cons than pros.
Thanks to NSU, Volkswagen survived, NSU did make the change to FWD and made two very bold industrial designs, R0 80 and K70, the R0 80 deserves a place next to the Citroėn D Series, German Bauhaus Avantgarde.
The K70 simply had the wrong VW badge.
Volkswagen people did not understand shit about modern cars back then but lived on their own air cooled flat four planet.
Volkswagen people did not understand shit about modern cars back then but lived on their own air cooled flat four planet.
It’s probable that VW management was locked in a hubris filled echo chamber. Consider the amount of money they put into the Type 4, when everyone else was moving away from both rear engines and air cooling. Judging by the sales numbers, everything looked fine to them in 71, but by 73 the downtrend was obvious. Of course, management is supposed to look down the road and see future trends. That’s why they make the big bucks.
A while back, we were kicking around the idea of VW badging the F103 as a VW as soon as it was ready for production, then relaunching the Audi brand with the more upmarket 100 instead, and not spending a Pfennig on the Type 4.
It’s possible that NSU management was also locked in a hubris filled echo chamber. Consider the way they kept tossing money into the Wankel, then putting it in an upmarket sedan, then compounding the money drain by developing the upmarket K70, while neglecting their core small car market as the Prinz was left behind by the move to liquid cooled front engines and front drive.
The entire VW takeover of NSU has a smell to it. Officially, we are told, VW “needed the Neckarsulm plant to support booming Audi 100 sales”. Thing is, VW opened their new, state of the art, assembly plant in Salzgitter in 1970, so it was already building when NSU was taken over. With the Nackarsulm acquisition and Salzgitter build, VW had one assembly plant too many. Salzgitter was converted to an engine plant in 1975.
… two very bold industrial designs, R0 80 and K70,
Maybe bold designs, but both laboring with reliability and durability issues and both commercial failures.
To my eye, the NSU takeover was almost synergy free. The Ro 80 and K 70 were both failures. The Prinz was obsolete. The factory was redundant and probably obsolete in comparison to Salzgitter. In the back of my mind is the thought, there was pressure on VW, by the union, which has seats on VW’s BoD, and possibly some pressure from the German federal government, to “save jobs” by taking over NSU and keeping Nackarsulm operating. iirc, the same mechanism was at work in Korea when Hyundai was pressured to take over Kia when that company was on the verge of collapse.
This is my favorite pic of the Salzgitter plant: the plant that was rendered redundant, building two products that were both technical dead ends.
Thanks to NSU, Volkswagen survived,
I beg to differ. The K70 was a dud. It ended up doing little or nothing for VW.
What saved VW was the Audi 80 (Passat) and the Golf, which was based heavily on Audi technology as well as VW’s own efforts.
What saved VW was the Audi 80 (Passat) and the Golf, which was based heavily on Audi technology as well as VW’s own efforts.
Sticks in my mind that, somewhere, I read that VW’s primary objective in buying Auto Union was to get it’s hands on the Ingolstadt plant to increase production capacity for Beetles. Ironic how Auto Union’s technology was the lifeboat that saved VW.
NSU 1000 L was my first car – I bought as a student in 1980. It was already 15 years old and without MOT, but it was the best that I could afford with my vast available funds 🙂
At least, as “L” model, it had front disc brakes so I had something to brag about. So I spend next 6 months fixing various issues and collecting money for insurance and registration fees. I even put a tachometer and also one big, double dial vacuum gauge from a military surplus, connected to the carburetor manifold.
Everything to impress girls 🙂
Compared to the VW, it feels much more modern, more powerful and also quieter, thanks to the modern cooling fan design.
Unfortunately, it was also a bit of a gas guzzler, for that reason i sold it 2 years later, and I regret it to this day…
Anyway, NSU was pretty popular in the former Yugoslavia, thanks to the fact that cars were assembled also in the company PRETIS in Sarajevo, so it was kind’a domestic car. One interesting fact is that the most powerful “civilian” version (Prinz 1200 with 60 PS) was notorius for the same issue as early Porsche 911 – it got light-nosed under full acceleration, so front wheels started to lose traction. For that reason, it was a custom to put a heavy toolbox in the front, or even a bag of 50kg of cement…
Drazen-r, thank you for this comment! I knew about PRETIS and acknowledged it in the article. However, I could not find any statistics on production numbers or when exactly PRETIS stopped production of the NSU cars. Do you think you can dig something up?
Mine gave just over 30 mpg, in any kind of driving, at any speed.
According to the one Serbian automobile magazin, Pretis company started assembling NSU motocycles some time in the fifties, and started with cars in 1963. Prinzes were made until 1969 when Volkswagen took over, and, together with Pretis, established new company UNIS. Automotive part of UNIS was called TAS.
TAS started beetle assembly in 1970, until 1976, and then Golf I and legendary Golf II.
Also Caddies for the whole European market were produced there, until war started in 1992.
You can find the whole article here (in Serbian language):
And English translation here:
Also I found 2 interesting advertisments from the Globus magazine (circa 1961), for NSU Prima scooter and NSU Maxi 4 stroke 175 ccm motocycle
Needless to say, I had both of those in my student days 🙂
As far as I know NSU cars were produced by PRETIS since 1965, and motorcycles since 1963; Sarajevo production of cars ceased in 1969, after roughly 15 thousand Yugoslavian-built NSU-Pretis 1000s, 110s and 1200s. Licence is payed via parts (mainly car-parts) and via exporting of motorcycles back to Western Germany, namely Max, Maxi and Supermax series, for this purpose marked only as NSU.
Hi. Nordex never assembled GM Cars! The Chevette was assembled by GM Uruguaya till early eighties. In 1986 GM sold the plant and franchise to a group of argentine investors and they renamed GeMo Uruguaya. From 1985 yo 1991 they started yo produce brazilian Chevettes. They closed in 1992.