Two liters worth of performance out of half the standard European luxury car displacement, and a 995 cc twin-rotor Wankel engine wrapped in a highly futuristic aerodynamic body. That was the concept of NSU, the German company previously known for making cheap economy cars.
As well as being Europe’s only rotary-powered four-door, the Ro 80 also featured disc brakes (with the front ones being inboard), a space-saving MacPherson strut/semi-trailing arm suspension setup, power-assisted rack and pinion steering and a semi-automatic, vacuum-operated three-speed gearbox.
While it was named European Car of the Year in 1968, by the end of the sixties, it also brought NSU to its knees. The problem wasn’t just that the Wankel hit the streets in dire need of more development time, but also that mechanics had no idea how to service something as alien as a rotary. NSU ended up replacing engines one after the other, which led straight to bankruptcy and a complete takeover by Audi in 1969.
If you would like to know more about the birth of the Ro 80 and what it’s like to drive one, here’s my NSU sedan adventure from 2014, but Petrolicious ‘ latest video is also a great reminder of what treasures could be found for $500 just ten years ago. Having said that, Ro 80 prices still haven’t gone crazy, and with only 37,000 ever made, it’s definitely a classic worth looking into right now.