NSU introduced the small NSU Prinz in the mid 1950s as basic transportation for the masses. the company was dominant in the two-wheeled market, and has been featured many times in this blog. Like many, they wanted to compete with the VW Beetle, and appeal to people moving up from motorcycles and sidecars. Today we would call it a microcar, but it was just a small economical car at the time. In the late 1950s, NSU saw the possibility of a more upscale model. Italian Franco Scaglione of the design house Bertone produced the styling. This might explain why it had a passing resemblance up front to the Alfa Sprint Speciale launched in 1959, also from the pencils of Scaglione.
NSU basically mated two single-cylinder Super Max engines together to form the car’s engine. Initially, the 583cc two-cylinder motor was good for a claimed 85mph and 47mpg. Later, a 598cc motor was fitted which raised top speed to 99mph. The transverse-mounted air-cooled engine was rear mounted and performed reasonably well. It had a claimed 0-60mph time of 27.7 seconds, which seems absolutely dismal today, but it was faster than the VW Karmann Ghia, viewed as the main competition. It also featured rack and pinion steering, and a four speed manual. The later engine produced 30hp, but 33 ft/lbs of torque. Helping things immensely was the 1226 lb weight of the vehicle. Overall, the package was competent for its’ target.
The first cars were assembled by Bertone while Drautz in Neckarsulm Germany began to ramp up its capabilities. Eventually, the 3 year contract for Bertone came to an end, and Drautz produced the vast majority of the cars up to the eventual total of 20,831 by 1968. The interior was relatively Spartan, although there were ashtrays and a glove box, and vinyl padding in places. The instrumentation was also basic, being dominated by a single large VDO speedometer. Other information came from simple dash lights. Behind the front seats was a parcel shelf, and potential room for small children (although without any padding . The Sport Prinz was a success for NSU, and was only ended to create manufacturing capacity for the new RO-80. It was a great example of a small, light, package with handsome styling, which began to diminish in importance as the automotive market demanded larger more powerful options.
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