1967 NSU Ro 80.
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Its design alone symbolized its exceptional technological status. The paneled body was drawn up without any frills whatsoever, strictly focused on the essentials. Clear-cut edges throughout framed a wedge-shaped silhouette, and the unusually flat front end concealed a revolutionary drive train: a Wankel engine.
This rotary-piston engine was extremely compact. With its two rotors, it got 85 kW (115 hp) out of two chambers measuring 497 cm3 (30.33 cu in) each – which sufficed for a top speed of 180 km/h (111.85 mph). And the engine ran like a turbine, with very little vibration. NSU had already used the Wankel engine in series production, namely in the open-top Spider back in 1964. At the time, this engine was seemingly the technology of the future.
Early problems with reliability, however, prevented it from making a major breakthrough. Nevertheless, over 37,000 units would leave the assembly line by the end of Ro 80 production in April 1977, by which time NSU had already merged with Audi.
The Ro 80, which immediately became “Car of the Year”, was ahead of its time in every regard. Front-wheel drive provided the large sedan with considerable driving safety, while the semi-automatic three-speed transmission facilitated smooth shifting. And the avant-garde body allowed for an unbelievably low drag coefficient of just 0.36. The creative minds at NSU were so convinced of their design that they had the fundamental “blueprint” patented as a registered design as early as 1963.
“The Ro 80 was a landmark for us,” says Stefan Sielaff. “Its design was light and modern; its transparency comes to life in the slender greenhouse. To this day, we make use of the solution with the third side window in our sedans. The Ro 80 added a lot of important ideas to the genetic code of our brand.”
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