Das Auto

The NSU Ro 80 in general

Only very few cars are as shrouded in stories, legends and half-truths as the NSU Ro 80. We shall attempt to put some of these stories into their true light.

An important historical fact about the Ro 80 is that there was no predecessor and no successor. This enabled the designers to free themselves from any traditions or conventions. The initial idea for the car was for NSU to use the carrier vehicle as a demonstration to the Wankel license-holders that rotary engines were suitable for the larger vehicle category. The designers were told, therefore, to create a ‘type 80’, based on the magic number 8: costing 8000 DM, weighing 800 kg and with a consumption of 8l/100 km.

Unfortunately, they weren’t quite successful and the actual measurements ended up closer to approx.1300 kg weight, a cost of 14,500 DM and a slightly higher consumption, but the development time was significantly shorter than the norm then and now, and the number of designers was a lot lower.

The design was very advanced, as a whole and in many details, which enabled the model to be produced for almost 10 years without significant changes to the design.

The construction was very robust, this and the necessary complicated tools caused the manufacturing to be very

expensive, which explained the high price. Over 10 years of production only about 37,400 vehicles were made,

which meant that large changes to NSU (or Audi NSU) weren’t worthwhile as the production figures of certain

components would have sunk even lower.

This is an advantage for to-days buyers as most of the individual parts of the different years of design are compatible, especially the bodywork. A Ro 80 is repairable with spare parts of almost every other Ro 80.

The Ro 80 can be considered a trendsetter in the 60s/70s; the wedge shape, created by designer Claus Luthe, which set the trend in Audi body construction for over 20 years, was practically anticipated by the Ro 80 creators. Glass surfaces like those of the Ro 80, which offer an excellent all-round view, have since been removed from production due to tighter (overly tight?) safety measures. The Ro 80 wheel suspension and brake technology is significantly more modern than that of many other cars from the same era, and the Wankel engine is still convincing with its vibrationless running and typical sound. Many owners are constantly impressed by the automotive refinement the Ro 80 has to offer.

The bodywork designed by Claus Luthe, an aerodynamic masterpiece with the brilliant cw-index of 0,35, is concieved as a monocoque design. Seats with  a well-designed contour and the long wheelbase are a guarantee for relaxed driving. (here you can see a videoclip about one of our members and his Ro 80: http://spiekermann.com/ro80/  in which the dsign is well presented).
Pleasure in driving is also supported by the large window area, resulting in a good panoramic view, and the power assisted steering. 

The Wankel engine

General of  Wankel's rotary engine

The German engineer Felix Wankel, inventor of a rotary engine that will be used in race cars, is born on August 13, 1902, in Lahr, Germany.

Wankel reportedly came up with the basic idea for a new type of internal combustion gasoline engine when he was only 17 years old. In 1924, Wankel set up a small laboratory where he began the research and development of his dream engine, which would be able to attain intake, compression, combustion and exhaust, all while rotating. He brought his knowledge of rotary valves to his work with the German Aeronautical Research Establishment during World War II, and to a leading German motorcycle company, NSU Motorenwerk AG, beginning in 1951. Wankel completed his first design of a rotary-piston engine in 1954, and the first unit was tested in 1957.

In other internal-combustion engines, moving pistons did the work of getting the combustion process started; in the Wankel rotary engine, an orbiting rotor in the shape of a curved equilateral triangle served this purpose. Fewer moving parts created a smoothly performing engine that was lightweight, compact, low-cost and required fewer repairs. After NSU officially announced the completion of the Wankel rotary engine in late 1959, some 100 companies around the world rushed to propose partnerships that would get the engine inside their products. Mazda, the Japanese automaker, signed a formal contract with NSU in July 1961, after receiving approval from the Japanese government.

Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wankel_engine



Movies, blogs and articles in journals

Overview about available movies (see below) and articles in journals about Ro 80 (maintained by Gunter Olsowski)

There is no claim to be complete.

Claus Luthe - a retrospective

Claus Luthe was born on Dec. 8, 1932, in Wuppertal, Germany.

The great man and gifted designer died on 17 March 2008.


Claus Luthe started learning automotive design as an apprentice at the Voll bus manufacturing company, where he worked from 1948 to 1954. He then became a designer at the Fiat subsidiary in Germany, but soon after was hired by NSU.

His well-known breakthrough was the NSU Ro80, which came at a time when many American cars sported tail fins and European models had a boxy, conservative look. NSU was a small German manufacturer of mostly moderately priced sedans. Claus Luthe became its chief designer in 1956.

Felix Wankel

Dear Ro 80 und rotary engine enthusiasts,


there is existing a lot of literature about Felix Wankel.

Here you find an overwiev about his life:


The city of Lindau has created some posters for an exhibition about Wankel (only in German, see below)


This picture shows Felix Wankel at his desk overlooking the lake of Constance in his Technical Development Center "Technischen Entwicklungsstelle Lindau" (TES).


Gunter Olsowski, 1. Chairman


Some statistics



Year of production volume of production volume of  sales
1967 354 306
1968 6.066 5.333
1969 7.811 8.219
1970 7.200 6.698
1971 2.916 3.411
1972 4.203 4.432
1973 4.074 4.004
1974 1.286 1.181
1975 1.311 1.518
1976 1.795 1.937
1977 386 203
Total 37.402 37.242