NSU History
In Swedish

NSU- 130 years in a few minutes.

It all actually didnīt begin in Neckarsulm but in Riedlingen an der Donau. In 1873 two young mechanics by the names Heinrich Stoll and Christian Schmidt started a "Mechanical shop for manufacturing knitting machines". Rather soon they found more suitable facilities in Neckarsulm and they took the name NSU from the first letters in the names of the rivers surrounding the plant: Neckar and SUlm.

The knitting machines sold pretty good ,but in the surrounding world the bicycle became the latest "craze" and the young entrepreneurs were not late in adopting that and they became "Neckarsulmer Fahrradwerke". The NSU bicycles immediately became popular and the development from high wheeler to more modern, ballbearing equipped, bicycles went fast.

From the bicycle the step was not far to the motor- cycle and already in 1901 the very first NSU motorcycle was ready. It had a 1,5 hp motor, imported from Zedel of Switzerland.


NSU Fahrzeugwerke Neckarsulm 1910

In 1903 NSU started their own production of motors and already in 1904 there were six different model to choose from. NSU was early aware of the importance of racing their products and that doing so had a positive effect both for developement, and sales. And many were the records and victories.

Did anyone believe that the V- twin was a new invention? Nope, in 1905 NSU had a very popular 3 hp version and in 1909 a nearly 1000cc large V-twin was introduced!

Along side the successful motorcycle production the manufacturing of automobiles slowly began. In 1905 the first car was presented and only a couple of years later several motor alternatives rangeing from 1300cc to almost 4 litres were available. Soon also taxicabs and small lorries (trucks) were put in production. WW 1 slowed the speed of development down as NSU contributed with both cars and motorcycles to the "Wehrmacht". 

During the years 1923-27 the NSU car racing era was at its peak, and several Grand Prix victories were a fact. One of the race cars, a 1926 6/26, can bee seen on a picure here. Maybe You also believed that Audi A8 was the the first car with a body made intirely from aluminium? No way, already in 1923 NSU built an aluminium bodied car, the 8/24

NSU 6/26 1926

 1923, NSU aluminium car

After having had economical difficulties the car division was sold to Fiat in 1928. This was shortly after the "running band" was introduced at the production plant. FIAT comitted to build NSU cars until 1932.

1933 NSU again built a car - "the beetle"! For Ferdinand Porsche  NSU built three prototypes "Typ32", one of them is in the VW museum.


1931 NSU again motorized the bicycle with the Motosulm. 1936 is another honorary year for NSU. Then the bicycle production of Adam Opel was taken over and the two major sales successes Quick and Pony were introduced.

Then came WW II and  yet again NSU was ordered to produce for the military: the 250ZDB motorcycle and the Kettenkrad, a half track vehicle equipped with an Opel Olympia motor were the two main items.

The factory at Neckarsulm was partly destroyed in a bomb raid only a couple of weeks before the end of the war. The plant was used as a "repair- shop" for the allied forces right after the war, but from the wreckage 98 Quick were built in 1945 as a perfect restart of NSU.

1936  NSU Quick

In 1948 NSU celebrated itīs 75year anniversary and the Fox was presented , 4 stroke and 100cc. It was marketed with the slogan: Fixe Fahrer Fahren Fox (smart riders rides the Fox), in a huge, seldomly seen, advertising campaign. 

Development and the raise from the ruins went rapidly, and in the early 50īs NSU began manufacturing the Italian Lambretta scooter by license

Quick continued beeing popular and Konsul I and II , 350 and 500cc, basically pre- war contructions, were put to life again in an effort to compete with BMW and Zündapp. The "oldtimers" disappeared in 1953 when the Max, 4- stroke, 250cc, was introduced. The Max rapidly got a reputation of beeing an extremely well built and driveable motorcycle. Later that year the Moped (50cc), Quickly was set on wheels. It does probably not need a closer presentaion, close to one million were made!


In the 50īs NSU had great success on the race tracks all over the world with their motorcycles. Many records were broken, and, as a matter of fact, NSU still holds a couple of records today. 

The license to build Lambretta scooters expired in 1955 and the NSU constructors created their own version, 147cc large Prima D, which hit the market in 1956.  The scooters developed fast and soon the 150cc Prima III  and the 175cc Prima V (Fünfstern) were put on the market. 

NSU even had a 4- stroke, Max motor- based scooter, the Maxima, almost ready for production in the early 60īs, but as the scooter sales dropped the project was scrapped.


NSU primaD

early Bertone Sport Prinz

During the 50īs the thoughts of yet again making cars were realized. The first draft was the three- wheeled entity called the Max kabine. At the start of the car production in 1957 it fortunately had four wheels and was named  Prinz I & II. The power source of the minicar was a "double" Max motor at 598cc and 20 hp. The cooperation with Dr Felix Wankel was already in progress and the experiments with the Wankel motor were a fact. 

In 1959 the smartly looking Bertone designed Sport Prinz was introduced. The first 2.400 cars were actually assembled in Torino in Italy. The Prinz  motor was stressed to 30 hp and this engine was also placed in Prinz III which basically was a refreshed Prinz II. Not to forget: the bicycle production was still in full operation parallell to all the above!.

NSU built the first Wankel motor that was ready to be tested in a car in 1960, and in september of 1963 the Wankel Spider was presented at the Frankfurt fair. It looked good, like a small, open, Sport Prinz if You like. Some 2.400 cars were built until the production seized in 1967. The Spider was a source of many problems, the one rotor engine was simply not a completely finished, and enough tested, product. And, besides, the owners were pretty hard on the throttle, against the written instructions in the manual. The engine was simply soo rev- happy!

The same year, 1963, the "mini- Corvair" Prinz4 was introduced. It shared motorization with the small Prinzes, ca 600cc/30 hp. The P4 was in production all until the bitter end of NSU car production, 1973. It was the most produced cars of all the NSU:s, and at some point it was the most sold import car in Italy!

Scan from the NSU broschure "Welcome at NSU", printed in early 1960, showing the Wankel motor, small enough to fit in a bag!

1965 NSU TT 1085cc

Prinz1000 came in 1964. As the model designation suggests it was equipped with a 1 litre  (996cc), fan cooled, straight  4 cyl. OHC, 45 hp motor. With itīs merely 700 kgs and truly good roadholding, it was a fast car that became popular for racing. Some ,even sportier, versions were the TT, which came in 1965, with 1085cc/65 hp (which later developed into 1200TT with 1177cc) and the TTS which was only produced in ca 2.400 units and most of them were sold as racing cars. It was 997cc large and with two Solex 40:s it delivered 70 hp.

The very last scooters left the band in 1964 and the motorcycle era was terminated in 1965 with Quick50. Not even the bicyles were genuinely NSU anymore as they were license made by Heinemann.

The long nosed Typ110 (1085cc) saw the streets in 1966. It was the limousine of the NSU- family. Shortly after came 110SC which was the first car to have the 1200 engine (1177cc) and  60hp. In 1967 the follower logically was designated 1200, also 1177cc, but reduced to 55hp. NSU 1200 was together with Prinz4 and 1000 continued until 1973.


1967 1200C

1968 Ro 80

NSU Ro80 was uncovered in Frankfurt autumn of 1967. It was a revoulutionary car in a quite new size bracket for NSU. The two- rotor Wankel motor, with a displacement of nearly one litre, gave 115 hp. It was a modern, streamlined, car carrying a design that almost stands up still today. Unfortunately the engines also here suffered from many childrens diseases and that cost both effort and money for the NSU company.

In the mean time NSU also worked on the model K70, yet another modern family car, size wise just below Ro80 and with an NSU- first: a watercooled engine. The engine looks a little like the 1000- 1200 motors  at first glance, but covers 1600 cc. Only 23 prototypes were made under the name NSU. Already at the Frankfurt fair in 1969 the emblems were changed to VW. It was made as VW K70 until 1975.

Under preassure from one of the main stock holders, a large German bank, NSU was sold to VW/Audi in 1969. The Wankel cars had, simply put, cost NSU too much.


NSU K70, picture from German Mabazine "Auto Motor & Sport" March 1969

1980 the plant in Neckarsulm, were the Audi A2 A6 & A8 are produced today

Much of the R&D work on the Wankel motor was done at NSU in Neckarsulm. Ro80 was produced as long as until 1977, in a total of about 33.000, unfortunaley without implementing any of the things they discovered  during the developement process. One can put it this way VW/Audi choosed to kill the Wankel- project!

The fine technicians and constructors, the key to NSU:s succesful years, who VW previously had a total lack of, spread in the VW/Aud sphere. Some of them continued working on the new generation of cars: Golf  (in the US: Rabbit), Passat and many more. The first to hit the streets was Audi 50, that more or less took over from the small NSU:s in 1973. One can clearly see itīs heritage, as with the Passat, that claims to have been on the NSU- drawing tables already in 1969! The 100 year- anniversary in 1973 wasnīt a happy one at NSU!

By 1984 the name NSU was discontinued within the VW/Audi concern.

But still today, Audi- Werke in Neckarsulm, were Audi A2, A6 och A8, are produced, has the address: NSU- Strasse! In 1998 Audi held the 125- year anniversary as a tribute to NSU. And as You probably know there is car that bears the  name TT currently in production . Audi has now realized the value of knowing, and recognizing, oneīs history and they have founded NSU- GmbH, a department serving under Audi Traditions GmbH.

Sadly though, the old NSU show room at the entrance of the plant in Neckarsulm in the corner of NSU- Strasse and Felix Wankel Strasse was torn down autumn of 2001.