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4T : Feature Cars

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25 June 2007


In 1964, NSU introduced the 4-cylinder successor to the 2-cylinder Prinz IV minicar, the Prinz 1000. The square and upright unibody of the Prinz IV was stretched in all dimensions, but without change in appearance, to provide the basis for the new, larger car. Positioned in the lower end of the middle class of European economy sedans, the Prinz 1000 featured a roomy cabin for four adults, with a large glass area, and accommodating luggage area. What separated the car from its competition was the 996cc, 48hp SOHC in-line “four” mounted in the rear, coupled with four-wheel independent suspension. Together, they made for a lively and agile compact car. Derived from motorcycle racing technology, the lightweight engine was mounted transversely, and featured a five main bearing crankshaft.







At the same time as the Prinz 1000 introduction, Chairman of the Board Dr. Gerd Stieler von Heydekampf, announced to the press that NSU would cease further development of Otto cycle (reciprocating piston) engines to focus all the company’s efforts on the rotary piston engine brought forth by their own Dr. Felix Wankel. However, accustomed to many years of championship motorcycle racing development, NSU’s engineering staff could not keep their hands off the new one liter engine.







At the 1965 Frankfurt International Automobile Exposition, NSU introduced two new spin-off models, an enlarged (1177cc) version of the basic Prinz called the Typ110, and a sporty Prinz 1000TT. The Prinz 1000TT caught the eye of motoring enthusiasts with its quad headlights, tachometer, sports seats, front disc brakes, and two single-barrel Solex 34 PCI carburetors attached to a slightly enlarged (1085cc) Prinz 1000 engine. This arrangement pushed the Prinz engine up to 55hp, and helped to increase sales of the entire Prinz range.







Again at the Frankfurt auto show in 1967, upgrades to the TT model were announced. It was now offered with the larger Typ110 engine. The revised model was rated at 78hp at 5500 RPM, and the “Prinz 1000” prefix was dropped. More important however, was a new variation of Prinz. To gain a victorious foothold (and resulting marketing benefits) in various popular German sedan racing events, NSU engineers introduced the track-oriented TTS. The TTS reverted to the original 996cc engine, but gained a larger pair of 40mm two-barrel Solex carburetors, a front-mounted external oil cooler, lowered suspension, anti-roll bars front and rear, finned-alloy rear drum brakes, and radial-ply tires. Horsepower was up to 83 in street tune, but various factory upgrades were available to take it up to 102 hp. It should have been a smash hit with the sporting set, but it was firmly overshadowed in the media by the world debut of the ground breaking Ro80 luxury sedan.







The import car boom was in full blossom in the late 1960s, but relatively few NSU cars were imported to the U.S. between 1967 and 1972, as a result of several factors:

• Turmoil at the parent company in Nekarsulm. NSU was suffering heavy financial losses due to warranty claims on the Ro80 engine. They subsequently merged with Audi and Auto Union in April 1969.

• During this time period, the NSU importers changed from Transcontinental Motors, New York City, to Overseas Motors, Livonia, Michigan, and then to Valiant Motors Import Company, Elizabeth, New Jersey (in fact, simply a gas station turned importer!).

• During the confusion with importers, few new car dealers were recruited, and national advertising was limited to a few small ads placed in enthusiast magazines (even Citroen had full page ads in Life magazine).

• Increasingly stringent U.S. Federal safety and emission regulations provided a moving target for automobile manufacturers, and small companies such as NSU found it difficult to justify the added cost of compliance for so little sales.

• “Mod” style was king in the swingin’ late 1960s, and sexy looking cars trumped boxy ones in the sales charts. This too did not help NSU sales efforts in the U.S. Of the few NSU cars shipped to the U.S., fewer still were the competition-oriented TTS model. Only hardcore sports racing enthusiasts would likely consider the purchase of a new NSU TTS, and then most likely only for track use. As a result, there are few surviving NSU TTS cars in the United States today.







This particular example, owned by Reinhard Hilkenbach of New Jersey, is somewhat unique in that it has always been a street car. When purchased in 2001 from an NSU enthusiast outside Chicago, Illinois, it was complete and unmolested, but very tired. Everything required attention to one degree or another. After networking with the NSU Enthusiasts USA Club, a decision was made to ship the car to NSU expert Thomas Kugler in Niagara, Ontario, Canada for restoration.







The body was stripped most of the way down for a fresh coat of paint in the original shade of red (the wiring harness and some of the glass was left intact). The engine was completely overhauled: all wear parts were replaced, and the crankshaft and reciprocating parts balanced. A new tubular exhaust header and muffler were sourced, and then treated to Jet Hot Coating for gas flow and appearance improvements. All brake system components were rebuilt or replaced. The bumpers were removed to give the car that race-ready look, but since the car is often used to run to the store, they may be rechromed and reinstalled to ward off the careless. The Koni shocks are period pieces, but the front upper A arms were replaced with shorter units to allow for some negative camber. The original Solex carburetors were replaced with Weber 40 DCOEs, which can be better tuned to suit the temperament of the engine. New carpeting and Corbeau seats were installed to freshen the interior. New 5-1/2 x 13 Minilite wheels in the correct NSU 5-bolt pattern (unusual for so small a car) are still available from the importer, and were fitted with 175 / 50 x 13 Kumho tires.







As you can imagine, almost 90 horsepower in a 1300 pound car provides convincing acceleration, so long as you don’t mind the rock ’n roll music coming from the engine bay. The suspension is taut and compliant, not harsh at all. With the engine in the rear, the steering is light and quick. Cornering at the limit at speed results in oversteer, as you would expect, but it does not catch you out all of a sudden. It’s a really fun car to drive, and demonstrates the competence of the NSU engineers, who started with a 600cc minicar, and ended up with a track day terror.








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