Rare Rides: NSU's New Way to Wankel, the Spider From 1965 (Part II)
In Part I of this four-part NSU Rare Rides series, we covered the beginning of the NSU brand and its initial product offerings — which included knitting machines. The company moved into bikes and motorcycles, as well as a three-wheeler considered a midpoint between motorcycle and car.
The engineers were certainly busy, but all was not well over at the bank.
By 1929, NSU’s creditors were not happy with the company’s failure to break into the mainstream automotive market, and encouraged the company to conclude its car manufacturing operations. NSU sold its brand new factory’s capacity to Fiat, which then produced NSU-Fiat models. Things were fine for a couple of decades, as Germans happily purchased NSU-Fiat 500s and the like. But NSU was not put off from its goal.
Though NSU was not actually producing any cars at the time, it was dabbling with the idea and commissioning new designs. The company hired an independent designer, Ferdinand Porsche, and asked him to create an aerodynamic family car which would be branded as an NSU. The 1934 Type 32 you see here was the result. NSU ended up passing on the design, thus altering the history of the automobile permanently.
A short while later the inspired shape of the Type 32 helped Mr. Porsche win a contract from one Adolf Hitler, to design his new Volkswagen.
Restarting its operations after the conclusion of World War II, 1946 saw NSU once again produce bikes of regular and motor variety. The company’s motorcycles were particularly successful, featuring innovative designs in both their engines and suspensions. They also broke numerous speed records, including the 200 mile per hour threshold at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1956.
About a decade later, a legal battle was brewing at the NSU and Fiat offices. The company no longer wanted competitor Fiat cars wearing an NSU-Fiat badge, because across town different cars were being sold as NSU. Fiat still wanted to use the well-known manufacturer’s name on its cars for the German market, where the Fiat name was not as well known.
It didn’t seem the issue could be resolved amicably, so Fiat and NSU gathered their lawyers, and headed to court. In Part III, we’ll find out how it all came down to a piece of paper.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.
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