NSU Fulfills a Dream, and Answers Questions

Looking a little like a Corvair, these cars have many similarities with their US cousins.

Along with BMWs and MBs my father’s dealership sold NSUs. So when I started racing he suggested I find the holy grail of NSUs, a 1200 TTS. I found one for sale in NJ and went with my friend Peter P. to collect it and bring it back to MN.

NSU was an old manufacturer. They began in the late 1800’s as a knitting machine manufacturer. Soon they became a bicycle manufacturer, and then in the early 1900’s began making cars and motorcycles.

After the war they continued making excellent motorcycles, winning races in Europe and setting many speed records at Bonneville. Their cars were small, but of high quality, and were also quite successful on track.

Their most successful model on the track and at hillclimbs was the TT and its successor the TTS. These cars came as 1,000 ccs and 1200 ccs, and were named for the race where NSU had had such success, the Isle of Man TT races.

Power comes from a 1,200 cc 4 cylinder, OH cam, air cooled motor derived from their motorcycle engines.

In the late 1960’s they developed a Wankle engined car called the Ro-80 that was a marvel. It was a beautiful design, but the engine proved unreliable, and the warranty claims put the company in jeopardy.

VW/Audi took over the company in 1969 and the NSU brand disappeared.

I ran my TTS in a few auto crosses in the fall of 1969, setting several FTDs, and then raced it on the Ice in the IIRA series in 1969 through 1971. I never got a chance to race it on a track because I sold it and bought a Mazda RX2 to race in 1972.

The question of how well these cars go has always rattled around in the back of my empty skull, so I decided to take steps to find out before I was too old to care.

Here are some pictures of my latest acquisition. It is a 1970 1200 TTS. It has a OH cam 4 cylinder air cooled engine, sitting on a 4 speed transmission. And no, I will not be doing any bump drafting with that oil cooler hanging out there.

It has independent suspension all around. Up front are unequal length arms, with coil springs and a sway bar. In back are swing axels locate by trailing arms, with coil springs and shocks.

I found the car in the Netherlands, and it is on its way via ship to Seattle. No Baby Corvair jokes please.

Stay tuned to follow the adventures of this little Bad Boy!

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