1971 NSU Ro80

Less a forecast of future design trends than the NSU Ro80 itself was this blocky, 1971 special-body exercise by Pininfarina.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The NSU Ro80 Design Team

Aside from the engine, developed under the direction of Walter Froede and Georg Jungbluth, the NSU Ro80 was designed almost entirely by Praxl: general architecture, suspension, even the body shape. The final production-model body drawings were done by Klaus Luthe, who later became chief of BMW styling. Philip Schmidt, principal chassis design engineer, did the drawing board work on the Ro80 chassis, assisted by Herbert Brockhaus, under the supervision of Rudolf Strobel. Testing and development were in the hands of Hans Georg Wenderoth.

And what were the qualifications of the NSU Ro80’s creators? Curiously, two came from the petroleum industry. Wenderoth had been an automobile specialist with Shell, Brockhaus a research engineer with Esso. Jungbluth had formerly worked in engine design at Daimler-Benz and Deutz, while Strobel was an experienced motorcycle engineer under Albert Roder and Viktor Frankenberg at NSU. Praxl had been at NSU since 1939, when his first assignment had been designing the K-Rad, a track-laying “crawler” military motorcycle. He continued as a motorcycle engineer until Heydekampf put him in charge of the Prinz program in 1955.

Considering its advanced design, plus NSU’s small size and limited resources, the Ro80 came together quickly. Wind tunnel tests with scale models were started at the Stuttgart Polytechnic Institute in August 1963, concluding once the measured drag coefficient had been pared to 0.34.

Construction of a full-scale model began that October, and it was presented to the board the following May. Road testing, however, didn’t commence until almost two years later, April 1966. Pilot assembly got underway in February 1967, with the first production units coming off the line in August.

All good things must come to an end. On the next page, read about how the NSU Ro80 finally gave up the ghost in 1977.

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