1963-1966 NSU Wankel Spider

The first production car powered by Felix Wankel's rotary engine, the 1963-1966 NSU Wankel Spider was produced in limited numbers by this old-line German firm to test public reaction.

Unlike the later twin-rotor, front-drive Ro80 sedan, the Wankel Spider used a single-rotor engine mounted in its tail to drive the back wheels. The unit body/chassis was based on that of the ugly little Prinz sedan, but styling was created by Bertone. Accommodation was for two only, and there was no external clue as to the nature of the engine or its location.

Unfortunately, the Wankel hadn't been completely perfected, and the one-rotor configuration proved less reliable and refined than predicted. Nonetheless, the Spider was quite quick for its displacement (equivalent to a 500cc reciprocating engine), with up to 92 mph at the top end.

The 1963-1966 NSU Wankel Spider was more a toy than a serious production effort, though it undoubtedly gave NSU valuable experience in manufacturing this new kind of engine and information about how it would stand up to typical owner use.

Pluses of the 1963-1966 NSU Wankel Spider:

  • Curiosity value
  • Historical interest
  • Cuteness
  • Comparative rarity
  • Milestone car status

Minuses of the 1963-1966 NSU Wankel Spider:

  • Unreliable engine
  • Indifferent body construction
  • Not plentiful

Production of the 1963-1966 NSU Wankel Spider:
Approximately 5,000

Specifications of the 1963-1966 NSU Wankel Spider:
Wheelbase, inches: 79.0
Length, inches: 143.0
Weight, pounds: 1,545
Price, new: $2,487 U.S. in 1967

Engines for the 1963-1966 NSU Wankel Spider:

Type Size Horsepower* Years
1-rotor Wankel 500 cc (30.5 cid) 50 1963-1966
*DIN European

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