1976 NSU Ro80 Wankel rotary from UK and Ireland


Elegance AND driveability in personification, but beware of potential gremlins


The usual things associated with these; that is the tip rotors, only bugged ours for a short while, and after the problems were cured by a competent German car trained mechanic, did NOT return in the life of the car, as experienced within our eight year long ownership!!

Ours was one of the later cars, registered in January 1976, and was finished in Starmist blue metallic with a charcoal velour upholstery.

The dash is real plain on these, but well built and planned, and uses couth materials.

One air vent was sticky to use, but that's only about the sum of the troubles with it.

Nothing much to write about faults with the car.

The gearbox leaked a bit of oil from time to time around 52,000 kms.

Three speeds on the Manumatic really wasn't enough ratios for such a fine and interesting power pack.

The seats wore well and were super comfy on long trips!! I.e. the 200 plus miles ones you do on holidays. Seats both front & rear, and more than that, there was plenty of room all round for five.

The Wankel motor ran smoothly and fair enough strongly, after being cured of its teething issues, as it was delicately put by the manufacturer's agent!!

What this car was, WAS stylish and avant, ahead of its time in looks, unlike the Austin Princess 1800 HLS, which was only PRETENDING to be in 1976.

0-60 mph times of 11.8 seconds are swift, but not entirely quick!

112mph or 180 kph max was pretty creditable in itself, for what amounted then to a quality 2 litre executive saloon, with a difference.

Not having a clutch was a bonus for some!

General Comments:

OK, this, to put it succinctly, is a very good, but NOT a great car overall, either then or now. It was just too different from the mainstream to ever be accepted as being quite that!

This fact plays to both the car's strengths and its weaknesses.

Think of your average, moderately successful exec of the mid seventies. What would HE customarily choose when faced with either this, or for example a BL Princess 2200 Highline wedge, that was sheer conventionality mechanically, but spacious, comfy and fairly reliable, and at 107 mph, fast enough for the clientele.

Or for example, the well developed - over time, deservedly, and thoroughly reputable V8 3528cc, fast touring saloon that was the Rover P6B 3500 S! What to say!! That was one yummy automobile, with a 126 mph top end or near enough 210 km/h smoothly, and a proper 4 speed, short throw synchro box, with 92 mph available in the third ratio!

Or the mkII Ford Granada saloon 3.0 Ghia, with a nice gruff V6 and the 138 bhp it made, along with the Ghia trim; a very well appointed, comfortable swift, spacious executive saloon, even if ONLY available in the auto option 3 speeder. 110 mph and an easy 95 on the autobahn.

No; in the face of the establishment, the Ro80 was too much of a jump, too much of a risk for most back then. And that's a surety.

Where it might have done far better, is either on its home turf, or more likely in places such as Austria, France or the Netherlands, where people are far more accepting of difference & change!

These cars are swift and sure on the motorway.

These cars ARE a quality built and designed automobile.

These cars both handle and ride particularly well!

Real shame then, and all the more that, after gaining euro car of the year for 1967, perhaps deservedly so, for its fashionable stance and chic, and handling driving prowess among its peers, this futuristic design should at once then be plagued with many customers turning away over the engine's early stage developmental issues, and as they say, once bitten, twice shy!

That said though, I still like the car enough to consider it a worthwhile purchase more latterly, knowing the engine issues can be brought to hand with the competent knowledge now available to us, which just wasn't back then, even in the grown up sophisticated European world of the seventies.

To sum up then about this particular car, what it is, is compact, handy, stylish, swift, roomy, and comfortable, with great visibility to all corners, quality executive transport, that also just happens to be a Wankel before Wankels were fashionable - now look at the Mazda RX8 -- good car of course - a great one well???

The survival rate for these is fair to good, so go out and buy one if you're at all tempted, while they still remain relatively available.

And have it thoroughly rust protected if it isn't.

Best of from Railton.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 29th February, 2012