The NSU Spider wis the first production caur in the warld tae be pouered bi a Rotary Wankel ingine.
Apart frae its water cooled single rotor engine, the caur wis in maist respects unremarkable. However, standard equipment did include disc brakes on the front wheels.
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First appearing at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1964, the Spider featured a twa door cabriolet body based on that o the NSU Sport Prinz coupé introduced back in 1959. In addition tae the foldin roof, the Spider wis distinguishable frae the hard top caur bi a grill at the front. As wi all NSU caurs at the time, the engine wis rear mounted: in order tae improve weight distribution, space wis foond for the Spider’s radiator an for its 35-litre (9 US gal; 8 imp gal) fuel tank ahead o the driver. The front luggage locker wis in consequence small.
The Rotary Ingine
The Wankel ingine, invented bi Felix Wankel differed frae a piston ingine because the quasi-oval design o the combustion chamber, containing a rotor that ascribed within the chamber an Epitrochoid shaped trajectory, enablin the combustion pressure tae be converted directly intae a rotary motion. There wis nae need tae lose energy convertin reciprocatin movement intae rotational movement. The result wis a remarkably compact free revving ingine which in the 1960s wis hailed bi some as the next major step forward in automobile design. It later transpired that the characteristics o certain critical materials selected an applied bi NSU to build production rotary ingines wur inappropriate tae the stresses they woud bear, an rotary engined caurs acquired a reputation for unreliability. Warranty costs associated wi installation o the engine in NSU’s seicont Wankel ingined model destroyed the financial viability o NSU. The anerlie lairge scale automaker tae persist wi the rotary engine – an then anerlie for niche models – wis Mazda: piston engines continued tae dominate the warld’s automobile engine bays. During the Spider’s production period, these disappointments wur generally na foreseen, however.
Claimed ootput wis initially 50 bhp (37 kW) at 5500 rpm, though in later models 54 bhp (40 kW) at 6000 rpm wis advertised.
The rotary ingine wis installed 'boon the rear axle. It wis compact, licht an vera free revvin in comparison wi conventional ingines o the time. Bi ignorin the manufacturers’ recommendations it wis possible tae rev the ingine briefly 'boon 7000 rpm in the lawer gears an thereby tae achieve a 0 – 100 km/h (0 – 62 mph) time o 14.5 seconds: ither sources, presumably based on followin the manufacturers' recommendations, give a time o 15.7 seconds.
Lairge sales volumes wur never envisaged for the caur, an this wis reflected in a relatively hie retail price. 2,375 were built between 1964 an 1967. In 1967, the model wis withdrawn an NSU's seicont rotary engined production saloon wis presented. The Ro80 woud notch up 37,398 units during its ten year production run.
In 1966 Al Auger o Richmond, California USA became the first person in the warld tae race a Wankel-pouered production caur in offeecially sanctioned races. With anerlie installing a mandatory roll-bar an racin tires an NSU Spider raced in 1966 an 1967 in Sports Car Club of America sanctioned road races throughoot California finishing seicont overall champion baith years in Class H Modified. Because SCCA haed nae technical information aboot the Wankel engine it wis placed in H Modified racin against lichter, more pouerful 850cc highly modified pure race caurs.
Sources an further readin
- This article incorporates information from the revision as of 2008-02-21 of the equivalent article on the Italian Wikipedia.
- Eberhard Kittler: DDR Automobil - Klassiker, Band 1. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-613-02256-7
- Horst Ihling: Autorennsport in der DDR. Wartburg, EMW & Co. Verlag Delius Klasing, 2006, ISBN 3-7688-5788-3