Far ahead of its time
In 1967 the NSU RO 80 was nothing
short of a revolution. Its aerodynamic
body was later to influence the design
of entire vehicle generations at Audi. Its
unique technical feature was the rotary
piston or Wankel engine.
Felix Wankel (1902–1988) had been working on the construction of rotary piston engines since the mid-twenties. His aim then was to eliminate the “shaking” of conventional engines. In 1936 he was awarded the patent for the rotary piston engine. At the beginning of the fifties he teamed up with NSU in Neckarsulm. The Wankel-rotary piston engine was jointly developed, to be presented in the NSU Spider as the first series-manufactured car at the IAA in 1963. It was followed by the R 80, which was series-produced up until 1977. Nowadays Wankel engines are predominantly used by Japanese car manufacturers, like Mazda, whose 1991 RX-7 model won the 24-hour Le Mans car race.
Incidentally, Felix Wankel himself never owned a driver’s licence. He liked to be chauffeur-driven in his NSU RO 80.