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NSU Ro80

NSU Ro80 1960s German classic saloon car

The styling of the NSU Ro80 was ahead of its time. At first glance, masses of glass were straight out of science-fiction. Closer inspection revealed the gently rising line of its profile - giving it a low front, high back stance - which would influence automotive design for years to come. The 5-seater body was supremely aerodynamic for a saloon car - making cruising at speed a breeze. So flawless was it outwardly that it was hardly touched in ten years of production. Just the tail-lights were modified, on later versions.

The Ro80's handling was equally impressive. FWD - and precision power-steering - kept it perfectly pointed. The long-travel strut suspension soaked up bumps. High-efficiency disc brakes were fitted all round. The 3-speed semi-automatic transmission swept through the gears with aplomb. Top speed was a sound 112mph.

But, of course, nothing is perfect. The Ro80 was powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine. Unfortunately - in a rush to get the car into showrooms - the motor had been under-developed. A mere 15,000 miles revealed the fault. The Wankel's rotor-tip seals wore out prematurely. Frustrated owners reported less power - and more fuel consumption! As wear increased, engines were harder to start. If the car could be coaxed into life at all, it was with thick smoke billowing from its exhaust pipe. NSU settled warranty claims without ado - and kept on settling them. Indeed, it was not uncommon for an Ro80 to have near double-digit engine replacements by the end of its days! Which only serves to illustrate what an alluring package the Ro80 must have been overall. Any car which can cause so may problems - and still be in demand - must have something pretty special going for it. In terms of its looks, the NSU Ro80 certainly did!

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