Bertone Beauty: 1960 NSU Sport Prinz

This zoomy little thing is a 1960 NSU Sport Prinz and it’s on eBay with no takers on an opening bid of $1,900. This two-seater is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

NSU made the Sport Prinz from 1958 to 1968 and it was quite a departure from its  other Prinz models. My personal favorite is the NSU Prinz I, but that’s just me. Of course, at 6′-5″ tall, any of the NSU Prinz cars would be almost circus-like for me, I’m guessing. Have any of you sat in a Sport Prinz or driven one to judge the leg and headroom?

This particular example looks pretty good but it’ll need work. There is a big area of rust-through on the driver’s side rocker panel and it looks scary. Kudos to the seller for being honest and for providing photos of the bad spots as well as the good spots. The passenger side rocker area looks considerably nicer but I’d still want to dig into it fairly aggressively. The seller mentions that the driver’s side is the only area of rust on the car.

The floor pans look solid and shiny and once you check things out for any possible rust, even though the seller says that there isn’t any, you should maybe lay down some Dynamat because these are reportedly fairly loud cars to be in. The Sport Prinz was designed by Bertone and it’s quite a svelte shape, maybe more so than its 2-cylinder power plant would suggest.

Here is that 583 CC inline-two-cylinder four-stroke engine. Cute, ain’t it? This little two-popper has 36 hp and has a 0-60 time of around 25 seconds. It reportedly runs and drives and shifts through all four gears and is ready to be loaded on a trailer by itself. But, watch those brakes, they need work. Here’s the car driving in a YouTube video; looks fun! You can see some trim pieces missing and the engine is running via a little plastic gas can so there’ll be the usual work to do on this as you would on any restoration. Have any of you owned or driven an NSU Sport Prinz? I’m wondering if it’s as tight inside as it seems like it would be? What about this one, what’s it worth in this condition?

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    I have indeed driven a Sport Prinz, Scotty. Seemed as if it had enough legroom for me (I’m 6’2″) but, as it was a Spider, can’t comment on headroom.

    They do take forever to get up to speed, but with all the whirring going on in back and the shift-lever-waggling involved, it’s plenty entertaining! One of the more amusing features of the engine is the Dynastart (combined starter/generator): Turn the key and the engine is running, no muss or fuss! They handle well, too, at least within their modest speed capabilities. And I find them very attractive.

    If I were to buy one, I’d look for an example with no rot. Finding parts would take some time in any case, and I don’t enjoy doing bodywork. I’d also try to find the open version, particularly a Wankel Spider, which was a good bit peppier.

    Not a great car for long-distance travel, but fun in small doses nonetheless.

  2. Bill the Engineer

    This would make a great little electric conversion!

    Back in the 1960’s, Corgi Toys made a diecast version of this car, too.

  3. Rustytech Member

    I remember the Gorgy toy version, but never have seen one in person, and don’t know anything about them. This is a good looking little car, and I think it would generate plenty of interest at any car show. I like it!

  4. Wagon master

    If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I see under this hood, my Sea-Doo Bombardier 2 stroke water cooled engine.

  5. Ken Nelson Member

    I’ve got both a ’65 Wankel Spider and a ’59 Prinz III – found the Prinz stashed in a barn on top of the Sierras for 40 yrs, with 16,900 miles on it. Dollied it back to San Jose, had it running in 45 mins & sounding good! Virtually no rust – high & dry in the very dry barn. Just sunbaked paint but still useable upholstery. Even at 6′ 4″ I’m able to get in the car – a real surprise! What really surprised me is the cam drive – 3 steel blades, each with circular holes at each end, driving the cam eccentrically off lobes on the crankshaft – no chain, no belt. Evidently they used this drive on the motorcycles also. Now if I’d just put the brakes back together on the Prinz……
    The Wankel of course would be much faster if I ever got it back together – just too many projects so it’ll go on ebay in the spring. Wish I could finish it as the body is solid – only holes being under the battery of course, under the front gastank & hole in the ignition module shelf. But with the rebuilt rotary installed it ought to be pretty fast. I wonder if this Sport Prinz has the same front disc brakes as the Spider. I’d love to swap my solid Prinz III for this Sport model, figuring I’ve done enough weld restoration on Citroen chassis to handle this one’s rotten sills, and they’re both runners –

    • GaryMc

      Ken. I’m curious about your Spider. My dad and I had an NSU dealership in Mountain View and sold several of them. I have tracked down our first one and it is still in San Jose.

  6. Howard A Member

    Looks like it would float. :)

    • Joe

      First thing I thought was the Amphicar had a hand its’ design.

  7. Bill

    3 words…:Meet George Jetson!”

  8. GaryMc

    I’ve owned several Sport Prinzs and they have plenty of leg and head room(6’1″) They do handle very well and, though modest in power, performed on par with other small cars of their day. The fuel economy was amazing, 50-60 mpg. I even ran a couple autocrosses back then with my first one.

  9. Andrew Member

    My dad had one of these in the early 60’s. I can remember riding in the “jump seats” (aka parcel shelf) in the back. The car was light. It took six boy scouts to pick the car up on put inside a stand of birch trees one night as a joke on my dad-the-scoutmaster. As for headroom, my 6’5″ big brother could just barely fit with his crew cut just brushing the headliner. We had a lot of fun in that car! It wasn’t fast but it was still fun to zip around in.

  10. Pierre Stievenart

    NSU had a great reputation in Europe. The TT (pix) was a scaled-down Corvair (just like the French Simca 1000 recently proposed on BF). The Prinz was a driver’s delight, if you knew how to drive a rear engine car. Usually, it was advised to put 80 pounds of… heavy material (concrete, steel, stones) in the front compartment to improve handling.

  11. Bill McCoskey

    My friend “Frog” and I bought out the NSU importer for the USA back in the late 70’s; Allied Light Cars, In Washington DC. We ended up with a large inventory of spare parts [new & used], about 20 cars, including 2 Wankel Spyders. But not just any Spyder, we ended up with both the first, and the last, Spyders imported into the USA, We had the Red one with the black removable hard top that was featured in many car magazines back in 1964. Also had some Prinz coupes, and quite a few of the 4 cylinder cars, all air cooled of course. Even had one of the 1200 TTS race cars. We also had an early 36 HP VW, and the Prinz was a little bit faster in acceleration.

    Sold the Spyders to a collector in Ohio back in the 1980s, along with a DKW Munga 4×4. Sold off most of the rare parts and the rest was destroyed when my building was hit by lightning in the mid 1990s. Those taillights were damn near impossible to find 30 years ago, I hagte to think how difficult those are gonna be to find.

    • Bruce Best

      To those that need a very rare part like this find an owner with a good one and then find a local source to laser scan that part so casts can be made or someone can machine one out of a solid piece of metal or plastic. I have seen both done. While not cheap it is better than having nothing at all.

  12. Paul B

    A friend had one and autocrossed it; she did quite well, then moved up to a Prinz 1000. This was back in the late 1960s. I loved the Sport Prinz. It handed and rode well and was quite peppy with the twin-cylinder. I hate to say it but I think the price on this is too high given its condition and the amount of work it’ll need. We used to practically give away cars like this. But that was then. I do hope someone picks it up and refurbishes it for road use. It’s sweet. Here’s what it could look like again if someone wants to put in the time and money.

  13. John

    I have also driven one of these, exactly like this one. I’m 6’1″. I did not have the seat at the end of its rails. But as I remember, you will need the narrowest shoes in your closet to get your feet on the pedals. I remember it as being very self-centering in its steering. You could flick the wheel in any direction, and the little car would right itself and continue. I suspect the motor is very understressed. But you’re going to have to get used to parts fabrication. I wonder if the taillight lenses could be reproduced by a 3D printer.

    Truly, this could be a wonderful little car for someone who can handle a welder and a cutting wheel. I hope someone buys it and restores it properly.

  14. On and On Gregg Member

    My Dad bought one in Chicago, a 1966. It was our second NSU. The first one was a 1959 sedan he bought for $50……….fun cool and basic cars. Both were 2 cyl. and got almost 60mpg…. I drove the Sport Prinz to high school…..it was so small and light, my friends used to pick up the front end and turn it around. Loved that car. Had a 5 gallon fuel tank and I drove it from Chicago to Kansas once on a couple bucks…..there was a ‘gas war’ going on and regular was 17 cents a gallon??? yes, 17 cents……. the old days……. I would love to have another but its too far away……..brings back a lot of memories, Dad traded it in on 1968 Fiat 124 sedan. That car seemed like a tank compared to the NSU.

  15. David Miraglia

    Nice

  16. jtnc

    I’ve owned a late (’67) Sport Prinz for about 15 years. Attractive and fun little car for local or secondary roads. Not one for the interstates! Excellent handling. Somewhat vague shifter. Nicely appointed and finished for a microcar. It has enough room for me but I am only 5ft. 9ins. The steering column runs between your legs and I think it would be uncomfortable for someone who is 6ft. 5 ins. Between the weird steering column and the gas tank located in the front compartment — just in front of the driver and passengers — it’s a good idea to avoid head-on collisions. (I could have added “with SUV’s” but really even a collision with a 1990 Honda Civic would be disastrous.)

    Overall I think the Sport Prinz is the one of the best tiny cars available. It is very important to buy one with all of the glass intact. The glass is almost impossible to find.

  17. Healeymonster

    My uncle had a foreign car dealership in San Francisco on Van Ness in the 60s and then in Sunnyvale Ca. on the El Camino in the 70s. I remember these cars flanked by Isettas and Borgwards on his lot. For Christmas he gave my sister and me NSU Scooters. A blue 150 cc for her and a red 175cc for me. These were very cool 2 strokes with electric starts and modern looks. We had to add turn signals to make the law happy but they were pretty quick for their day. My sister burned hers up. These didn’t have premixers. You had to premix oil and gas in a jerry can and then fill up the bike. My sister ran low one day and just filled it up with strait fuel at a gas station. Her scooter ended up seizing at a light one day. Glad she wasn’t in motion going down the road. The motor was toast!

    • GaryMc

      What was your uncles name? Our NSU dealership was in Mountain View during that time.

      • Healeymonster

        Frank Siraky of Siraky Motors.
        On El Camino near Wolfe rd. He was there for many years until a fire gutted the buildings. His insurance company had some sort of weasel clause and would not pay out. He ended up renting a small former old Peugeot Dealership in Belmont for a short while before he decided to hang it up.
        The picture is of me back when I was about 11. My dad would take us to parking lots to ride our scooters.

      • GaryMc

        I suspected that might be him. I knew him and his business.

  18. Juergen Splet

    Yes, for shure – I own some NSU-cars and scooters, and a Sport-Prinz, too! I am 1,94m high and have enough room inside for legs and head – And it´s real fun to drive those small cars.. when you know, how to use it and the road is full of curves, normal cardrivers are wondering about the speed which is available with 20 or 30 hp We made some far jounies, too! Last year with Prinz III from Austria tp south Poland, some turning around there and back – about 1000miles within 5 days without any troubles..;-)
    If the owner needs some parts for his car, maybe I could help him. …

    • Chris

      I actuall bought the sport prinz on ebay that started this conversation. I am looking for the right front fender trim and for the right side trim on the nose. Any help would be appreciated. Car is actually in much better shape in person. I have a 59 prinz 3 that is just about done restoring. Can’t wait to get started on the sport. I can be reached at donpisto@msn.com

    • Dwight

      Hi
      I have a 58 prinz 30 and am in need of some parts
      For example

      Hot/cool dial for interior
      Interior dome/map light
      Hood emblem
      Rear brake drum passenger side

      If you could help or direct me to anyone that can, that would be much appreciated
      You can reach me at

      dooey68@hotmail.com

      Dwight

  19. Chas

    I have driven the Sport Prinz as well as the Prinz 30, both great little cars. Fun, reasonably quick for what they are and well built, and comfortable to drive. I am currently resurrecting a 2,400 original mile Sport Prinz that had been disassembled by the previous owner, and I was fascinated by the Ultramax cam drive system as described by Ken Nelson. Very brilliant and complex system that employs two eccentric arms and two round discs with offset pins to drive the camshaft at half crank speed, kind of like the drive arms on a locomotive train, only in miniature. No pushrods, no cam chain, and the whole system works quite well but it was scary confusing when I had to reassemble it all from a box of disassembled parts. Currently chasing shifter bushings and brake parts and then this one should be ready for its maiden voyage.
    I lent the Prinz 30 to a friend to drive in our microcar meet, and he got it stuck in two gears at once. I knew that these cars were prone to this, and I specifically told him to leave it where it was and that I would fix it after the meet. He came back later and was all excited to tell me that he finally got it out of gear. I asked him how, and he said that he just kept forcing the shifter until it freed up. Well, when I started the car, there was a horrible sound, and I am reasonably sure that he forced a bearing out of its proper location in the transmission case, and that it is now spinning with the transmission shaft, so now that one has to have its cases split to reseat or replace that bearing.
    Anyone have any spare NSU gearbox parts, brake parts or shifter bushings?

    • Chris

      I actuall bought the sport prinz on ebay that started this conversation. I am looking for the right front fender trim and for the right side trim on the nose. Any help would be appreciated. Car is actually in much better shape in person. I have a 59 prinz 3 that is just about done restoring. Can’t wait to get started on the sport. I can be reached at donpisto@msn.com

  20. SteveN

    hmmm, how about a Hayabusa engine in it?

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