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Bertone in German: 1964 NSU Sport Prinz

After its founding in 1873, NSU Motorenwerke rotated through a variety of businesses from knitting machines to pedal cycles to motorcycles, and finally, by 1905, automobiles. Two world wars interrupted the tiny company’s evolution until it abandoned carmaking altogether. Instead, by 1955, NSU became the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer; to this day, the company holds several speed records. With renewed confidence, it addressed the car market once again in 1957, launching the Prinz sedan. The timing was right as buyers were finally willing to pay for a conveyance other than two wheels and a motor – but the Prinz offered barely more than that. A year later, however, the Sport Prinz arrived. Designed by Frank Scaglione at Bertone – and constructed at Bertone until NSU found a way to move production home to Germany – more than 20,800 examples of the pretty fastback found homes through 1968. Here on facebook Marketplace is a survivor-quality 1964 NSU Sport Prinz with an asking price of $8000, located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Ted and Chuck Foster found this tip for us – thanks, guys!

The Sport Prinz rolls courtesy of an air-cooled, rear-mounted, two-cylinder, four-stroke 598 cc engine, well-known for its decibel level. It’s a handy unit, though, combining engine, transmission, and differential. Oil is shared for lubrication, and the four-stroke configuration allows for faster starting than a two-stroke. Good for about 30 hp, the engine is happiest around 50 mph. The gearbox is a four-speed manual, and the car rides on a relatively sophisticated suspension. This car has apparently traveled only 30,000 miles. The seller says it does run but will need attention before undertaking a road trip. For parts, learning a bit of German might be helpful, as will this site.

The neat interior has its issues, not very evident in this photo. Those elasticized door pockets love to let go over time, and while the driver’s side is good, a video included in the listing shows that the passenger’s side pocket is sloppy. A seam in the driver’s seat has separated and the upholstery is punctured elsewhere, and the headliner is torn above the rear window. At least the dash is as sleek as new. The coupe has wind-up windows, while the sedan has sliders. This example has a radio installed.

The fastback’s curved rear window and modest fins remind me of a Sunbeam Harrington but the performance won’t be anywhere near as dazzling. The gap in prices is just as wide – a Sport Prinz should sell in the high teens while that Harrington will cost four or five times that much. No question it’s charming, but a lower price would make this Italian-styled German coupe far more interesting.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo alphasud Member

    Such a beautiful little car. I would think the asking price is very fair for this piece of history. Excellent write up Michelle.

    Like 11
  2. Avatar photo Davey Boy

    What a cool little car. Would make a great little hot rod if you wanted to cut it up and do that to it but the problem is I doubt there’s hardly any around and everybody would be really mad if you did. So you just restore it and then sell it for something you can cut up. But I don’t think it’ll be that hard to restore that car. Looks like everything’s there and it looks like it would be more labor than anything. But then you never know until you dig into it but still I think it would be a great little car to put together. I love the body style of that. I would be very hard-pressed not to turn it into a mini Henry J or something like that. Throw a 4.3 V6 in it and turn it into a little hot rod. Would be cool. Weather it would be the right thing to do or not

    Like 0
  3. Avatar photo Sam61

    Good looking car! How about something wacky like transplanting a BMW motorcycle engine, 4 wheel disc brakes and beefed up suspension?

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Bob Austin

    I had one of these cars when I went to college in Milton Wisconsin. It was the only car I ever owned that your could drive with the accelerator pedal pressed flat to the floor in virtually every gear and never be afraid of getting a ticket!

    It was fun to drive, but quite slow. Although, it also attracted quite a crowd where ever you went! It was a fun little car and quite attractive…as long as you were not trying to get anywhere in a hurry!

    Like 8
  5. Avatar photo Kurt Member

    Very interesting. My VW cars and coffee group would salivate if I drove up in this!

    Like 4
  6. Avatar photo Martin Horrocks

    Excellent piece on an interesting car as usual, Michelle.

    These are tiny and rust badly, but simple mechanicals facilitate a restoration. This car looks very original and complete. For those wanting more power, BMW bike engine upgrades may apply.

    Like 2
  7. Avatar photo Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    It does remind me of a VW Karmann Ghia, except for the fastback styling. Cute car, just needs more power

    Like 3
  8. Avatar photo Bill Schulz

    All I read about today is more power, more power, more power. Why?
    Traffic stinks, the joy of patching out some expensive rubber is brief… if at all, fuel cost is outrageous and climbing, etc., etc.
    As you can probable tell, I’m older ‘n dirt. My first car was an 8 year old ’46 Olds “66” coupe, STICK shift, 101 hp, ~3650 lbs. (incl. 150 lb. driver, me). Thirty-six lbs./hp.
    Second car, ’50 DeSoto 4-door, semi-auto, 112 hp, ~3850 lbs. (incl. driver). Thirty-four lbs./hp.
    First new car, ’58 FIAT 600. 21 hp, 1500 lbs. (incl. driver). SEVENTY-FOUR lbs./ hp.
    With which one did I have the most fun? Absolutely! That 600 taught me a lot about energy management in hilly New England, was an absolute blast to drive in twisty roads and was extremely over-engineered compared to domestic iron. I put 63K miles on it in less than three years and loved every minute of it. Oh, and yes, it had a shirtsleeves heater that put VWs to shame.
    Fun, in short, is participating in DRIVING, kids, It’s all about gettin’ the mostest out of the leastest. Plus or minus 40 mpg doesn’t hurt either.
    Oh, and here 66 years later I’m still driving small FIATs.

    Like 10
    • Avatar photo Gregg

      Oh man!…. What a great comment! I also learned to drive in an old Fiat. (a 1969 124 sport coupe) and I (now forty some years later) have, tucked away in the back of my workshop, a 1958 Fiat 600 transformable… Waiting for me to get back to its restoration! Some day I will be driving that little jewel through the twistys!

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Bill Schulz

        I envy you!

        Like 0
    • Avatar photo BillCinMA

      Would have been a three cylinder 2-stroke.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Bill

        FIAT never made a 2-stroke. The 600 was 633cc 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, liquid cooled. It was later enlarged to 767cc in the “D” model (1960) and later 903cc in the 850s, 127s and various other models up to 2008. Not a bad 50 year run for a simple 3-main iron block/aluminum head combo with a built-in intake manifold. Max output from the factory was 70hp.
        Absolutely bulletproof. I ran several over 120K and one 850 version to over 170K and it was still going strong when I retired it after 14 years.

        Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Bill McCanless

    I think NSU was the first company to have the rotary engine installed in it. Felix Wankel created and patented it.

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo MikeH

      Thé Ro80. It broke the company.

      Like 1
  10. Avatar photo Brad chipman

    I fad a friend that fad one in Germany in the ’70’s. It had a 4 cylinder 2 stroke motor. It smoked a bit,typical 2 stroke but was a pretty fast little car

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo BillCinMA

      Would have been a three cylinder 2-stroke.

      Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Al Wagner

    I own 3 of these–here are the facts: This is a 2 cylinder 4 stroke overhead cam hemi. 36 cu. in. & 36 HP (SAE). Total weight is 1246 lbs.
    4 speed is all-synchro. Top speed is 80 but it’s really revving! As long as the connecting rod bearings are OK you can tune it up and have a great reliable little car. Get rid of the ugly top bumper bar–that’s not part of the Bertone
    styling!
    The 1964 NSU Spider was the first rotary car sold. It’s this body with a convertible roof. The Ro80 came out in 1967, I believe.
    A V6 will not fit! The engine is behind the rear axle–swapping for a motorcycle engine would not be practical. I think you could fit a later NSU 4 cylinder engine, though.
    No chassis upgrade needed–NSUs were known for great handling!

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo chrlsful

    4 stroke, 2 cyl – no wonder folks say puta cycle engine in it, sounds like the bike motor ofa (human) generation ago.
    The Q on “fast”? Modern traffic. I drive the speed (& conditions) and it’s difficult being there w/the modern drivers (cellie in hand, road rage, tailgait, not follow the official rules of the road and fast everywhere).
    I DO like to go fast ( on each edge ) where sanctioned to (ina good to great vehicle).

    Like 1
  13. Avatar photo ramblergarage

    I had a sedan mini Corvair version of one of these. Had it doing 75mph on the interstate a couple of times. LOL>> built just like the old VWs.

    Like 1

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