EXCLUSIVE: Borla’s 1970 NSU Ro 80

UPDATE – Mr. Borla has dropped the asking price on this NSU, so be sure to take another look and make an offer via the form below!

Yesterday, we featured Mr. Alex Borla’s Citroen SM, which you can see here if you missed it. Well, here’s his 1970 NSU Ro 80 that we mentioned. I won’t lie, I’m a sucker for a Wankle rotary engine, so this one is especially tempting! Alex has owned it since 2013 and it’s been sitting in his shop with the engine in pieces. He isn’t going to get around to getting the engine put back together, so it’s time for it to go to a new home. If you’d love to put this unique rotary-powered sedan back on the road, be sure to message Alex via the form below!

While the engine might be out in pieces, Alex has enough parts to build two complete engines. He is also including a complete set of NSU shop manuals, which will come in handy for putting an engine together. These 995 cc rotary engines produce an impressive amount of power for their size, 113 horsepower, but they aren’t known for their durability so having spares is a huge plus! There are several rotary specialists that have improved the longevity of the Mazda rotary engines, perhaps some of those fixes could be adapted for this NSU engine?

The interior appears to be in pretty good shape, but considering the car has seen just 53k miles, that isn’t surprising. Given how few of these were built, not having to restore the interior is a plus and will save some serious money. There’s no word on whether the gauges or semi-automatic transmission work, but without an engine, it’s hard to say for sure anyways. Between the rotary engine and the clutchless 3-speed, this will be one interesting car to drive!

Putting the engine back together will likely be a bit of a challenge, but if you are as fascinated by the rotary engine as I am, chances are it will be a fun and interesting challenge. The rest of the car looks nice enough that once you get the engine running and back in the car, you could probably won’t have much work left to make it a driver. It certainly looks like a fun and interesting project to me, but how about you?

  • Asking Price: $10,000
  • Location: Johnson City, TN
  • Mileage: 53562
  • Title Status: Clean
  • VIN: 3800109375

Contact The Seller

List your car here on Barn Finds for only $50!


  1. Keith Keith

    Interesting, never seen one of these?

    Like 0
  2. Scott🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

    Had the pleasure of seeing one of these driving many years ago nice find hope or gets back in the road

    Like 1
  3. Solosolo UK Ken Tilly UK Member

    A friend of mine had one and I went for a drive with him one day and found it to be a very fast, very stable when being driven hard while cornering, and very comfortable. That was about 20 years ago and I believe he still has it, although rust was a bit of a problem so maybe not.

    Like 1
  4. ChasH

    I swapped a Mazda RX-4 rotary engine into one these many years ago. Someone in Canada published directions and drawings for an adaptor plate to mount the engine to the automatic stick shift trans. The results were quite nice.

    Like 4
    • Stephen

      I was wondering exactly this. How hard was the swap?

      Like 1
      • ChasH

        Not that hard. There is a fair amount of simple fabrication that can be done on a drill press and bench vise. I had a machine shop make the adaptor plate to drawings provided by the original swapper. I designed a plate to incorporate the NSU oil to coolant heat exchanger, which the machine shop also made.
        The RX-4 engine has more power than the NSU and the slippery body shape made for a very fast car.

        Like 3
  5. local_sheriff

    Several years since I last saw one on the road. However I remember seing several of these at one occation; appearantly a group of enthusiasts heading for an NSU show; on the Oslo-Kiel ferry in the summer of ’97. Believe there were at least 8-10 Ro-80s in that convoy.

    As this one and the SM are belongings to someone who probably has access to pristine equipment to scan exhaust systems – may I suggest that he does SM and NSU owners a HUGE favour and take measurements of their respective exhausts before selling the cars off? I’d find it hard to believe locating a complete quality exhaust for neither of them would be easy…

    Like 2
  6. CCFisher

    Wankel. Its design is attributed to Felix Wankel. “Wankle” means unsteady, which these engines are not. Inefficient, yes. Unsteady, no.

    Like 5
    • Michael

      Besides from the engineers name Felix Wankel, the name does not mean unstable. Dont make up things.

      Like 0
  7. Dick Rugge

    Recently, I saw a Ro 80 that had been beautifully restored by the owner. He acquired a NOS in the crate motor from someplace in Europe. While that sounds like a needle in the haystack find, he said these are available because NSU guaranteed the rotary engines and had to replace large numbers of them. So many more engines were made than Ro 80 cars produced. He also said that the financial burden of the engine replacement guarantee was a key factor in NSU becoming part of Audi.

    Like 3
    • Gary McDaniel

      I think I know the vehicle you speak of here.

      Like 0
  8. Audifan

    To call these interesting engines “Wankel rotary” is like VIN #, ATM machine or PIN #.
    BTW, the inventor’s name is spelled Wankel.
    I own a really rare Wankel engined car:
    1986 Mazda Luce with a 13B rotary.

    Like 4
  9. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Most people don’t know about the NSU & Audi link. Due to incredible losses from warranty issues stemming from failures of the rotary engines, NSU was in dire straits and it’s been said they were on the verge of closing. So Auto Union [AKA Audi] bought NSU.

    The primary reason was to acquire the next generation NSU RO90 car, that car became the new Audi 4000 Quattro [compare the 2 cars; the RO90 and the Quattro, and you can see the NSU design elements!]

    I knew someone who ran a shop in Germany that specialized in exchanging the RO90 motor with a German-built Ford V4.

    Like 4
  10. Mitch Ross Member

    Only a few hundred miles from the Lane Motor Museum, this is right up their alley.

    Like 0
  11. Chris Sawyer

    Darn! Darn!! Darn!!! Not enough money at the moment, no place to store it (though I’d find room), a garage filled with a 1969 Lotus Elan S4 in midst of restoration, and a 1969 Cortina Mk.2 in the on-deck circle.

    Dear God, I want this. It is my all-time favorite sport sedan, and a car I’ve dreamed of owning since they were new.

    DARN IT!!!

    Like 4
  12. Gary McDaniel

    Really cool cars and this one looks cosmetically nice. Unfortunately, really nice running examples can be had for that price and often less.

    Like 0
  13. Skorzeny

    Simply a beautiful car, One of the best looking sedans of all time.

    Like 1
  14. 8banger Dave Member

    I was expecting someone to edit that wankle.

    Like 1
  15. michael

    Unless it’s for next to nothing, Im not interested in a rotary engine. Especially not for one from the 70’s.
    And whoever is this Mr Borla anyway. Do I need to care? Didn’t think so

    Like 0
    • ChasH

      I’m not sure, but I think Borla is the owner or founder of Borla exhaust systems and parts.

      Like 1
      • Michael

        If that person were the same as the owner of a sucessful company then I am sure the car wouldnt be sold in parts . Thats just a half-ass amateur job.

        Like 0
  16. Len Burke

    I have a 1976 RO80 sitting in my garage in Stuart Florida. Car runs and has a spare engine in a box, brand new. Plus manuals in German and English and spares. ChasH did you change out the gearbox to manual? If anyone is interested in my rig let me know via BF.

    Like 0
  17. Benny

    Well, let me at least share my experience. Perhaps my expectations were too high as I had always loved the Ro80. The technology. The great Claus Luthe design. I’ve owned a few of the regular rear engine NSU and I’m a true fan of those, so much fun to drive. I’ve even owned two of the early all-NSU Volkswagen K70.

    So I was really hyped when I was offered a chance to buy a nice Ro80 for a fair price. And I went to see it and was pretty underwhelmed by the driving experience. Sure, the car was nice, suspension well tuned and it’s all built in a typical Germanic fashion. But that drivetrain is just so wrong for the car. It’s not just that it was so unreliable, worse was the combination of a really torque-less Rotary and that strange manual gearbox with a torque converter and an electrically controlled clutch that is activated by touching the shift knob. I think it could have been ok if it only had come with a normal transmission. It had been great with say a 2.0L version of the K70LS engine. Perhaps it is ok if you only do long distance highway cruising.

    But for such a technological marvel, the way the Ro80 ended up it was in my mind doomed by that slow and power sapping transmission that took the fun out from driving.

    Like 1
    • Gary McDaniel

      Coming from similar background and opinion of NSU, I agree whole heartily with Benny’s observations

      Like 0

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