NSU Motorenwerke AG Neckarsulm Germany

NSU Motorenwerke   1938 NSU 1938 Logo

NSU Motorenwerke AG, normally just NSU, was a German manufacturer of automobiles, motorcycles and pedal cycles, founded in 1873. It was acquired by Volkswagen Group in 1969. VW merged the company with Auto Union, to eventually evolve into Audi as it is known today.


1913 Nsu 6 18 PS Doppelphaeton

 NSU 6/18 PS Doppelphaeton 1913
1928 NSU 6-30 (Audi Forum Neckarsulm)

NSU 6/30 (1928)

1956 NSU Max Toni Spurzem

NSU Max Standard

NSU originated as the “Mechanische Werkstätte zur Herstellung von Strickmaschinen”, a knitting machine manufacturer established in 1873 by Christian Schmidt, a technically astute entrepreneur, in the town of Riedlingen on the Danube. The business relocated in 1880 to Neckarsulm, where the river Sulm flows into the Neckar. There followed a period of rapid growth and in 1886 the company began to produce bicycles, the first of them branded as the “Germania”. By this time, the company was named Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union. By 1892, bicycle manufacturing had completely replaced knitting machine production. At about this time, the name NSU appeared as a brand name.

The first NSU motorcycle appeared in 1901, followed by the first NSU car in 1905.

In 1932, under pressure from the bank, NSU recognised the failure of their attempt to break into volume automobile production, and their recently built car factory in Heilbronn was sold to Fiat, who used the plant to assemble Fiat models for the German market.

During World War II NSU produced the Kettenkrad, the NSU HK101, a half-tracked motorcycle with the engine of the Opel Olympia. They also made the 251 OSL motorcycle during the war.

After WW II

In December 1946 Das Auto reported the company had resumed the manufacture of bicycles and motor-bicycles at Neckarsulm. For Germany this was a time of new beginnings: in July 1946, a new board had been appointed, headed up by General Director Walter Egon Niegtsch, who earlier in his career had spent 17 years with Opel.

NSU motorbike production restarted, in a completely destroyed plant, with pre-war designs like the Quick, OSL and Konsul motorbikes; furthermore, the HK101 continued to be sold by NSU as an all-terrain vehicle in a civilian version. The first post-war model was the NSU Fox in 1949, available in a 2-stroke and a 4-stroke version. In 1953 the NSU Max followed, a 250 cc motorbike with a unique overhead camdrive with connecting rods. All these new models had an innovative monocoque frame of pressed steel and a central rear suspension unit. Albert Roder, the chief engineer behind the success story, made it possible that in 1955 NSU became the biggest motorcycle producer in the world. NSU also holds four world records for speed: 1951, 1953, 1954, and 1955. In August 1956 Wilhelm Herz at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, became the first man to ride a motorcycle faster than 200 mph (322 km/h).

In 1957 NSU re-entered the car market with the new Prinz (Prince), a small car with a doubled NSU Max engine, an air-cooled two-cylinder engine of 600 cc (37 cu in) and 20 hp (15 kW). Motorbike production continued until 1968. NSU’s last production motorcycle was the Quick 50.

In 1964 NSU offered the world’s first Wankel engined car: the Wankelspider. In development of the project, NSU built the Sport Prinz, with a 129 hp (96 kW) 995 cc (60.7 cu in) 2-rotor. In the same year Prinz 1000 and derivatives like the TT and TT/S followed. The Typ 110 (later called 1200SC) was launched in 1965 as a family car with a more spacious body design. The last NSU cars with a conventional four-stroke engine had the air-cooled OHC four-cylinder engine in common. The car was marketed in the U.K. as “NSU TYP 110”, and Karobes, a major supplier of car accessories, provided a head rest specially for this car: “A new one which can be fitted without a screw, and may be adjusted forwards and backwards.”

In 1967, the four-door NSU Ro 80, with a 115 hp (86 kW) version of the same 2-rotor, was presented to public. Weighing 2,600 lb (1,200 kg), it had a Cd of 0.36, disc brakes, independent suspension, and front wheel drive by Fichtel & Sachs Saxomatic three-speed transmission. It soon gained several design awards such as “car of the year 1967”, while drivers liked its performance. Virtually all the world’s major motor manufacturers purchased licenses from NSU to develop and produce the rotary engine, with the notable exception of BMW.

Despite its public acclaim, sales of the Ro 80 were disappointing. The transmission drew complaints and the engine suffered numerous failures even at low mileage. Competitor automakers, apart from Mazda, held back from taking a lead in developing and marketing the Wankel technology, and anticipated income associated with those royalty deals failed to materialize.

Volkswagen Group takeover

The development of the rotary engine was very cost-intensive for the small company. Problems with the tip seals of the engine rotor significantly damaged the brand’s reputation amongst consumers. In 1969, the company was taken over by Volkswagenwerk AG, who merged NSU with Auto Union. The new company was called Audi NSU Auto Union AG and represented the effective end of the NSU marque with all future production to bear the Audi badge (although retaining the four interlocking circles of Auto Union). The management of the Neckarsulm plant moved to Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt. When the small rear-engined NSU models (Prinz 4, 1000, 1200) were phased out in 1973, the Ro 80 was the last car still in production carrying the NSU badge. Audi never made use of the brand name NSU again after April 1977, when the last Ro 80 was sold.

Even as production of the Ro 80 continued in the Neckarsulm plant, production of larger Audi models like 100 and 200 was started. The Porsche 924 and later Porsche 944 were also assembled at Neckarsulm. Those models were joint venture projects of Porsche and VW, but Porsche did not have the internal capacity to build the 924 and 944. Currently, Neckarsulm is the production plant for Audi’s topline vehicles like A6, A8 and R8. It is also the home of the “Aluminium- und Leichtbauzentrum” where Audi’s aluminium-made space frame bodies are designed and engineered.

NSU is primarily remembered today as the first licensee and one of only three automobile companies to produce cars for sale with rotary Wankel engines. NSU invented the principle of the modern Wankel engine with an inner rotor. The NSU Ro 80 was the second mass-produced two-rotor Wankel-powered vehicle after the Mazda Cosmo. In 1967, NSU and Citroën set up a common company, Comotor, to build engines for Citroën and other car makers. Norton made motorcycles using Wankel engines. Only Mazda has continued developing the Wankel engine and made several more cars with the Wankel Engine.

A museum in Neckarsulm, the Deutsches Zweirad- und NSU-Museum, has many of NSU’s products on display.

Lawn mower engine

In the early 1970s, NSU manufactured a vertical-crankshaft small engine for use as a lawn mower power unit.

NSU cars

1958 NSU Prinz 30 (Audi Forum Neckarsulm)

1958 NSU Prinz 30 (Audi Forum Neckarsulm)

1959 NSU Wankel Spider

NSU Wankel Spider 1964 – 1967

1961 NSU Prinz 4 L

1961 NSU Prinz 41970 NSU P10, made by Nordex S.A. in Uruguay
 1970 NSU P10, made by Nordex S.A. in Uruguay

NSU produced the following post – war cars:

NSU motorcycles

1908 Neckarsulm 1,25 HPNeckarsulm 1,25 HP 1908

1911 NSU 3 PSNSU 3 PS 1911

1913 NSU motorradNSU 1913

1952 NSU FoxNSU Fox (1952)

1952 NSU LuxNSU Lux (1952)

1953 NSU Quickly 50 c.c. TS MOPEDNSU Quickly 50 c.c. T/S MOPED(1953)

1953 NSU Rennmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. TWINNSU Rennmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. TWIN (1953)

1954 NSU RennFoxNSU Rennfox G.P. 125 O.H.C. TWIN (1954)

1954 NSU Rennmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. TWINNSU Rennmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. TWIN (1954)

1955 NSU Superlux 250 c.c. TS SINGLENSU Superlux 250 c.c. T/S SINGLE(1955)

1956 NSU Sportmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. SINGLENSU Sportmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. SINGLE(1956)

NSU TriCycle1Sidecar (Germany, 2002)

DCF 1.0NSU 1000

DCF 1.0NSU 500

DCF 1.0NSU 2000

In 1907, British manager Martin Geiger rode an NSU in the inaugural Isle of Man TT, placing fifth. NSU had several successes in the Isle of Man TT races in the 1950s. NSU holds 4 World records for speed: 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1955. During the 1930s, and in the mid 1950s NSU was the largest motorcycle producer of the world.

The NSU Quickly was the most popular moped of its time. It was produced between 1953 and 1966 in over 1,000,000 examples and still can be found today all over the world as more than 60% were exported.

NSU bicycles

Bicycle production began in 1900 and continued into the early 1960s.

NSU (fabrikant)

1907 Neckarsulm 512HP 1
Neckarsulmer Motorrad 5 ½ pk met 670 cc V-twin kop/zijklepmotor met snuffelklepen uit 1907
1908 NSU 3,5hp 410cc ioe
Deze (Australische) NSU 3½ pk (410 cc) eencilinder kop/zijklepper uit 1908 heeft al een gecommandeerde inlaatklep. Hier blijkt ook de reden voor de naamswijziging: “Neckarsulm” is voor een Australiër moeilijk uit te spreken
1917 NSU Heere-Modell 500cc
NSU Heere-Modell (500 cc) uit 1917
1928 NSU 501 (494cc)
NSU 501 (500 cc) uit 1928
1930 NSU 501T 1
NSU 501 T (500 cc) uit 1930
1932 NSU-500-SS
Het blok van deze NSU 500 SS uit 1932 is eigenlijk gewoon een Norton CS 1
1952 NSU Rennfox
NSU Rennfox uit 1952
1952 NSU Lux
NSU Lux uit 1952
1956 NSU Max Toni Spurzem
NSU Max Standard uit 1955/56
1975 NSU Hercules W2000
NSU Hercules W2000 uit 1975

NSU was een Duitse fabrikant van breimachines, en later auto‘s en motorfietsen. Het bedrijf werd in 1873 opgericht, en in 1969 door Volkswagen AG overgenomen.


In 1873 gingen Christian Schmidt (1845-1884) en Heinrich Stoll een samenwerkingsverband aan. Schmidt was vaardig in mechanica. Het duo begon in Riedlingen an der Donau in een watermolen met de Mechanische Werkstätte zur Herstellung von Strickmaschinen (mechanische werkplaats voor de vervaardiging van breimachines). Toen de fabriek naar een nieuwe, grotere locatie zocht, kwam men in Neckarsulm terecht, waar de waterkracht van Neckar en Sulm kon worden gebruikt. De naam van de nieuwe fabriek werd Neckarsulmer Strickmaschinen-Fabrik AG.

Na het overlijden van Schmidt in 1884 kwam de fabriek in handen van zijn zwager Gottlob Banzhaf (1858-1930) die in 1886 besloot over te stappen op de fabricage van tweewielers. Banzhaf zag potentieel in het nieuwe vervoermiddel, en verwachtte met fietsen meer geld te kunnen verdienen dan met breimachines. De “Germania”, een vélocipède, was het eerste product na de omschakeling, en vanaf 1888 legde men zich toe op de fabricage van lagere fietsen.

De bedrijfsnaam was Neckarsulmer Fahrradwerke AG, later NSU Vereinigte Fahrzeugwerke, NSU Werke Aktiengesellschaft en NSU Motorenwerke AG.

In 1901 produceerde men de eerste motorfiets met 1½ pk Zedelclip-on motor. Al snel werden eigen motorblokken ontwikkeld. De machines werden aanvankelijk onder de naam Neckarsulm of Neckarsulmer Motorrad verkocht, maar deze naam was met name voor de Engelse klanten niet uit te spreken, daarom werd het al snel NSU, waarvoor de letters genomen werden uit de naam van de standplaats: NeckarSUlm. In 1905 werd de eerste auto gefabriceerd, in licentie van het Belgische merk Pipe.
Met haar motofietsen behaalde NSU grote racesuccessen en veel wereldberoemde coureurs reden ooit op een NSU. Na de overgang van Walter William Moore van Norton naar NSU gingen de motoren er erg “Engels” uitzien.

Tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog produceerde NSU uiteraard militair materieel, waaronder het bekende Kettenkrad dat tot 1949 werd geproduceerd. In 1949 begon men weer civiele motorfietsen te bouwen, maar al eerder, in 1947 werd een contract gesloten met Innocenti om de Lambrettascooters in licentie te produceren. Aanvankelijk waren dit in Italië geproduceerde scooters die licht aangepast werden, maar in 1951 werden ze geheel in Duitsland gebouwd. Deze scooter-productie eindigde in 1959.

In de jaren vijftig vierde NSU triomfen op de racecircuits met de revolutionaire 125 cc en 250 cc racemotoren. Het revolutionaire was gelegen in de nokkenasaandrijving door middel van twee excentrische drijfstangen. In 1957 deed NSU de motorfietsproductie gedeeltelijk over naar deJoegoslavische Pretis-fabriek om zich meer op de automarkt te kunnen concentreren. Wel werden er nog een tijdje Lambrettascooters gebouwd, en daarna nog de NSU Prima-scooter. In 1965 werd de motorfietsenproductie beëindigd.

De grootste bekendheid genoot NSU met de NSU Ro 80 (1967). Deze auto was voorzien van een dubbelschijfs wankelmotor. Aanvankelijk hadden de motoren echter veel problemen. Omdat NSU een garantie van vijf jaar op de motoren gaf zorgde dit voor hoge kosten. In 1969 werd NSU overgenomen door Volkswagen, waarna het merk werd samengevoegd met Auto-Union. De combinatie ging verder als Audi NSU Auto Union AG en werd in 1985 omgedoopt in Audi.


1961 NSU Prinz 4 L
NSU Prinz 4
1959 NSU Wankel Spider
NSU Wankel Spider
1958 NSU Prinz 30 (Audi Forum Neckarsulm)
NSU Prinz 30
1928 NSU 6-30 (Audi Forum Neckarsulm)
NSU 6/30 uit 1928


  • NSU gebruikte de slagzin Vorsprung durch Technik (“Voorsprong door Techniek”), die tegenwoordig doorAudi wordt gebezigd.

Spot- en bijnamen

1954 NSU Rennmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. TWIN
“Blauwe Walvis”: NSU Rennfox

NSU Rennfox 125 R 11 1954: De Blauwe Walvis (deze racemotor was voorzien van een grote blauwe stroomlijn die ook het voorwiel omsloot).

NSU (algemeen): Na Starten Uitgeput, Nooit Slechter Uitgevonden, Nooit Sneller Uitgevonden, NortonSpareparts Used (GB). (De laatste spotnaam ontstond toen ontwerper Walter William Moore van Norton naar NSU ging).

Maar natuurlijk is er ook een positieve afkorting als bijnaam: Nooit Sukkelt U.

Externe links

1906 NSU 5.5 Touring 1907 Neckarsulm 512HP 1 1907 NSU-Bahnrennmaschine 1908 Neckarsulm 1,25 HP 1908 NSU 3,5hp 410cc ioe 1910 nsu-smit 1911 NSU 3 PS 1912 NSU 350 1912 NSU NSU-350-TT 1913 Nsu 6 18 PS Doppelphaeton 1913 NSU motorrad 1914 NSU-8-40 1916 NSU 3,5PS 1917 NSU Heere-Modell 500cc 1928 NSU 6-30 (Audi Forum Neckarsulm) 1928 NSU 501 (494cc) 1930 NSU 301 TS 1930 NSU 501T 1 1932 NSU-500-SS 1933 NSU 201 TS Motorrad 1933 NSU-D-201-OSL 1934 NSU 500OSL 1934 NSU-Fiat Weinsberg cabriolet RK-68-32 1935 NSU Quick 98cc 1936 NSU Quick 1938 NSU 1938 Logo 1938 nsu1 1938 NSU-Fiat 500 - Spider-Sport body by Glaser - manufactured in 1938 1940 NSU Ouick 98cc 1940 NSU НК-101 (Sd.Kfz.2) 1940 NSU-Fiat 500 Topolino Spider 1942 NSU tweetakt 1 cil ZDB 125  sform W 384 1351428236 1943 NSU НК-101 (Sd.Kfz.2) 1944 NSU Kettenkrad 1945 NSU 1945 Logo 1950 NSU Quick  98cc 1950 NSU-125-ZDB 1950 NSU-Quick 1951 NSU logo 1951 NSU-601-OSL-Gespann 1951 NSU-Lambretta Scooter 1952 NSU Fox 1952 NSU Lux 1952 NSU Rennfox 1953 NSU Quickly 50 c.c. TS MOPED 1953 NSU Rennmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. TWIN 1953 NSU-Rennfox-R11 1954 NSU Fox 2-Stroke 1954 NSU Fox 1954 NSU quicklyl400 1954 NSU RennFox 1954 NSU Rennmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. TWIN 1955 NSU prima2 1955 NSU prima3 1955 NSU Superlux 250 c.c. TS SINGLE 1955 NSU-Lux 1956 Motoren Alleluia NSU 1956 NSU FIAT Neckar 1089cc 27ps 1956 NSU Max Toni Spurzem 1956 NSU Sportmax G.P. 250 O.H.C. SINGLE 1956 Prima 1956 1957 NSU PRIMA blau 1957 NSU Prima 1957 Nsu Quickly Motorcycle Motor 1958 Nsu Logo a 1958 Nsu Logo Car Picture 1958 nsu logo 1958 Nsu Prima 3stern Motorcycle 1958 NSU prinz 01 1958 NSU Prinz 30 (Audi Forum Neckarsulm) 1958 nsu prinz I 1958 nsu prinz II (2) 1958 nsu prinz II 1958 NSU Prinz III 1958 NSU Prinz 1958 NSU-Prima-V-en-III-line 1959 NSU Prima III K 02 1959 nsu sport prinz coupe 1959 nsu sport prinz II 1959 nsu sport prinz 1959 nsu sport prinz-xplode 1959 NSU Wankel Spider sported some pleasant lines, even though it was really tiny 1959 NSU Wankel Spider 1960 nsu logo 1960 NSU Prins III  2 1960 NSU Prins III  3 1960 NSU Prins III 1960 NSU Prinz III (D) 1960 NSU Sport Prinz 1960 NSU-Fiat Weinsberg 500 Limousette (D)(I) 1960 NSU-Fiat Weinsberg 500 Limousette achterzijde Italië en D 1960 NSU-Fiat Weinsberg 500 Limousette Italië en D 1961 NSU Prima V Classic Motorcycle 1961 NSU Prinz 4 L 1961 NSU Prinz cremekleur 1961 NSU Prinz 1962 Nsu Prima 3 And 5 Motorcycle 1962 NSU Prima D 1962 NSU SKODAMAN 1964 NSU 40 Sport Prinz JF-09-50 1964 nsu spider engine 1964 NSU-wankel-Spider 7a 1964 NSU-wankel-Spider 1964 NSU-wankel-Spider-explode 1964-67 NSU Spider  Engine 498cc Single Rotor Wankel 1965 NSU-FIAT Autobianchi Panorama type D voorzijde 1965 NSU-FIAT Autobianchi Panorama type D 1967 NSU 1300 TT Rennwagen 1967 nsu ro80 1967 1967 nsu ro80 wind tunnel 1969 NSU Ro80 1969 NSU TT 1970 NSU P10, made by Nordex S.A. in Uruguay 1970 NSU PRINZ 1000 voor 1970 NSU Prinz 1000 1970 NSU RO80 95 1971 nsu 1000c (2) 1971 NSU 1000C achterzijde 1971 NSU 1000C 1971 nsu 1200 1971 NSU 1200C 1971 NSU Pininfarina RO 80 02 1971 NSU range, with the basic 598cc Prinz on the far left 1971 nsu tts 1972 NSU RO 80 targa XRO 230 1972 NSU RO 80 1972 NSU TT 1972 NSU TTs 1975 NSU Hercules W2000 1975 NSU RO80 NSU logo logo-nsu-1 -LOGO-NSU-R Motoren NSU IFA BK350 NSU (2) NSU 1,5 PS Pony DCF 1.0 DCF 1.0 NSU 1413 DCF 1.0 nsu car logo NSU DKW Luxus200 NSU Konsul I 01 NSU Logo, SahiFa Braunschweig NSU Max NSU Max mit Beiwagen NSU Motorrad alt NSU MuZ Skorpion NSU OSL 251 NSU RennFox NSU Sdkfz2 nsu supermax 57 NSU TriCycle1 NSU TS 601 5763 nsu vintage bicycle logo NSU NSU_Logo NSU_Logo_6668[1] nsu_logo2