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Zooming like a ZeppelinWhen we relax in the passenger seat of Nico Hobma’s sleek lined Ro80, we quickly understand his passion for this car. Nico likes cars and peculiar ones like this best.

The Ro80 is the last series carrying the NSU badge. Car enthousiasts know that the distinctive double rotation engine is the most extraordinary thing about the car. The Wankel engine was one of the most important features, but surely not the only reason we can call this car revolutionary. The design is both understated and frivolous at the same time. With its long wheel base, high rump and sharp, streamlined front, the design of the Ro80 is far from what cars used to look like in the nineteen sixties.
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A streamlined saloon that long after the demise of its production run still looks contemporary. With a little help from the compact but powerful and fast rotation engine. Combined with independent suspension all around and the standard fitting of a semi-automatic gearbox there are but few characteristics that do not distinguish this car from its peers that crowded every street corner in those days. A car that always attracted attention when passing by, still capable of doing exactly that fifty years later.

A few years ago, Nico managed to for fill his dream. When he finally bought the Ro80, it had been on his wish list for very very long. He actually knew everything there was to know about this car long before he ever owned one. With that knowledge he is able to tell us everything about the history of the Ro80, the Wankel engine, the design and tons of facts and details. This is a true connaisseur speaking!

Zooming like a Zeppelin

Zooming like a Zeppelin

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Driving the Ro80 is a very distinct experience. Outsiders often disrespectfully compare the peculiar sound to a vacuum cleaner. The exhaust producing a pretty characteristic flutter. The concept of the rotation engine is so fundamentally different that it produces some totally different noises. The deviant characteristics of the concept provide a Wankel engine with a compact design and very smooth and vibration free running characteristics. The downside comes in form of the alleged high petrol and oil consumption of these engines. Nico shows us how to treat an engine and a car like this with the right amount of respect.

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Completely in line with NSU customs all series were numbered in the design stadium. It’s not that hard to guess which number this car was known under at the factory. Combined with the fitted rotation engine the name simple became Ro80. At its introduction the Ro80 was declared Car of the year 1967. That number 67 is almost unbelievable compared to the modern lines of the vehicle. A revolutionary design from the past, that looks contemporary even to todays standards. There aren’t many cars from that era that can all this off. I think the design of the Ro80 witstands the comparison with the Citroën DS. Like the Citroën, the Ro80 was way ahead of its time. Add that to the sci-fi engineering and this NSU clearly deserves to be declared revolutionary.
Dennis Rietveld