In years gone by I had considerable affection for N.S.U. Prinz “cyclecars”, which were nicely finished and quiet for twin-cylinder air-cooled vehicles. Then the German firm became ambitious and brought out the 1000, with a transverse four-cylinder air-cooled engine in the boot. I tried one in 1965 and criticised its front-wheel shake, lively ride, and the excessive noise above 65 m.p.h.
Since then the N.S.U. range has increased confusingly and other members of the staff have sampled various later models. These escaped me until last month, when I was offered a 1200TT. Coming from the makers of the Ro80, this could hardly be refused. After some searching, Sales Link, who look after publicity, found us a rather battered example, its vomit upholstery contrasting unhappily with its blue paintwork. Judging by the Santa Pod Drag-Racing and Player’s Autocross stickers in the back window and the words “Test Car” stencilled along one side, this N.S.U. had probably had a hard life. The prop for its luggage boot-lid was broken, the quarter-light knobs were too stiff to turn and the lid of the engine boot fitted badly. There was good acceleration at the expense of far too much noise, and indicated maxima of 30, 50 and 75 m.p.h. in the lower gears. Seventy seemed the best cruising speed, the o.h.c. engine then turning over at only 4,300 r.p.m., whereas the tachometer does not go into the danger segment until 6,800 r.p.m. is reached.
The high, off-set pedals, difficult clutch, the long floppy movements of a gear lever controlling a light, quick change, the terribly choppy ride, and steering which varies between stiff and insensitively light, added to the fact that scuttle shake and vibration still intrude, make this N.S.U. a good shopping car but an unpalatable one on long journeys.
A 110 m.p.h. Vito speedometer is flanked by a small tachometer and a fuel gauge, both with floating needles. The cubby hole is unlockable; the rear shelf unlipped. Four push-buttons on the right of the facia, two stalk-controls, rubber wipers/washers knob and a manual choke lever comprise the minor controls. The washers and lamps-flasher became inoperative on the test car. The heater blasts out plenty of heat, aided by openable side windows, but its output varies with road speed, so that the little red-tipped lever to the right of the gear lever needs continual adjustment in traffic driving, if interior comfort is to be maintained. All this heat made the central hand brake hot to the hand. A good point is separate venting for driver and front-seat passenger. The seats are large but too spongy, with a bottom-marking pattern on the cushions. Finish and equipment are of high quality, road clinging on 13 in. Michelin XAS tyres satisfactory, and fuel consumption came out at 26.8 m.p.g., driven hard, about half-a-pint of oil being needed after 550 miles. From cold the engine proved a reluctant starter.
I feel that this 1200TT model (£840) is out-dated and to be regarded as an interim between the economy Prinz and the sensationally advanced Ro80. Next month we hope to publish a report on this great Wankel-N.S.U., which should make a nice start to our 1969 road-test curriculum.—W. B.