The N.S.U. Sport Prinz

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THE N.S.U. SPORT PRINZ

THE N.S.U. Prinz II saloon road-tested by MOTOR SPORT in June 1959 was fitted with the 24-b.h.p. version of the twin-cylinder overhead camshaft. 583c.c. engine, but for the Prinz 30 and Sport Prinz the power is increased to 36 b.h.p. at 5,300 r.p.m. by the simple expedient of opening out and polishing inlet ports and increasing the size of the valves. This power output is of course quite remarkable for such a small capacity engine but N.S:U. claim that 50 b.h.p. is quite possible, and private owners have undoubtedly seen even more for racing purposes. We were to have tested the Prinz 30 model but another journalist managed to crash the car just before we were due to take it over, and at the last moment we were offered the Bertone-bodied Sport Prinz for test. Strictly speaking, the Sport Prinz can hardly be regarded as an economy car as few people will be prepared to pay £970 for such a tiny vehicle, but as the mechanical specification closely follows that of the angular little saloons it was felt to be not inappropriate to test the G.T. version.

The Sport Prinz utilises the rigidly braced platform chassis of the Prinz, to which is welded the all-steel body designed by Bertone, the Italian stylist, and built by N.S.U. The body is a two-door coupe of typical Italian design, resembling the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta coupes. The two trailing doors are large but entry is difficult because of the rake of the steering column and the intrusion of the wheel arches into the foot space. The pedals are considerably offset to the left and there is no room to rest the clutch foot. The steering wheel is also considerably angled so that the right-hand side is nearer the dashboard, causing the new driver some initial apprehension as to whether his left arm has begun to wither ! The Sport Prinz makes no bones about being a two-seater as the two bucket seats are large and comfortable with padded rolls, while the squabs are adjustable for rake. Behind the seats is a large shelf which could accommodate a good deal of luggage or two children if they did not object to the lack of padding. Additional luggage space is available under the bonnet, but with a 5.7-gallon petrol tank and a spare wheel already in occupation a medium-sized suitcase would strain the capacity.

Instrumentation is similar to that of the saloons, the sole instrument being the large Vdo speedometer, curiously marked with coloured segments denoting maximum speeds in the gears: These are placed at 12 m.p.h. for first gear, 25 m.p.h. for second, and 40 m.p.h. for third. Incorporated in the speedometer is a mileage indicator which is well illuminated at night (something appreciated by rally drivers and not often found in British cars); although no tenths recorder is fitted. The rest of the instrumentation is taken care of by five coloured lights, these indicating high beam, dynamo warning, oil pressure, fuel level and direction flashers. The lighting system is just about perfect, a switch on the facia being turned to left or right to bring on the off-side front and rear lamps for parking, depending on which side of the road one parks, while the same switch is pulled for side-lights and dipped headlamps. A stalk protruding from the right of the steering column switches the lights to main beam if it is lifted, while depressing the lever flashes the main beam even when the remainder of the lighting system is out of operation. Pulling the same lever in the horizontal plane sounds the effective horn. A similarly placed lever on the left of the column operates the non-self-cancelling direction indicators. The remainder of the switches include a rather small windscreen-wiper switch, a windscreen washers plunger and a socket for an inspection lamp.

The engine is started by twisting the ignition key, while use of the T-shaped choke lever, placed just in front of the gear-lever, is almost always necessary. The engine bursts into rather noisy life and idles unevenly but once under way the engine smooths out, although the noise is still very reminiscent of a two-stroke engine. The gearbox operates in the rather disconnected way of so many rear-engined cars, and the synchromesh tends to obstruct gear selection, especially in first gear. To obtain good downward gear changes it is advisable to double-declutch, a manoeuvre which is aided by reasonably sensibly placed pedals. With 36 b.h.p. to move just over 10 cwt. along, the acceleration is more than brisk and the Sport Prinz will certainly never get in the way of other traffic. Normal cruising speed is an indicated 60 m.p.h., while the needle will swing round to 80 m.p.h. on a slight downgrade, and a more fully run-in car (our test car had covered 1,500 miles) would probably reach the claimed 85 m.p.h. top speed. Remember, this car has a capacity of 583 c.c. !

On first acquaintance handling appears fussy but this is due to a combination of fairly firm suspension and rack-and-pinion steering having only 2.4 turns lock-to-lock. When the driver becomes more accustomed to the car he begins to fling it about in complete confidence, and although the Sport Prinz oversteers quite strongly it is difficult to make the rear end break away. Just before the breakaway attitude is reached the car rises on its swing axles and begins to tuck the off-side rear wheel underneath. Backing-off on the steering will quickly bring things under control. In wet weather handling is not so good and the rear end will break away at fairly low speeds. Castor return action is very slight and not really necessary with such an excellent steering ratio.

In wet weather the wipers clean a commendably large area of screen but the demister ducts could be larger as several parts of the screen remained misted-up even with the heater going full blast. The heater knob is placed under the dashboard and the driver has to bend down a good way to reach it. The heater blows air through various apertures in a central tunnel and through the hand-brake linkage, which is probably unintentional. The Sport Prinz is at its best when away from crowded streets as the 36-b.h.p. engine is not as tractable as the 24-b.h.p. unit and the gearbox has to be used frequently. On the open road it becomes a very pleasant car to drive, and on a trip along the A1 to Biggleswade it cruised at a steady 60 m.p.h. and cornered with great verve, while on the return trip in darkness the excellent headlamps enabled a high cruising speed to be maintained. Under these conditions fuel consumption dropped to 39 m.p.g., but it is possible that the claimed 47 m.p.g. could be reached if a less aggressive driving technique was employed. The brakes of the test car required quite heavy pedal pressures and fade could be induced after two or three stops from above 60 m.p.h., but in normal use they appeared to be adequate.

Aesthetically pleasing, the Sport Prinz is fully equipped with such items as ash-trays, glove locker, twin padded sun visors, rear quarterlights, a roof-mounted grab handle for the passenger, interior light and coat hangers. Rather expensive in this country the sporting version of these interesting economy cars from Neckarsalum will obviously find a limited market, but the man who wants to own a car of individual character could well consider the Sport Prinz.

The N.S.U. Prinz II was tested in June 1959, when fuel consumption figures ranging between 45 m.p.g. and 51.3 m.p.g. were realised. Recent reductions in prices make the N.S.U. range even more attractive. The latest prices, including purehage tax, are : Print II saloon, £547 8s. 6d.; Prinz II de luxe, £563 8s. 6d.; Print 30, £572 8s 7d.; Prinz 30 de luxe, £588 8s. 7d.; Sport Prinz, £970.