Motor Sport has had quite a lot to say in recent years about the well-finished, willing little twin-cylinder, air-cooled, rear-engined N.S,U. Prinz cars. The Bertone-styled Sport Prinz coupé was written-up at some length in the issue of November 1960, when we reviewed 4-wheeled cars of under 750 c.c.
Last month I drove 400 miles in the latest Sport Prinz II, which has the 598-c.c. vertical-twin 36-b.h,p, engine with the ingenious drive to its o.h. camshaft, as used for the Prinz IV. This provides better performance, which mean. easy mile-a-minute cruising, a top speed of over 80 m.p.h. and acceleration, if the gearbox is used, that is no disgrace for such a small car.
Primarily the N.S.U. Sport Prinz is a 2-seater, for although there is a wide but shallow seat behind the main bucket seats, the falling roof-line restricts head-room. Two occupants, however, are comfortably accommodated on the cloth-upholstered front seats of generous dimensions, and a moderate amount of luggage can be stowed in the front boot, the lid of which is self-supporting but requires awkward releasing by hand.
The N.S.U. is noisy, the clutch is best operated by the long-legged, the ride is shock-absorbing but pitchy, and the brakes only just adequate and heavy to apply. Over Berkshire field-tracks the suspension was effective and when the time came to turn round across muddy undulations the rear engine ensured adequate adhesion. The car derives its enthusiastic followers from its excellent finish, to interior details as well as external paintwork, a really enjoyable floor gear-change to the all-synchro. 4-speed gearbox, and its notable economy. Mr. Redgrave, the London N.S.U. Publicity Manager, remarked that I shouldn’t get less than about 45 m.p.g. and in adverse circumstances of fast short runs, traffic and cold-starts the consumption was 44.6 m.p.g.—of petrol that cost 4s. 4 1/2d. a gallon. No oil was consumed.
Instrumentation is simple—Vdo speedometer with mileometer and a matching clock with strip-type, coloured ribbon fuel gauge. The switches, and the stalks that control on the left, the manually-cancelled direction-flashers on the right, right lamps-dipping and daylight flashing move with precision, as do the choke and heater levers on the floor. The doors are very wide, shut nicely and have proper “keeps” and pockets, the last-named supplemented by a small but deep, lidded but unlockable, cubby-hole. There are no quarter-lights, and opening the main windows results in draughts. The vizors incorporate a vanity mirror and the small steering wheel now has a full horn-ring. The steering has no free play in 2 7/8 turns, lock-to-lock.
The test Sport Prinz was shod with a mixture of Continental (front) and Dunlop B7 (rear) 12-in. tyres. The spare lives upright in the front boot.
In a country where Minis abound, the tax system does not necessitate a very small engine, and import duty inflates its price, this little N.S.U. is under a sales disadvantage. Nevertheless, its fine finish and individuality endear it to a discerning minority who want a nippy air-cooled small car, even at the British price of £768 14s., inclusive of p.t. Beside the engine in the rear boot is a holder for two spare plugs, and the 12-volt Sonnenschein battery feeding a couple of 6-volt coils in series, which provides a simple ignition system.
The Bertone styling would show to better advantage if this Prinz didn’t carry its nose so much in the air, although I gather this is caused by a new front suspension assembly which has improved the steering by alteration of castor angle. Although the road clinging is satisfactory, there is undeniable oversteer.
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