1982 BMW 323i Baur

1982 BMW 323i Baur
Memorial Day 2010 First Drive 1982 323i BMW Baur Lapisblau M20 5 speed #4154 of 4595 made. The car was imported to California by Dietel Enterprises. I have since changed the wheels, installed the clear turn signal lenses, and I am in the process of installing a new cabriolet roof. I have to do something about those bumpers, too. :) I love this car! To see one of the reasons why, check my post "Score One For the Good Guys" on 6/26/2011.

Monday, September 22, 2014

1966 NSU-WANKEL Spider! The First Factory Rotary Engine!

I attended a wonderful car show yesterday at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Ct. Intermittent showers probably put a bit of a damper on the turnout, but there were some outstanding cars present.... including this very special item. 

That is a 1966 NSU-Wankel Spider. Hands up: who has seen one of these before? NO ONE has! The NSU Spider was the first production car in the world to be powered by a Wankel rotary engine! And they are uber-rare!  I was very excited to stumble on this today.

 OK, first question:  what is NSU?
NSU Motorenwerke AG, normally just NSU, was a German manufacturer of automobilesmotorcycles 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.

 This is the NSU "Spider".  The term 'Spider", (or sometimes Spyder) has been used many times in an automotive sense to refer to 'roadsters' or convertibles.  My information is that the Spider nameplate originates from the English word "speeder", a two-person open horse-carriage.  (See Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider, e.g..)

 Now THIS is what stopped me in my tracks as I approached the car:  NSU-WANKEL!!??  Wankel of course is the inventor of the rotary engine.  
"The engine was invented by German engineer Felix Wankel. He received his first patent for the engine in 1929, began development in the early 1950s at NSU and completed a working prototype in 1957.[1] NSU subsequently licensed the design to companies around the world, who have continually improved the design." 

My first thought was that some clever gearhead had swapped a rotary engine into this cute little sports car, to make a one-off novelty.  


"NSU Wankel Spider, the first line of cars sold with a rotor Wankel engine."  

The pic above is from Wikipedia.  Compare it the pic below that I took at the Norwich show.  :)
 Rear engine.

 The NSU-WANKEL Rotary engine!

Here is an example of the car that most of us associate with the Wankel Rotary engine:  a 1983 Mazda RX-3. ..... 17 years AFTER this NSU-Wankel!

In  a cute little convertible body!

 This is a rear engine car.  Notice the first panel covers the engine compartment, becoming the 'floor' for a small storage space, or trunk.  Clever bastards!  ;)

Pic shot through the window (in the rain) of the steering wheel, with the NSU Wankel badge.

What an unexpected surprise to stumble on a rare find like this!   Did I mention that I love car shows?  This is one of the reasons why!  I met the owner (Chuck) and chatted for a bit with him and his friend, Tina.  He told me that this car was actually built in 1966 as a 1966 model, but because it did not sell until January 1967, Connecticut required him to register it as a 1967.  
I forget the exact numbers that he quoted me about the rarity of this model, but I think he said there were about 120 imported to the US.  It is unclear how many are left.  That, naturally, gave me a jumping off point to talk about ANOTHER rare and unusual car:  the BMW Baurs!  I had to chuckle at one point, when Tina commented how much Chuck and I sounded alike in our animated enthusiasm about these cars!  

And it was very true!  Despite our differences, we do share the same passions and excitement about cars!

And, I suspect, if you are reading this page..... YOU share it too!  


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