NSU Wankel Spider (1964 – 1967) Review

NSU Wankel Spider (1964 – 1967) At A Glance


+Fast and pretty, with smooth rotary engine, Wankel issues sorted now

-Parts are scarce in the UK, with little club back-up

Although Felix Wankel’s design of engine ultimately became one of the industry’s white elephants, every car powered by a rotary seemed to have a delightful character. The first car to appear with a Wankel engine under its bonnet is one not too many people will have heard of – the NSU Wankel Spider. The cute little cabriolet may have been the first car powered this way, but it wasn’t until 1967 and the introduction of the NSU Ro80 that rotary engines were produced in any real volume. Based on the pretty Sport Prinz coupé, the Spider lost that car’s roof for an even more stylish design. It may have been desirable, but the price seriously hampered sales.

The Spider had many other positive points – it was capable of a top speed of 100mph, and because of the engine’s lightness the Prinz's already impressive handling was significantly improved. It should have been a success, but like all early rotaries, the Wankel Spider was hampered by reliability problems that put buyers off who had not been scared away by the price. Without doubt, the Spider was interesting and a missed opportunity, but it was merely a prelude to the next – much more impressive – rotary powered NSU.