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Thursday, July 27, 2023

Here's the Trapeze: A Final Effort of Bertone for NSU

Forgotten ONES - In the late 1960s, NSU Motorenwerke AG (commonly known as NSU), a German car manufacturer, faced a critical challenge - the need to have market demand for their products. This was the key to their brand's survival.
Short, wide, squat and purposeful, the NSU Trapeze's dominating design feature was that wraparound window profile. (Picture from: MagazineDerivaz-Ives)
NSU had previously introduced the NSU Ro80, a car they believed to be a technological marvel, powered by the innovative Wankel rotary engine at the front, and featuring a three-speed semi-automatic gearbox driving the front wheels. The Ro80 even earned the prestigious European Car of the Year title, thanks to its groundbreaking aerodynamic design that wowed automotive journalists with its futuristic looks.
Six slim Marchal lamps are hidden behind a pair of flaps that drop down to reveal them. (Picture from: MagazineDerivaz-Ives)
Initially, the NSU Ro80 received positive feedback, but soon, issues with excessive fuel consumption and reliability problems tarnished its reputation. Sales plummeted after peaking at 7,811 units in 1969, and the car never truly recovered from its damaged image, even after addressing the reliability concerns. The financial strain was further exacerbated by the considerable costs NSU had incurred during the development of the Wankel engine. Eventually, the struggling automaker was taken over by the Volkswagen Group.
This top angle image amplifies the deep curvature of the windscreen. (Picture from: MagazineDerivaz-Ives)
To potentially turn the tide and demonstrate the advantages of the Wankel rotary engine, renowned coachbuilder Nuccio Bertone saw a promising opportunity. He proposed creating a coupe version of the Ro80, showcasing the compact rotary engine in a sports car application. Stilo Bertone enlisted the skills of Marcello Gandini, his chief designer at the time, to design this coupe.
The trapezoidal seating configuration is obvious in this pic with the front pair of seats are close-set, allowing for the legs of the rear passengers to stretch out alongside. (Picture from: MagazineDerivaz-Ives)
Gandini, famous for his obsession with packaging and layout in mid-engined cars, faced a daunting task in designing a new mid-engined 4-seater coupe based on the NSU Ro80. He experimented by moving the compact Ro80 drivetrain just in front of the rear axle and devised a layout with two front seats placed close together, while the rear passengers' legs were positioned beside and beyond the two front seats.
Between the rear pair of seats is the compact rotary Wankel engine of the NSU Ro80 amidship. (Picture from: MagazineDerivaz-Ives)
The resulting design adopted a trapezoid-like layout aptly named NSU Trapeze Concept, where the wheelbase was calculated to allow the driver's and front passenger's legs to stretch between the front wheels, almost reaching the front axle line. This intelligent layout, with a height of approximately 2.43 meters (96 inches), offered a slightly shorter wheelbase than the Lamborghini Urraco while still accommodating four adults comfortably.
The car's profile with a straight beltline and V-shaped floor plan, included safety features like blue plastic bumpers running around the entire car for lateral protection. (Picture from: CarDesignNews)
Adding to its innovative design, the coupe featured a Lancia Stratos-inspired curved windshield extending backward to incorporate a second set of windows. The car's profile with a straight beltline and V-shaped floor plan, reminiscent of the Autobianchi Runabout, included safety features like blue plastic bumpers running around the entire car for lateral protection.
In October 1973, the completed Trapeze show car made its debut at the Paris Motor Show, capturing the spotlight and garnering extensive media coverage in magazines and newspapers worldwide. Despite the acclaim and attention, the NSU brand's fate was sealed, marking the end of its story. Today, the Trapeze concept car stands as the sole survivor in the Bertone Collection, a testament to NSU's triumphs and tribulations in the automotive world. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | MAGAZINEDERIVAZ-IVES | CARDESIGNNEWS | WIKIPEDIA ]
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