Arizona Biltmore
16 - 17 January 2014
Lot 67

1966 NSU Spider


$24,200 USD | Sold

United States | Phoenix, Arizona



Chassis No.
Engine No.
  • The first production car with a rotary engine
  • Technically fascinating and fun to drive
  • One of the finest original, unrestored examples in existence

54 bhp, 30.4 cu. in. single-rotor Wankel rotary engine, four-speed synchromesh manual transmission, four-wheel independent coil-spring suspension, and front disc and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 80 in.

The beautifully styled little sporting roadster that was the NSU Spider deserves to be remembered alongside the Chevrolet Corvair and the Lamborghini Miura as one of the engineering marvels of the Jet Age. It was built in West Germany by a firm that was better known for motorcycles and microcars, and it was the first production automobile to sport Felix Wankel’s revolutionary rotary engine.

Wankel’s design replaced conventional cylinders in a block with an oval chamber, in which a triangular rotor blade turned at very high rpms. Combustion that ordinarily occurred in the cylinders actually occurred between the tips of the rotor blade in the Wankel engine, creating an amazing amount of power from a relatively tiny engine and resulting in a unique “buzzy” exhaust note. NSU’s version, which was mounted in the rear of the Spider’s sleek Bertone-styled bodywork, sent 54 horsepower to the rear axle through a four-speed, all-synchromesh transmission. Top speed was reported to be nearly 100 mph.

NSU debuted the Spider at the Frankfurt International Automobile Exhibition in 1964, and the first U.S.-specification examples, brought by Transcontinental Motors Inc., of New York City, arrived stateside a year later. Unfortunately, production would only continue through to 1966, as the Spider’s engineering was a bit too far-out, and it untested to appeal to buyers. NSU would continue working with the Wankel engine for a decade, but it would be Mazda that would make rotary power a legend in its own time.

Of the 2,375 Spiders produced, survivors are extraordinarily rare, particularly ones in good, original condition. Presented here is what may be the finest original, unrestored Spider remaining. This very rare, American-specification California car was acquired by the owner from a longtime NSU dealer, who had bought it back from the original owner. It has covered 21,000 actual miles, and it has its original paint, chrome, interior, and even the rubber mats in the floors, trunk, and engine compartment; it is complete, except for the small NSU badge on the nose. This low-mileage Milestone automobile is perfect for the Preservation Class in any concours, and it is reported to start instantly, to run perfectly, and to have been driven several hundred reliable highway miles in its current ownership.

This delightful little car, which combines fascinating engineering with wonderful originality, would be at home in any collection.