Anniversary exhibition at the Audi museum mobile: “Revolution – 60 years of the NSU/Wankel engine”

“Rotating instead of punching” – this idea for an internal combustion engine with rotating pistons fascinated Felix Wankel from the late 1920s. The development of the concept to readiness for series production took more than 30 years. As part of his research work, self-taught Wankel became an expert in seals, but kept his aim of creating a machine with rotating pistons firmly in sight. At the end of 1953, the methodical analysis of possible rotors and housing combinations led Wankel to look more closely at the idea of a rotating oval-shaped piston in an almost circular housing which also rotated. The principle awakened the interest of NSU’s management. In March 1954, Wankel drafted the basic form of the engine which was to be named after him at a later stage. Three years later, on February 1, 1957, the engine ran for the first time under its own power on a test rig at the NSU plant.

In Neckarsulm, Dr Walter Froede, Head of NSU’s Development department, and his team simplified the technologically complex structure which initially used two components which rotated one inside the other. The first time the KKM (Kreiskolbenmotor) version of the engine with inverted kinematics was used was in 1962, when it was fitted in the so-called “Ski-Craft”. This towing device for water skis is on show in the Audi museum mobile. Just one year later, in September 1963, the NSU/Wankel Spider celebrated its premiere at the IAA in Frankfurt. As the world’s first series-produced vehicle featuring the NSU/Wankel engine, it spurred on the euphoria surrounding the Wankel engine. In the following years, virtually all of the notable manufacturers of automobiles, motorcycles or engines became part of the large group of NSU/Wankel licensees.

Visitors to the “Revolution – 60 years of the NSU/Wankel engine” exhibition can expect to see not just the NSU/Wankel Spider but also further exhibits like the first NSU “Prinz 3” Wankel prototype from 1959 and the NSU Ro 80. In 1967 this model with its innovative technology and timeless design was awarded the title of Car of the Year. Two Audi models are also exhibited: the Audi 200 KKM prototype from 1979 and an Audi A1 e-tron from 2012. A true looker, the Italdesign Namir sports car from 2009 will also be present. Further highlights include the Mazda Cosmo 110S, a Citroën M35 as well as the Malibu Virage racing car.

The Wankel engine wasn’t just used in cars, it was also used in snowmobiles, fire engines, power saws, motorboats and motorcycles. The exhibition shows a whole host of these products, as well as free-standing engines and cutaway models.

The Audi museum mobile is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The opening times will change from June 1: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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