When the NSU Ro 80 first hit the roads back in 1967, it made a futuristic impression with its streamlined bodywork and exotic 115-hp rotary engine. Even so, the not entirely deserved reputation to be technically unreliable ensured that the car was by no means a bestseller until the production finally stopped in 1977. Consequently, demand for the remaining vehicles is particularly high among fans of classic cars. As spare parts are scarce, the “Ro 80 Club International”, based in the Austrian town of Hard, works tirelessly to obtain components. Thanks to BILSTEIN’s Department for Special Customer Requests (KSW), the shock-absorber problem has also been overcome, and a jointly devised solution is now available exclusively from www.ro80club.org.
Spare-part bottlenecks first came to attention for the Ro 80 25 years ago, when the original manufacturer of the standard shock absorbers ceased production. Another provider picked up the baton, but the club was never entirely happy, as the minimum order quantities were relatively high, ultimately causing the end of the business relationship. Another problem was the impossibility of altering the set-up. “This solution was too soft at the front and brutally firm at the rear, meaning that the rear axle soon started clattering,” recalls deputy chairman Andreas Meyer, who was nonetheless pleased to be able to keep as many Ro 80s as possible in a roadworthy condition. As a result of the cooperation with BILSTEIN, the old problems have now been resolved, and product quality, logistics, set-up and opportunities for consultation are much better. For instance, BILSTEIN’s KSW department builds and delivers batch sizes of 20 to 50 units each, which the club can handle easily. In addition, unlike the originals and the replicas used in the interim, the new BILSTEIN products are gas-pressure shock absorbers that do not tend to foam up, even in intensive use. This prevents a loss of damping force. Jan Fork from BILSTEIN says: “Our bespoke design actually exceeds our own standards for gas-pressure shock absorbers in normal replacement, and its structure conforms to that of the improved B6 OE replacement product.”
For his part, Andreas Meyer is delighted with the result: “In my view, the tuning, which is only a fraction firmer than with the original shock absorbers, is ideal.” We also particularly recommend our B6 shock absorbers for trailer operation. At first glance, this might not seem especially relevant to classic-car owners. Yet according to Meyer, Ro 80 drivers take a caravan with them to meetings or tow a smaller NSU Prinz or Wankel Spider on a trailer. The new BILSTEIN solution impresses in every respect here, whereas the Ro 80 with the dampers of old used to sag easily at the front. All the extra strain on the front axle then impaired the car’s handling. Together with the Ro 80 Club BILSTEIN are now working on the next challenge, as the Wankel-engined vehicle was produced with three spring firmnesses. Whereas the softer versions are a perfect match for the new shock absorbers, a separate set-up is now under development for the firmer ones.