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Audi 100 LS, Mercedes 230 and NSU Ro 80: three revolutionaries of the 68s

Frank Herzog
Audi 100 LS, Mercedes 230 and NSU Ro 80
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E r was a real '68 , a symbol of civil disobedience. His simple, elegant appearance, well-proportioned and almost Italian lightness, convinced the technocrat from the north. “A beautiful car, a very beautiful car,” said the tall, otherwise cool-looking Heinrich Nordhoff, almost enraptured, as he slowly circled the one-on-one plasticine model hidden behind a curtain.

Audi 100: Nordhoff didn't want it

VW General Director Heinrich Nordhoff wanted a pure Beetle from Auto Union in Ingolstadt, which was taken over by Daimler-Benz in 1965, after the small Audi medium-pressure model series 60 to Super 90 was phased out -Planting. At that time, 300 Volkswagens rolled off the assembly line every day to improve the capacity utilization of the crisis-ridden plant.

Nordhoff therefore banned Audi chief designer Ludwig Kraus and his team from any development work on a new model. This was unbearable for the creative Kraus, so he secretly carried on. After all, he had improvised brilliantly, turning the DKW F 102 into a good car after all, the first Audi with a four-stroke engine. He practically had the engine in his hand luggage, a heavy 1.7-liter chunk that was code-named Mexico and, with its high compression ratio of 11.2: 1, was considered a technical hybrid - half petrol and half diesel.

Audi 100 - the authorized signatory Mercedes

When the new big car, the Audi 100 LS, finally arrived at the 1969 Geneva Motor Show At the trade fair premiere, a handful of critics scoffed at it as a copy of Mercedes. The hateful word from the authorized signatory Mercedes quickly made the rounds. Ludwig Kraus never denied the Stuttgart school. He came to Auto Union in 1963 after 26 years from Daimler-Benz and had the formal aesthetics of the car with the star in his blood as well as the Mercedes typicalconstructive care in detail.

Today the first Audi 100 has long since moved away from the Mercedes Strichacht emancipated. The delft blue Audi 100 LS proudly lives its stylistic and technical independence. The two-door model that was added in the autumn of 1969 emphasized the impressive delicacy of its lines. The dark green Mercedes 230 is now parked peacefully next to him. It looks stockier, but also suggests more solidity than the modern lightweight shell of the Audi 100, which was also extremely aerodynamic. The Audi 100 is said to have a drag coefficient of 0.38, while the much more extreme NSU Ro 80 can hardly do better with 0.36.

Revolutionary technical solutions - 'the benchmark in the upper middle class'

His face is friendly, almost smiling. With the four rings openly shown in the middle, the Audi 100 does not bear as heavily on tradition as the Mercedes 230.6, which looks cool and serious from all angles. He too, deep in the crank mechanism of his good four-bearing six-cylinder, a revolutionary of the New Objectivity. It moves in with Mercedes just in time for the APO year 1968 and replaces the baroque splendor of lush limousines adorned with fins, to the horror of many regular customers.

Technically, however, the Audi 100 LS emancipates itself from the Mercedes at most. The front-wheel drive is written into the Auto-Union studbook, as is the ingeniously simple and light torsion crank axle. Together with a modern strut construction, Kraus and his team created a chassis for the Audi 100 that combines long-stroke suspension comfort and good road holding. Later, with the modified 74 model, it even comes to its top form with rear struts. According to the auto motor und sport comparison test in issue 1/1974, it sets the benchmark for driving safety in the upper middle class. Even the idiosyncratic medium-pressure engine is not recognizable in the 100. In the delft blue '73 LS it runs cultivated, with a well-composed deep exhaust sound. Its rough, unkempt tone decreased with the compression being successively reduced from 10.2 to 9.7: 1.

Nevertheless, the Audi 100 engine remained economical and developed due to the inherently intensive mixture turbulence in the cross-flow cylinder head from 2,000 rpm a strong pulling power. The three-speed automatic transmission developed by Volkswagen supports the natural temperament and the pronounced revving of the OHV four-cylinder. It shifts up pleasantly late when deciding on the accelerator.

Line: Mild provocateur with new chassis

The heavy and sedate Mercedes 230.6 Automatic has trouble with the light and agile Audi 100 consequences. Unlike in the strenuous pagoda, its sturdy six-cylinder always remains discreet and whispers in a typical wayMercedes key to himself. No trace of sporty characteristics, despite the overhead camshaft. Its liter output is tame, the service life long. It fits the large, heavy Mercedes 230.6, which rolls gently and gives its driver the impressive feeling of being on the road for a long time even on a short city trip. Every journey becomes a journey. That is the strength of this unusually well-equipped Mercedes 230.6, which, in addition to the automatic system, has an electric sunroof, electric front windows, tinted windows and power steering. But not only the abundance, the quality is also impressive. Although the inside of the Audi 100 looks warmer and more homely, the thin wood veneer looks as ephemeral as the innocent bamboo of the nicely contoured corduroy seats.

The Mercedes Strichacht is also basically a provocateur, albeit milder. Stylistically and in terms of chassis technology, it marks a new era - the consistent departure from the swing axle and the decisive move towards four disc brakes. In terms of driving dynamics, Daimler-Benz is no longer lagging behind, but is catching up with the BMW standard of an exemplary trajectory and camber-constant trailing arm axle.

Manageable cornering behavior in the limit area without a sudden tendency to break away and high directional stability when braking hard from high speed make the Strichacht superior to the S-Class. None of our '68 is so stoic, resilient and heavy on the road, the front-wheel drive cars are more nervous, but also more agile.

The car of the future: Ro80

That is especially true for the banana yellow NSU Ro 80 which, with its elaborate chassis consisting of a front McPherson strut and rear trailing arm, is way ahead in the handling discipline. The playful, light-footed speeding in curves is decisively influenced by the precise and direct ZF rack and pinion power steering. The brakes of the NSU Ro80 are also a poem. The NSU Ro 80 is similar to the Porsche 911 in terms of its beauty and technical requirements. Is it a coincidence that both have Fuchs aluminum wheels? That both yellow and orange look so good?

But with all the admiration, dear Wankel friends, even if it hurts: Ultimately, it is not the revolutionary rotary piston engine, but the functional, aesthetic shape and the sensitive -Sophist chassis, which the NSU Ro 80 still look so confident today. You have to like the engine, especially when you switch from a BMW 2500. Its bright, singing, nasal sound has something of a three-cylinder two-stroke. Let us console ourselves with the fact that without the compact motor, the extreme shape would not have been created in the first place. The three-speed transmission with the half-hearted semi-automatic ensures aalways relaxed ride. However, it does not do justice to the, pardon, speed-addicting, but torque-lazy rotary engine that only five gears perk up. The NSU Ro 80 likes urban traffic Not. The acceleration handicap of the large car, which with 115 HP is not exactly overpowered, also has an effect. His domain is the autobahn, vibration-free gliding at speedometer 160. This is where the brittle, non-conformist Wankel suddenly becomes a dear friend.

Three characters who find their friends

Wide and long tracks Wheelbase attach the Ro 80 to the road. The streamlined shape is content with 12 liters, and the KKM 612 sings a song about the brave new world, about the wonderfully complicated simplicity of the Wankel. Its rotor, eccentrically circling along the trochoid, miraculously changes the space in the chamber in such a way that a four-stroke process emerges. No pounding up and down that you still have to teach to turn. The interior of the NSU Ro 80 is characterized by cool, almost ascetic functionality. It fits the ingenious character of the car, although one would like more luxury. The black upholstery comes from the Audi 100 GL, they also look dignified and cuddly in the new environment.

But the NSU Ro 80 is not an emotional cuddly car - it takes itself too seriously for that. Even the dignified line eight is not suitable for this. The friendly Audi 100 is very close to the heart. Without him, the hard-born, the eternally underestimated, the highly talented, Audi would no longer exist today. Or just as a Nobel label from Volkswagen.


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