Alright, I’ll put my hands up to it. I bought the NSU because I was in that rare situation where you find yourself with a few quid to spare at the end of the month and, just for once, someone offers you a car at the right price. Really, the money should have gone towards decorating the kitchen, but hey, it’ll still be there in six months and the NSU most definitely wouldn’t have.
A friend had spotted it sitting forlornly in a local scrap yard, and knowing the owner, had fatally asked, ‘How much?’ He waited at least ten seconds before sending me a picture message accompanied by the words, ‘When did you last see one of these?’
On his next visit to the yard, said friend was told that the car hadn’t received so much as a sniff of interest and it was going to be baled and weighed in after the weekend. Another call, one rapid visit to the cash point and the NSU was sitting in the Dep-O.
Why did I buy it? Well, the little Prinz is not going to win any concours prizes – it looks like it’s been sat under a tree for a long time and two of the tyres literally disintegrated as it was loaded onto the trailer – and I’ve never lusted after one or had it on my ‘10 Cars I Must Own Before I Die’ list. But, I’ve always loved unusual small cars and they don’t come any quirkier than this. And most importantly, it was there.
So another car vies for attention on my project roster. What’s the plan? Well, there are plenty of options being considered at the moment, but I thought the first stage might be just to get the NSU roadworthy and drive it around for a while. This was decided for me one afternoon when I was working on something else and just happened to have a fully charged battery and a can of fuel sitting round.
I’ve no idea why the Prinz was taken off the road, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to bung a drop of fuel down the carb, connect up the battery and see if the neglected old thing would show any sign of life. A couple of cranks and it burst into life, shooting half a conifer and a motley selection of insects across the floor from the exhaust and engine cowlings.
The brakes are in a parlous (read non existent) state and there’s no drive, which could be the clutch or it could be something far worse. But hey, a few hours tinkering and we’ll know the story. And when we know, we’ll tell you about it.
So the point of all this? Well, what do you do when you buy any kind of project these days? You get onto eBay. And when I searched for ‘NSU Prinz’, ‘Owners’ Handbook’ popped up. Yes, it might be useful. But more importantly, owning a car is never enough – you have to own loads of related stuff as well (like the enamel mug, two workshop manuals and a selection of keyrings and badges which are now dotted around the office shelves…)
The manual has proved to be an absolute gem. It belongs to a different age completely, one where manufacturers trusted their customers with their own cars. Where modern manuals will tell you how to operate the central locking and where to put the ignition key but will then gently infer that the warranty will be invalid and legal action will swiftly follow even half-hearted attempts to open the bonnet, the Prinz manual just stops short of telling you how to fully disassemble and re-assemble the whole car using just a spoon and a ball of hairy string. And it does it all with a superb sense of humour. It’s actually funny.
Best of all – Tips From NSU, reproduced here for your enjoyment. Some still make perfect good sense, some would cause many in this Health & Safety obsessed world to choke on their decaf Frappucino. Which is no bad thing. Don’t miss tips No.2 and No.18.
Strangely, apart from giving me a good chuckle, the manual and the attitude it conveys has made me warm to the car enormously. I like NSU more because of it, it makes me sorry that they’re not still around making their wonderfully over-engineered cars. And as if I needed it, gives me one more reason to get the orange beast back on the road.