Audi celebrates milestone with wild ‘restomod’ electric car
Trainee Audi engineers have drawn on 150 years of manufacturing history to create a wild electric car based on a 1971 NSU Prinz 4.
Engineers at the Audi factory that produces the A8 limousine have given a classic car from the company’s back catalogue a makeover – with electric power.
Audi’s Neckarsulm factory, about 60 kilometres north of Stuttgart in Germany, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, since it commenced the production of knitting machines in 1873.
Over the years, the site has seen the construction of bicycles, motorcycles and of course cars, the latter of which have been built under numerous nameplates from Audi’s history for over 100 years.
To celebrate this milestone, a team of trainee Audi engineers have created a one-off machine that blends technology from current Audi models with a name from the past, NSU.
NSU is one of five companies – alongside Horch, DKW, Wanderer and the original Audi brand – that merged under Volkswagen’s ownership in the 1960s to form the modern Audi luxury-car brand.
Founded in 1873, NSU Motorenwerken originally built knitting machines but transitioned to bicycles in 1886, motorcycles in 1901 and then cars in 1905.
The company went through challenging times both before and after World War II, but in 1957 launched the Prinz, a small car powered by a pair of motorcycle engines merged into one.
The Prinz evolved slightly between 1958 and 1962, but in 1964 spawned a coupe derivative designed by Italy’s Bertone as well as two new derivatives, the small Prinz 4 and larger Prinz 1000.
This two-door, rear-engined, compact sedan was a success, and nearly 600,000 (576,619) Prinz 4s and 196,000 Prinz 1000s were built at Neckarsulm between 1963 and 1973.
When Prinz production ended, it also signified the end of NSU. Volkswagen purchased the company in 1969 and merged it with Auto Union – itself an amalgam of Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer, hence the four rings – to create the Audi brand we know today.
To mark the anniversary, engineers at the factory have restored and modified a 1971 NSU Prinz 4, swapping the original 22kW two-cylinder petrol engine for the 176kW electric motor from an Audi E-Tron SUV, and the 17.9kWh battery pack from an Audi Q7 plug-in hybrid.
Called the EP4 (Electric Prinz 4), the concept Prinz was not only built to celebrate the factory site’s history but to showcase the skills of a team of twelve young engineers.
The project took over six months to complete and required some traditional rust-repair metal work on the 52-year-old body, as well as the positioning of the battery under the front bonnet (where the Prinz’s fuel tank originally sat), and the engine behind the passenger cell.
A host of other traditional features, including the style of the Prinz’s lamps, have been modernised (with LED units), and while the car is lower and wider than the original, it still maintains the original silhouette.
Today, the Neckarsulm factory is responsible for the production of the Audi A4, A5 Cabriolet, A6, A7, and A8.
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