Rotary Revolutionary: The NSU Ro80

In 1967, the small German automaker NSU introduced what would be its final and most ambitious product: the remarkable Ro80. It was NSU’s first and last luxury car, a sophisticated, highly aerodynamic sedan powered by a Wankel rotary engine. The Ro80 survived for 10 years, generating critical acclaim and controversy in roughly equal measure. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a closer look at the turbulent and sometimes troubled history of the 1967-1977 NSU Ro80.

1970 NSU Ro80 badge © 2012 Andrew Buc (used with permission)
Photo © 2012 Andrew Buc; used with permission
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Plutocrat Pony Car: The 1966-1970 Buick Riviera

It occurred to us recently that while we’ve written about the 1963-1965 Riviera and the controversial 1971–1973 “boattail,” we keep skipping over the second generation of Buick’s sporty personal luxury coupe. However, the second-generation Riviera outsold its predecessor and its successor combined — also dispatching its groundbreaking Oldsmobile Toronado cousin for good measure. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a closer look at the 1966 Buick Riviera.

1969 Buick Riviera badge
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Son of Stingray: The 1969-1973 Opel GT

The 1969 Opel GT was Opel’s first show car and the German company’s first two-seat sports car since before World War II. Based on the humble Kadett B and often considered a miniature Corvette, the GT also owed a great deal to Chevrolet’s compact Corvair and a concept car once intended to replace the ‘Vette. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a look at the origins, history, and fate of the 1969–1973 Opel GT and its various planned successors.

1971 Opel GT badge
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A Big Healey History: The Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, and 3000

In October 1952, Donald Healey introduced what was to be the most famous car bearing his name: the Austin-Healey 100. It would survive for 15 years in three distinct incarnations, along the way gaining a six-cylinder engine and a formidable competition record. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we examine the origins and evolution of the “big Healeys”: the 1953-1967 Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, and 3000.

1960 Austin-Healey 3000 badge
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Born on a Boat: Donald Healey and the Story of the Nash-Healey

Inspired by a chance shipboard meeting between Donald Healey and the president of Nash-Kelvinator, the Nash-Healey was one of the first postwar American sports cars and the last of a line of Healey cars originally developed for a postwar revival of Triumph. This month, we examine the birth of the Donald Healey Motor Company and take a look at the history of the 1951-1954 Nash-Healey, including its later Pinin Farina-styled iterations and its short but impressive competition career.

1953 Nash-Healey Le Mans badge
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Way of the Wedge: The Triumph TR7 and TR8

The Triumph TR7 emerged from the most tumultuous period in the history of the British auto industry — the last and most controversial of a long line of Triumph sports cars. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we examine the tangled history of the 1975-1981 Triumph TR7; its V8-powered sibling, the short-lived Triumph TR8; and Triumph itself.

1981 Triumph TR8 convertible blue headrest
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RX-Rated: Mazda’s Early Rotary Cars, Part 2

Between 1971 and 1978, Mazda launched nine new rotary-engined vehicles, including the Capella (Mazda RX-2), Savanna (RX-3), Luce (RX-4), Cosmo (RX-5), and the REPU. By 1979, only three survived and the company had come perilously close to collapse. In the second part of our history of Mazda rotary engines, we take a look at those vehicles and trace Toyo Kogyo’s dramatic reversals of fortune in the 1970s.

1977 Mazda RX-3SP grille badge
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RX-Rated: Mazda’s Early Rotary Cars, Part 1

Mazda has a long history with rotary engines, going back to the Cosmo Sport and R100 of the late 1960s. With the recently announced demise of the RX-8 — the last rotary-engined model still in production — we look back at the origins of the Wankel engine and the history of the early Mazda rotary engine cars: the Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S, Familia Rotary (Mazda R100), and Luce Rotary Coupé (R130).

1971 Mazda R100 coupe badge
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Before the Continental: Edsel Ford’s Speedster

Recently, we were invited to an event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles introducing the newly restored 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster, an aluminum-bodied one-off originally designed by stylist E.T. (Bob) Gregorie for Edsel Ford’s personal use. This week, we explore the history of the 1934 Edsel Ford speedster and its lesser-known predecessor and take a look at Edsel Ford and Bob Gregorie’s role in Ford Motor Company styling.

1934 Ford Special Speedster red tease © 2004 Pat McLaughlin; used with permission
(Photo © 2004 Pat McLaughlin; used with permission)
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Sainted Swede: The Volvo P1800 and 1800ES

The Swedish automaker Volvo is best known for its solid (and often square) sedans and wagons, but starting in 1961, it also offered a sleek two-door sports coupe called the P1800, best known for its role in the 1960s TV version of The Saint. This week, we look at the origins and evolution of the Volvo P1800, its 1800S and 1800E successors, and its ultimate metamorphosis into a sporty two-door shooting brake, the 1972–1973 Volvo 1800ES.

1967 Volvo 1800S fin 2007 Murilee Martin per
(Photo © 2007 Murilee Martin; used with permission)

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