MARCH 2023: A 1961 NSU PRINZ III: “DRIVE A PRINCE AND YOU’RE A KING”  

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 The NSU Prinz (German for “Prince”) was a small sub-compact car manufactured in West Germany (before unification with East Germany) between 1958 and 1973.

Less than 21,000 NSU Prinz models were built during their entire production run, so the little cars are not a common sight on either side of the Big Pond.

The little German cars’ small presence in the North American car market, along with the many decades since the tiny cars were even built, makes them an instant source of curiosity at car shows, including this 1961 NSU Prinz III that was a rock star at a summer event last year.

Jim Sutherland

Hans and Mary-Ann Van Hystee have been the proud owners of a 1961 Prinz III 2-door sedan for the past 20 years. Hans is a huge fan of small and unusual cars that were built overseas and made the journey to North America over the years, so a ’61 Prinz III is a solid choice for him and Mary-Ann.

For the record, a Prinz III was a high-end model that offered more creature comforts, including rear window vents for the rear passengers in the tiny car. Hans told MyStarCollectorCar the original sticker price on the NSU was 1000 dollars in 1961 and it was originally purchased in Edmonton, Alberta Canada by a customer who used the NSU Prinz III as a commuter car for his job in the famous resort town of Jasper, Alberta.

The NSU’s small size was part of the company’s desire to build a German sub-compact that could compete with the famous VW Beetle for the hearts and minds of frugal car buyers during the late 1950s and onward to the early 1970s. An old ad boldly proclaimed: “Drive a Prince and you’re a King”.

The lightweight design of the NSU Prinz meant it did not need a giant engine to propel it down the road, therefore its builders used a small 2-cylinder 600cc engine that kept the car’s weight down to about 1100 lbs. The NSU engine only produced about 20 horsepower, but it was still able to get the car up to highway speeds, according to its builders.

Hans can maintain a steady pace of about 60-65 mph on the highway in the NSU but does not push it much past that speed. The most important part of the equation is Hans and Mary-Ann prefer to drive the car to events rather than trailer it. Last summer’s huge gas prices were not a deterrent for them since their NSU gets about 45 mpg on the road.

The NSU still has its factory enamel paint job, but Hans added a new interior that mimicked the factory look because the original cloth was “pretty ratty”, in his words. He also added an aftermarket radio antenna while he continues his search for an original NSU Prinz antenna.

As mentioned, the NSU Prinz III gets plenty of attention from a very curious public whenever Hans and Mary-Ann take it out, but Hans compared their curiosity to a trainwreck: “Everyone wants to have a look-but nobody wants one”.

We at MyStarCollectorCar respectfully disagree with Hans because he and Mary-Ann own one of the coolest and most gas-efficient retro small cars on the planet. Two major factors in a gas-hungry world.               

Jim Sutherland

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section. 

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