Drive like an Egyptian: the NSU Ramses
- License agreement for parts kits for the NSU Prinz with an Egyptian company
- 150 years of the traditional brand NSU: Series with classics and one-of-a-kinds from NSU’s model history – Episode 6
It was a rather unusual project, at least from today’s perspective: the NSU from the Nile. In the 1960s and 1970s, under a supply and assembly license agreement, NSU exported parts for the NSU Prinz to Egypt, where the NSU Ramses was produced. Despite being built for 13 years, it remained a mini-series. But the Ramses still caused great excitement and enthusiasm in the land of the pharaohs, where it was associated with the Nile nation’s dream of establishing its own car industry. In episode 6 of the history of NSU, Audi Tradition presents this exotic car that bears the NSU brand in its name.
From an agricultural state to a country with its own automotive industry: Egypt was pursuing ambitious economic goals in the early 1960s. As part of a development plan, the socialist state wanted to increase prosperity and reduce its dependence on foreign countries. For example, numerous consumer goods that had previously been imported, such as refrigerators and televisions, were now to be manufactured locally in Egypt. The plan also provided for the creation of an automotive industry: Building cars promised to spell prestige and employment. A small and initially quite a make-shift car plant was built at the foot of the Giza pyramids. Like the Egyptian government’s plans, NSU too was looking for additional revenue streams – so the new opportunity to export parts kits for the Neckarsulm-based company’s successful Prinz model came at the right time. In the spring of 1960, representatives of Egyptian industry arrived in Neckarsulm for talks. The aim was to strike a deal for the supply of chassis and engines for the NSU Prinz to the fledgling Egyptian Automotive Company. Both parties quickly reached an agreement, and in June 1960, NSU delivered the first parts to the country on the Nile.
How the “little prince” becomes an Egyptian pharaoh
In Egypt, the Egyptian Automotive Company’s first car was a small open-top off-road vehicle. The four-seater used the Prinz engine with 30 PS and 586cc of displacement. A hand-built body was mounted on the chassis, which NSU also supplied, and the interior was also elaborately hand-crafted. Since machinery and tools typical of the industry were lacking in Egypt at the time, the result was a rather unconventional car that, at least at first glance, hardly seemed to meet the European standards of automotive construction. And yet: In May 1961, the car was put through its paces in the desert – and passed the test. Thus, Egypt had manufactured a domestic car that justified the pride in its name. The “little prince” became a pharaoh in the land of the pyramids: the NSU Ramses.
Initially, the daily production figures remained manageable, often numbering only three or four vehicles. However, the plans for the little car were much more extensive: The Egyptian government wanted to boost production to achieve annual sales of 10,000 units in the foreseeable future. Other versions of the Ramses were also rolling off the line: The off-road vehicle, which was given the suffix “Utilica” as its type designation, was soon joined by a sedan, a sporty convertible, and official vehicles. The Egyptian postal service, for example, drove a pick-up version of the NSU Ramses, while the nation’s army used it as a military off-road vehicle. In July 1973, production of the NSU Prinz 4 ended in Neckarsulm – and with it, the license agreement with the Egyptian Light Transport Manufacturing Company, as the Egyptian Automotive Company was now called. Today, it is no longer possible to determine precisely how many parts kits NSU delivered to Egypt. One thing is certain: Despite its ambitious goals, the NSU from the Nile was not a huge success. Nevertheless, the NSU Ramses made history in Egypt and still has some loyal drivers who keep the memory of the car and its history alive. After all, the NSU Ramses is emblematic of what the Egyptian dream of the 1960s promised: domestic automotive manufacturing, economic prosperity, and independence.
Each month until December, Audi Tradition is presenting a different NSU model, including brand classics on both two and four wheels, prototypes, and one-of-a-kind models.
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