“If You Can Drive This, You Can Drive Anything!”

Built by a German motorcycle maker, this quirky little 1959 NSU Prinz 1 turned out to be a great first car.

I was only 15 when I got my first car in 1961. My brother, who was four years older than me, decided he needed a vehicle since he was away at university, so we started looking around for something cheap. We accidentally found one at the back of a car lot and went in to inquire. The dealer said it was an NSU Prinz, brand new, but it had been sitting there for two years, so he would sell it for $600.

NSU was a German motorcycle company that had apparently decided they wanted to build cars, so in 1959 put a two-cylinder air-cooled motorcycle engine in the back of a strange little machine, dubbed the NSU Prinz. It was incredibly noisy at highway speeds, but would go 60 miles an hour and got an amazing 60 miles per gallon of gas. It only had 26 horsepower, so was very difficult to get moving from a stop. You had to release the clutch exactly right, or it stalled. That was how I learned to drive. My dad always said, “If you can drive this, you can drive anything.” He was right.

We had the NSU Prinz for two years, then saw one that had been in an accident, and decided we needed something more substantial for my brother to commute to his summer job in another city. When at a different dealership negotiating for a used car, we asked about trading in the Prinz, and after the salesman looked it up in his big book, he said, “I’m sorry boys, but I can only give you $600 for it.” We protested that it was worth more than that, but of course were delighted to be getting all our money back after driving it “free” for two years!

Glenn has only one photo of his NSU Prinz, sadly it’s of poor quality; he found a pic (above) of the exact model he owned on the website of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

Next, read the incredible story of how one man missed out on his dream car as a teenager—then found it parked in his driveway 25 years later!

Originally Published in Our Canada