The NSU Trapeze was presented by Bertone at the Paris Motor Show in October 1973.
The prototype, an important design project, was mounted with a central NSU RO80 engine with a rotating piston. Once they had established the superiority of this solution for the GT vehicle, the Bertone team then faced the challenging task of making this compatible with driving comfort.
The engine was mounted length-ways, to optimise weight distribution and to get round the problem of engine-bulk in the cockpit, the seats were laid out in a trapezium formation. The fact that the rear passenger seats were out of line with the front seats, also made for enhanced visibility.
The two front seats, set very close together, which allowed the passengers in the back to stretch out their legs fully in the space created between the front seats and the door.
The work on vehicle comfort was later teamed with a passive passenger safety project: the space between the front passenger and the door represented an element of safety in the case of side impact.
This was Bertone’s contribution to the safety debate, in a market where the manufacturers, restricted by the strict American DOT legislation, often opted for original solutions at the cost of flexibility and aesthetic quality.
In design terms the Trapeze recalls the Stratos, with its compact proportions, enormous wrap-around windscreen and small side windows. The prominent bumper running round the entire vehicle was a solution taken up successively on some vehicles destined for mass production.