“This is one of the most emotional moments in our heritage work for Audi AG – we have come full circle,” said Thomas Frank, Head of Audi Tradition when the car manufacturer was able to repurchase an extremely rare Auto Union Silver Arrow racing car – consisting largely of original parts.
It is the Auto Union twin-supercharger Type D dating from 1939, and is one of the two legendary “Karassik cars”. AUDI AG now owns three of the five Auto Union racing cars that can claim to be original.
The Silver Arrow legend was born in the 1930s. In 1934, Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz appeared on the international motor racing scene with German racing cars of totally new design, with a silver finish and futuristic appearance, and were immediately successful. Whereas Mercedes-Benz relied on conventional front-engined cars, Auto Union placed the engine behind the driver – the layout that is still a standard feature of today’s Formula One cars. The two manufacturers dominated racing on Europe’s Grand Prix circuits without serious opposition until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
The 16-cylinder and 12-cylinder racing cars from Zwickau and Stuttgart captured one title after another, almost as if no other cars were competing. Drivers such as Bernd Rosemeyer, Tazio Nuvolari and Hans Stuck (Auto Union), Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hermann Lang (Mercedes-Benz) are still acknowledged as heroes by modern motor sport enthusiasts: they often reached speeds of more than 300 km/h in races devoid of any serious safety precautions. On the long straights of the Avus circuit in Berlin in 1937, Rosemeyer’s car was timed at 380 km/h.
The Second World War put an abrupt end to what had become known as the supercharger era. Mercedes-Benz was able to rescue almost all its Silver Arrow cars after Germany’s total collapse, but fate was less kind to Auto Union. Zwickau was occupied by the Soviet Army, Auto Union was liquidated and the factories shut down. The Russian occupying forces found the Silver Arrows where they had been stored: in a mine building above ground. The cars were carried off to the Soviet Union as part of Germany’s reparation payments, and all trace of them was soon lost in that vast country.
Purchase of the Type D twin-supercharger car means that Audi AG now owns all three Auto Union racing cars recovered from what was formerly the USSR. Thomas Frank, Head of Audi Tradition is delighted: “20 years ago we would never have dreamed that such a thing would be possible!”
As well as the two “Karassik cars”, the collection includes the famous hillclimb car driven by Hans Stuck, the Auto Union Type C/D. This was on show at the Car Museum in Riga, Latvia, until just after the demise of the Soviet Union, and is today one of the outstanding exhibits at the Audi museum mobile in Ingolstadt. This is also where Audi plans to display the Auto Union Type D on a long-term basis. But first of all, the new acquisition is to make a notable guest appearance at the Goodwood Revival in England, from September 14 to 16.