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Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Auto Union Type D Dominated Racing in the 1930s


1939 Audi Auto Union Type D

In the 1930s, Auto Union was a power play combination of German automobile manufacturers. It would eventually evolve into Audi, but before that, it built Grand Prix race cars that had a very successful run in the ’30s. These cars won 25 races between 1935 and 1937 against an incredibly strong field of competitors. The Auto Union Type A through Type D, known as Silver Arrows, were dominant in Grand Prix racing until World War II broke out in 1939.

They started out with V16 engines that were later replaced with V12 engines with nearly 550 horsepower. They were capable of wheelspin at over 100 mph and had a tendency toward oversteer that made them notoriously difficult to handle. Despite this challenge, these cars were capable of speeds upwards of 185 mph without any of today’s modern safety features.

1939 Audio Auto Union Type D

Auto Union was formed in 1932 from Audi, DKW, Horch, and Wanderer which were all struggling at the time. Adolf Hitler provided both Mercedes and Auto Union with a $30,000 annual stipend to help develop race cars for the glory of Germany. This led to a particularly strong rivalry between the two companies.

They opted for a mid-engine configuration which was unusual at the time and the reason for the car’s oversteer. Auto Unions all had independent suspension with parallel trailing arms and torsion bars up front. World War II saw the demise of Auto Union and what was called the supercharger era.

 The Soviet army occupied Zwickau, shut them down, and took the cars back to Russia as reparations where most were sadly lost to time. Only four are known to have survived, several of which don’t run. Audi also commissioned a replica that is on display in their Ingolstadt museum when it’s not making appearances at special events.

1939 Mercedes Benz Auto Union