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.
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.