Tag Archives: Auto Union

Narrow Gauge Thunderbird – Auto Union 1000 Sp Coupé

At the same time the Auto Union 1000 S models were launched in 1958 Auto Union launched a sports car based on the same chassis known as the 1000 Sp.

Auto Union 1000 Sp, Malta Classic Car Collection, Qwara

The new 1000 Sp bore a striking resemblance to the 1955 Ford Thunderbird and was soon known as the schmalspur Thunderbird, translated literally “narrow gauge Thunderbird” but usually known in the UK as the Baby Thunderbird.

Auto Union 1000 Sp, Malta Classic Car Collection, Qwara

The coachwork available as a hard top from 1958, or soft top from 1961, was by Baur in Stuttgart who are probably best known for their BMW conversions.

Auto Union 1000 Sp, Malta Classic Car Collection, Qwara

Power for the 1000 Sp 2 stroke 3 cylinder motor was up from the original 44 hp of the 1000 S models to 55 hp which gave the 1000 Sp a top speed of 87 mph, 7 mph than its lesser powered siblings.

Auto Union 1000 Sp, Malta Classic Car Collection, Qwara

Note the fashionable fifties column shift, not as fast as a stick shift but has the benefit of allowing your better half to snuggle up next to you with out interruptions for gear changes. Although the 1000 Sp’s were lower than the 1000 S models they were not significantly lighter.

Auto Union 1000 Sp, Malta Classic Car Collection, Qwara

From 1958 to 1965 5000 of the hard top Auto Union 1000 Sp’s were built. Today’s featured vehicle is seen in the Malta Classic Car Collection in Qwara.

Thanks for joining me on this Narrow Gauge Tunderbird edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, Don’t forget to come back now !


Four Rings Return – Auto Union 1000 S

At the end of the 1939 – 45 the once great name of Auto Union disappeared off the map as a consequence of the new communist administrative arrangements that emerged in East Germany.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

What assets remained of Horch, Audi and the Auto Union racing departments in Chemnitz and Zwickau were liquidated and those in Zwickau were handed over to VEB (Volkseigener Betrieb = Peoples owned Enterprise) which went on to build a series of two stroke vehicles, starting with pre war DKW designs, that were eventually sold under the Trabant brand after a law suit compelled VEB to desist selling models with the DKW name.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

Auto Union AG was reconstituted in 1949 with only the DKW brand name surviving which sold a variety of two stroke vehicles including a motor cycle and delivery van before moving back into automobile manufacture.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

In 1958 the now Daimler AG owned Auto Union brand returned to the market place with the Auto Union 1000 S powered by a 44 hp 1 litre / 61 cui two stroke straight 3 cylinder motor driving the front wheels.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

The 1000 S model was available in 2 door saloon, as seen here, 4 door saloon, 2 door pillarless Coupé and Estate variations. There was also a “baby” thunderbird” sports car option which I’ll be looking at in a future Wednesday Continental Curiosity edition.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

As with most front wheel drive vehicles the Auto Union 1000S gave occupants greater interior space than their competitors which in this case was the Volkswagen Beetle.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

In 1960 a now 50 HP Auto Union was tested with a rest to 60 mph acceleration time of 23.6 seconds and top speed of 80.9 mph. Auto Union 2 stroke motors branded DKW were to be found in the proving ground open wheel series known as Formula Junior.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

1961 saw the introduction saw the introduction of a clean oil regulator which was intended to reduce the blue exhaust smoke haze, common to two stroke motors, by ensuring an exact 40 to 1 petrol to oil mix using a separate oil tank to feed the carburetor. Unfortunately because of the severe European winter in 1962/63 oil viscosity and flow through the narrower new carburetor feed was adversely affected resulting in crankshaft damage.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

This 1963 model seen at the Rare Breeds show at Haynes International Motor Museum a couple of years ago is said to have come to Britain from Sweden via Norway.

Auto Union 1000S, Rare Breeds, Haynes International Motor Museum

Between 1958 and 1963 171,008 Auto Union 1000 S models were manufactured at Auto Unions plant in Dusseldorf. By 1964 Volkswagen had acquired Auto Union and DKW and Audi. VW ditched the Auto Union and DKW brands as production of 2 stroke models was phased out in favour of new water cooled four stroke models that derived from the DKW F103 which was marketed as the Audi F103 in 1965 which transformed the fortunes of first Audi and then as the new motor was further developed later Volkswagen.

Thanks for joining me on this “Four Rings Return” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Winds Of Change – Volkswagen Golf GTi

In 1964 Volkswagen acquired Auto Union from Daimler Benz and in so doing sowed the seeds for the survival the thriving of both companies well into the 1980’s. Back in ’64 Volkswagen was thriving on a market mix of rather primitive if well built aircooled rear wheel drive vehicles that were developed initially by Dr Ferdinand Porsche, at the same time Auto Union were developing 4 stroke watercooled motors with front wheel drive trains to replace the 2 stroke vehicles that they had been manufacturing since before the 1939-45 war.

Volkswagen Golf GTi, Bristol Classic Car Show, Sheppton Mallet,

The first new all Auto Union became the Audi F103, curiously at the time of it’s launch Volkswagen was intending to simply use the Auto Union productution facilities to build additional Beetles and forbade Auto Union from carrying out any further developments however when a team of Audi engineers showed the Volkswagen management their ideas for the Audi 100 that had been developed in secret Volkswagen was persuaded to change it’s mind and eventually ended up embracing Audi new 4 stroke water cooled front wheel drive technology when sales of the Beetle started to show signs of weakness.

Volkswagen Golf GTi, Bristol Classic Car Show, Sheppton Mallet,

The first water cooled front drive Volkswagen’s were the relatively low volume Passat’s launched in 1973 these were followed by another water cooled front wheel drive car named after a wind, the Golf (translated into English Gulf). The 1974 Volkswagen Golf featured a two box hatch back shape with a hatch back door to the rear which was to be often copied by the likes of Ford, Vauxhall/Opel, British Leyland, Chevrolet and Dodge, to name a few, in the wake of the Golf’s overnight success, though the FIAT 128 based Zastava 101 featured a proper hatch back that predated the Golf by three years.

Volkswagen Golf GTi, Bristol Classic Car Show, Sheppton Mallet,

In 1975 the first Golf GTi was launched featuring a 110 hp fuel injected motor and suddenly any car without ‘i’ in the initialing became suspect as did any car without red piping that was pioneered by the new sports model. Neither communist built Yugo 45s nor US built GMC Syclones were immune to these little red fashion fads which started with Volkswagen’s little hot hatch which had a zero to 60 mph acceleration time of 9 seconds.

Volkswagen Golf GTi, Bristol Classic Car Show, Sheppton Mallet,

It was not long before a third of all Golf’s built were the performance GTi variants which worked wonders for Volkswagen’s finances having come close to going under completely in the early 1970’s. The Golf was mildly face lifted in 1980 without altering any of the crisp lines originally styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

Volkswagen Golf GTi, Bristol Classic Car Show, Sheppton Mallet,

The vehicle seen here at last years Bristol Classic Car Show is one the last post face lift models built in 1983, most obviously distinguished by the large rectangular rear lights.

The car seen here is fitted with a factory sunroof and tinted window’s which along with the Pirelli wheels, that were fitted with horrendously expensive Pirelli P6 low profile tyres, point to the car possibly being what is known a a Campaign Model, though some Mk 1 Golfs have been built up to look like Campaign models but with the heavier load bearing Pirelli wheels from the Mark II Golf GTi which had 10mm gaps between the P’s on the 14 inch alloy wheels instead of the original 7mm gaps between the P’s.


Goodwood Revival – #7 Silberpfile

At the Berlin Motor Show in 1933 Adolf Hitler announced two new projects the (Kraft durch Freude – strength through joy) KdF- Wagen that would eventually become the Volkswagen Beetle and a state sponsored racing programme for Mercedes Benz. Below is a recreation of a 1936 Mercedes Benz racing department transporter based on a 70 hp petrol engine Mercedes Benz Lo 2570 truck complete with a Mercedes Benz W125 racing car on the back.

Mercedes-Benz LO 2750, Goodwood Revival

Once it became clear that Hans Stuck would not be joining Mercedes Benz he got together with Chairman of the newly amalgamated Auto Union Baron Klaus von Oertzen and free lance designer Ferdinand Porsche to make a bid to fund a rival for the Mercedes Benz team. Hitler agreed that two rivals would be better than one and so split the funding he had announced in Berlin for Mercedes Benz with Auto Union much to the disgust of the former. Below is a Büssing Typ 300 of the type used by Auto Union to carry their team.

Bussing Typ 300, Goodwood Revival

There are numerous stories about how the Mercedes Benz and Auto Union team cars came to be called collectively the Silver Arrows. Apparently the earliest use to the term was in a 1932 radio broadcast in connection with a streamlined Mercedes Benz SSKL driven by Manfred von Brauchitsch was called a Silver Arrow. When the Auto Unions were prepared in 1934 they were all painted silver and bitter rivals Mercedes Benz, who would probably be loath to admit it, appear to have followed suit.

Auto Union A-Type, Goodwood Revival

For 1934 Auto Union built the A-Type with, for the period, a wholly unconventional mid engine layout which featured a 291 hp super charged V16 motor there was no championship that year, Alfa Romeo won the first two of the seven major races before Hans Stuck won the German Grand Prix for Auto Union, René Dreyfus managed an unlikely win at the Belgian Grand Prix aboard his Bugatti and Mercedes swept the last two races of the season in Italy and Spain. Above is an A-Type of the type Stuck used to win the 1934 German Grand Prix.

Mercedes Benz W154 and W25, Goodwood Revival

From 1934 to 1937 Mercedes Benz used the W25 powered by a supercharged straight 8 motor that rose from 300 hp in 1934 to 490 hp by the time the W25 was replaced by the W125. In 1935 Rudolf Caracciola won the European Grand Prix Championship with three wins, Stuck one once for Auto Union and Tazio Nuvolari famously upset the Fuhrer by winning for ALFA Romeo in the 1935 German Grand Prix.

Karl Wendlinger had some problems selecting gears with the W25 seen on the left above and when he got a gear on this occasion the car snaked wildly as the narrow power band of his screaming engine kicked in forcing the 1938 W154 onto the grass.

Auto Union C-Type, Goodwood Revival

For 1936 Auto Union introduced the C-Type which produced over 500 hp from it’s supercharged V16. This tipped the scales in favour of Bernd Rosemeyer who won three of the four European Championship rounds to become European Champion in 1936. This left the previous years champion Caracciola with a consolation victory at the start of the 1936 season before the Mercedes Benz team withdrew mid season, after the Auto Unions superiority became obvious, to regroup for 1937.

Five time Le Mans winner Frank Biela is seen at the wheel of the C-type above.

Mercedes Benz W125, Goodwood Revival

For 1937 Mercedes Benz came back with a vengeance upgrading their supercharged straight eight motor with a swept volume 5,662.85 cc / 345.56 CUI which produced 595 hp and a new W125 chassis as seen being handled by Grand Prix and Le Mans winner Jochen Mass above. After a consolation win at the start of the 1937 season for Rudolf Hasse, Caracciola took three wins from the remaining four rounds of the championship to win the 1937 European Championship title for the second time. Only Manfred von Brauchitsch also aboard a W125 interrupted Caracciola’s progress at Monaco. It was not until the late sixties that circuit racers so powerful would hit the tracks again with the emergence of the unlimited Can Am Series in North America.

Auto Union D-Type, Goodwood Revival

For 1938 the organisers changed the rules to bring the speeds down by announcing a maximum swept volume of three litres / 183 cui. Auto Union developed the new D-type with “only” 12 cylinders in a Vee configuartaion that with 24 psi boost from the supercharger developed 478 hp and was still capable of over 200 mph ! The Nuvolari drove the D-Type, like the one seen here, to a single championship victory at the season finale at Monza.

Mercedes Benz W154, Goodwood Revival

Mercedes Benz built the W154 for the smaller capacity formula using an essentially unchanged chassis from the W125 but with a supercharged V12 giving up to 475 hp. von Brauchitsch and Great Britain’s Richard Seaman won the opening 2 races of the four race series. Caracciola won the third round which was enough to secure him a third European Championship title.

For 1939 there were only four rounds of the European Championship Mercedes again winning three of them Hermann Lang winning the first and last and Caracciola winning the 1939 German Grand Prix all for Mercedes. Herman Paul Müller interrupted the Mercedes domination with a win at the French Grand Prix. Two weeks after the final championship round in Switzerland von Brauchitsch drove the #6 seen here driven by Rob Hall to second place in the non championship Belgrade Grand Prix. That same day the Second World War got underway and the European Championship organisers who apparently had never agreed on the points system to be used for the 1939 championship failed to announce a championship winner. Lang or Mülller would have won depending on the scoring system to be used.

Mercedes Benz W165, Goodwood Revival

Finally Mercedes Benz built the 1.5 litre 91.5 cui supercharged V8 powered W165, as driven by Paul Stewart above, to compete in the more competitive, or at least varied since nearly everyone had abandoned hope of competing against Mercedes Benz and Auto Union, voiturette (small) class. Two cars were entered for Lang and Caracciola in the Tripoli Grand Prix and they finished first and second in that order. The cars were never to be raced again despite Caracciola being invited to compete at Indianapolis in 1946, he could not get the car out of Europe through Swiss customs.

Without doubt these are some of the most fascinating cars ever seen in motor racing, they dominated races that were often 10 hours long, but in the early years they were not invincible. However great the achievements of the teams and drivers these cars were built in an industrial context with the conscripted help of men and women who were not free to do as they liked, and I would venture to suggest these vehicles should be remembered as a testimony to those who endured unimaginable hardships and in the greater scheme of things some of the greatest inhumanities known to man.

Thanks for joining me on this “#7 Siberpfile” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again for some California Sunshine tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Head Over Heels – Malta Classic Car Collection

The Malta Classic Car Collection, in the north east town of Qawara, don’t pronounce the Q, was founded by property developer Carol Galea who found his genetic pattern contained a deep rooted head over heels passion for cars which he has admired, driven raced and collected.

BMW 250 Isetta, Malta Cassic Car Collection

The impressive split level museum houses a cosmopolitan collection of vehicles including this 1957 BMW 250 Isetta bubble car a forerunner of the contemporary Smart Cars, the brainchild of Renzo Rivolta who was behind the Iso Grifo Super 7 I looked at some months ago.

Auto Union 1000 Sp, Malta Cassic Car Collection

Built by the Stuttgart coachbuilders Baur on the 2 stroke Auto Union 1000 chassis the 55hp Auto Union 1000 Sp was launced in 1958. Known in the German Press as “baby Thunderbird” 6,640 of these 2 door Coupés were built when production ceased in 1965 by which time ownership of Auto Union had been transferred from Mercedes Benz to Volkswagen.

ALFA Romeo Giuleitta Sprint Speciale, Malta Cassic Car Collection

Although forst seen in 1957 the ALFA Romeo Giuleitta Sprint Speciale was only in production from 1959 to 1966. With a 112hp double overhead cam motor and a drag co-efficient of just 0.28, same as a C6 Corvette the ALFA Romeo Giuleitta Sprint Speciale provided stiff competition for the Porsche 356.

Chevrolet Corvette, Malta Cassic Car Collection

The classic four taillight arrangement on this Chevrolet Corvette C1 were first seen in the 1961 – 1962 models and have featured on Corvette’s ever since up to and including the present day. The single colour paint scheme suggests this might be a 1962 model.

Borgward Isebella Coupé, Malta Cassic Car Collection

Another vehicle in the collection coincidentally launched in 1957 is the Borgward Isabella Coupé built in Bremen Germany. Unfortunately despite the success of the whole Isabella range Borgward went bankrupt when the German economy dipped in the early 1960’s.

Jaguar XJS Eventer, Malta Cassic Car Collection

Based on the lumpy but loveable Jaguar XJS coupé the vehicle above is one of 67 shooting brake conversions by Lynx known as the Eventer built during the mid 1980’s. IMHO the Eventers looks exceed the standard XJS by some considerable margin.

Panhard 24 bt, Malta Cassic Car Collection

The name Panhard goes back in the motoring world to the late 1880’s, Citroen acquired a 25% stake in the company in 1955 since when Panhard production appears to have been phased out in order to avoid competition with Citroen’s products and in order to increase production facilities for Citroen’s product lines. The Panhard 24 bt manufactured between 1964 and 1967 is a 2 door five seater powered by an horizontally opposed air cooled twin cylinder motor. Unfortunately with Citroen refusing to countenance the development of a four door model Panhard’s days as a motor car manufacturer were numbered, the company still exists as a military vehicle manufacturer.

Morris Minor 1000 Pickup, Malta Cassic Car Collection

Among the pick up’s in the collection is this cool Morris Minor 1000 which is fitted with a load space bedecked in varnished wood !

Austin A40 Somerset Coupé, Malta Cassic Car Collection

I am not sure why Austin’s marketing department took a liberal interpretation of the word coupé which usually applies to a hard top vehicle when they named the 42 hp Austin Somerset Coupé, which is actually a convertible, but 7,243 of them were manufactured between 1952 and 1954 by Carbodies, better known these days as the manufacturer of London Cabs. This particular car is said to have been used by HRH The Queen of England during her visit to Malta during a Coronation visit in 1952.

Fiat 500 Roadster, Malta Cassic Car Collection

Finally in foyer the fun roadster above looks like an original FIAT 500 but is actually based on much later FIAT 126 mechanical components from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

If you find your self in Malta I’d highly recommend paying the Malta Classic Car Collection a visit.

My thanks to Barry Boor who’s hospitality made this blog possible.

Thanks for joining me on this Head Over Heels edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’ I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !