Audi is commemorating 100 years of the brand with a unique show at the museum mobile in the Audi Forum Ingolstadt. After all, this once-in-a-century event titled “From Horch to Audi – The history of perfection has a new name,” will feature 13 historic Audi cars gathered from across Europe from March 11 to July 16, 2009 at the Audi museum mobile.
These historic cars include the 1911 Audi Type A and the recently rebuilt 1935 Audi 225 Front Special Roadster. Of course, these are not the only historic Audi cars dating from before World War II that remain in showable condition – all telling a certain story about how Audi went from humble beginnings into one of the largest premium carmakers in the world. It all began just before 19th century came to a close, when August Horch set up Horch & Cie.
Motorwagen Werke in Cologne, Germany. In 1902, the company moved it to Zwickau in Saxony, and reorganized it into a joint-stock company in 1904. Five years later, following a disagreement with members of the executive and supervisory boards, August Horch left Horch & Cie and a few weeks later set up another automaker in Zwickau. However, since Horch cannot use his own name as it became registered brand, he looked for a term in another language.
Since "horch" means "listen" in German, he chose the Latin term “Audi.” This was from suggestion by the son of one of Horch’s business partners. Thus, Audi was founded in July 16, 1909, doing small scale auto production and staying true to Horch’s basic principle of building only “good, strong cars.” Just a few years later, Audi became one of the known German auto brands, thanks to its racing success, particularly wins in Austrian Alpine Rallies between 1911 and 1914.
Famously successful back then was the Audi Type C 14/35 PS, which was dubbed “Alpine Victor.” The 100-year celebration of Audi does not only entail the display of historic cars, but also the telling of several anecdotes from its early days, including the years up to the major interruption in its activities in the Second World War. To better convey and tell these stories, Audi adopted a storyboard in the form of a comic strip.
Each page is filled with anecdotes, special occurrences and legendary landmarks in Audi's 100 years of history. The storyboard is all inclusive, telling much of what happened like how "Audi" became the company's name and the dismissal of August Horch. It also tells of the story of Audi's first eight-cylinder vehicle as well as how the carmaker was the first to adopt left-hand drive in Germany. Moreover, it tells about the contest for the first Audi radiator badge and the acquisition by DKW.
It even tells about why Audi had to stop production for the general public when World War II broke out. Stefan Felber of the Audi museum mobile described Audi’s history as too exciting for a conventional form of presentation. He noted that Audi's history should be easy to comprehend even for children. One of the historic models to be shown is the Audi Type A that dates from 1911. This oldest surviving Audi model – the 78th vehicle built – is powered by a 26-hp engine and could reach a top speed 75 km/h.
This vehicle was loaned by the National Technical Museum in Prague. Up next is an Audi Type E from 1913 – the largest built by the carmaker in Zwickau. Powered by a 55-hp 5.7 liter engine, this Audi Type E was produced until 1924. Two examples of the Audi Type E will be exhibited during the event -- one from the first batch and another from the final batch. While the two Type Es feature similar open tourer bodies, it was fairly easy to notice the 11-year difference between them.
The exhibit will also feature the Audi Type C, more famously known as the “Alpine Victor.” The Audi Type C was produced from 1911 to 1925, and the model on display is from 1919. Type C – with Horch as one of the drivers – triumphed three straight times at the Austrian Alpine Rally until the year 1914. Interestingly, the model on display is still in road-going condition. The upcoming exhibit will also feature the Audi Type M, which during its time was considered as one of the most luxurious and expensive cars in Germany, with a price of 22,300 Reichsmarks.
Built in 1923, the Audi Type M features an engine with a light-alloy block and an overhead camshaft driven by a vertical shaft and bevel gears. Its engine also has a fitted intake air cleaner. Amazingly, Audi Type M was the first model to feature four-wheel brakes. Audi sold 228 units of the Type M, although only three managed to survive.
At the exhibit, Audi is showing a sectioned Type M to illustrate its superb technical features and workmanship. Also included in the exhibit is the Audi Type R “Imperator,” which is the brand's first model to be powered by an eight-cylinder engine that managed to offer beyond 100 hp. The one on display -- assembled in 1929 -- is the only surviving Type R. In 1931, Audi commenced production of its first small car, the Audi Type P.
Until 2003, the Type P had been believed to be extinct, but suddenly one was found in a barn in Ludwigsburg, owned by a mayor of a town in the Swabian region of Germany. This Type P had been absent from the road since 1955. After an extensive restoration in Riga, Latvia, the Audi Type P is now ready to be seen by the general public once again. Interestingly, the exhibit will be the first time that the Audi Front Roadster will be on display.
Audi built only two examples in 1935, and both have since been out of sight. To revive this prototype, Audi Tradition supplied an original chassis to Zinke, a specialist company. Using only pictures as guide, the Zwönitz company managed to build a replica body. Audi's centenary exhibition will also feature cars built by the Auto Union following its establishment in 1940. These Auto Union cars include two different Audi Front 225 models from 1935 as well as the 1939 Audi 920.
Fascinatingly, the four rings of the Audi badge symbolize its four brands -- Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer – that were combined to form Auto Union in 1932. Auto Union and NSU then merged in 1969. Audi AG was established from Audi NSU Auto Union AG in 1985.
Along with two traditional companies Auto Union GmbH and NSU GmbH, Audi Tradition has been nurturing Audi's extensive history and has been presenting it to the public. Visitors could enter the Audi museum mobile at the Audi Forum Ingolstadt from Monday to Sunday, any time from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the August Horch Museum in Zwickau from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.