Audi celebrates centenary showing its oldest car on the Earth

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 25, 2010

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.

Press Release

Oldest Audi on earth

The museum mobile in the Audi Forum Ingolstadt has organised a spectacular exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the Audi brand. For this unique event, which is entitled “From Horch to Audi – The history of perfection has a new name”, historic cars have been collected together from all over Europe. From March 11 to July 16, 2009, visitors to the Audi museum mobile will be able to see thirteen cars dating from before the Second World War, including the first model to bear the Audi name, a 1911 Audi Type A, and a world premiere – the 1935 Audi 225 Front Special Roadster which was recently rebuilt.

Both these cars, and many other exhibits as well, are the only examples to be seen anywhere in the world. AUDI AG can look back on a very varied and often turbulent history. Before the end of the 19th century, August Horch established a company known as Horch & Cie. Motorwagen Werke in Cologne. In 1902 he moved it to Zwickau in Saxony, and in 1904 it was reorganised into a joint-stock company. In 1909, following a dispute with the members of the executive and supervisory boards, August Horch left the company and a few weeks later established a second automobile manufacturing operation, also in Zwickau.

Since he could not use his own name, which was a registered brand, he chose a Latin translation instead: the German word “Horch!” (meaning “Listen!”) became “Audi”. The use of this Latin imperative was suggested by the son of one of August Horch’s business partners, a student of Latin, who had followed the discussion about a new name with interest. Car production began on a small scale, true to Horch’s basic principle of building only “good, strong cars”, but only a few years later Audi had already developed into one of the best-known German automobile brands. It enjoyed success in competition from the very start. Victories in Austrian Alpine Rallies between 1911 and 1914 made the Audi name familiar on the international scene. The Audi Type C 14/35 PS was especially successful, and acquired the name “Alpine Victor”. The Audi museum mobile will be displaying no fewer than thirteen of the oldest Audi cars still in existence anywhere in the world.

In order to present not only these historic vehicles but also any number of anecdotes from the company’s early days in a stimulating manner, including the years up to the major interruption in its activities caused by the Second World War, the exhibition’s organisers have adopted an unusual approach. The stories have become a storyboard, and this in turn takes the form of a comic strip. Each page deals with anecdotes, special occurrences and legendary landmarks in the Audi company’s history. The choice of name, the dismissal of August Horch, the first eight-cylinder model, the pioneering adoption by Audi of left-hand drive in Germany, the competition for the first Audi radiator badge, acquisition by DKW and the subsequent creation of Auto Union – the chronicle continues until the point when, on the outbreak of war, Germany’s second-largest automobile manufacturer had to cease production of passenger cars for the general public.

As Stefan Felber from the Audi museum mobile explains: “Audi’s history is far too exciting for a conventional form of presentation. We have aimed to make it easily comprehensible at first glance, and for children to understand it easily too.” Car enthusiasts will welcome the chance to see outstanding examples from Audi’s early history, above all the timelessly elegant Audi Front Roadster, on display for the very first time. Only two specimens of this prototype were built in 1935, and both have disappeared. Audi Tradition therefore supplied an original chassis to the specialist Zinke company in Zwönitz, which built a replica body with only photographs as a guide. Now this roadster, a “dream in white”, is making its world premiere at the Audi museum mobile. Another exceptional highlight is the Audi Type A, which dates from 1911. Exhibited for the first time at the company’s head offices in Ingolstadt, this is the 78th car built by Audi in Zwickau and the oldest to have survived.

This unique Type A, with its 26-horsepower engine, was capable of reaching 75 km/h. For the exhibition “From Horch to Audi – The history of perfection has a new name”, it has been loaned by the National Technical Museum in Prague –the first time, incidentally, that it has been made available in this way. The second-oldest exhibit, an Audi Type E built in 1913, also has a dramatic tale to tell. Its 55-hp engine, with a displacement of 5.7 litres, is the largest built by Audi during its Zwickau period. This model remained in production until 1924. Two examples are to be seen in the exhibition, one from the first and one from the final production batch. Although they have similar open tourer bodies, the changes introduced over an 11-year period can be clearly seen. The hero on the competition scene, however, is definitely the “Alpine Victor” – the Audi Type C, built from 1911 to 1925. With August Horch himself as one of the drivers, this car won the Austrian Alpine Rally, at that time the most challenging event of its kind, three times in succession, the last occasion being in 1914.

The car on display dates from 1919 and is still in roadgoing condition. Audi recorded a number of technical milestones in 1923 with the Audi Type M, in its day one of Germany’s most luxurious and expensive cars. The engine had a light-alloy block and an overhead camshaft driven by a vertical shaft and bevel gears. An intake air cleaner was fitted. This Audi model was the first to have four-wheel brakes. The list price of 22,300 Reichsmarks was not within everyone’s reach: Three of the 228 cars sold have survived, and also an additional chassis. The car on display is a sectioned model intended to illustrate the outstanding technical features and workmanship of the car.

The Audi Type M was followed by the first Audi eight-cylinder model, the Audi Type R “Imperator”, which broke through the symbolic hundred-horsepower barrier. The car on display was built in 1929, and is the only remaining example of this model anywhere in the world. In 1931 Audi began to build the Type P, the first small car in the brand’s history. For many years it was believed that none had survived, until 2003, when one was found in a barn in Ludwigsburg. Its documents indicated that the last owner had been the mayor of a town in the Swabian region of Germany and that the car had been taken off the road in 1955, to spend almost half a century like Sleeping Beauty waiting to be reawakened.

Following extensive restoration in Riga (Latvia), Audi Tradition is now able to display this unusual car again – the sole surviving Type P. This first major Audi centenary exhibition is rounded off by cars produced by the Auto Union after its establishment and up to 1940 – two different Audi Front 225 models dating from 1935 and the last Audi to appear before the outbreak of war, the 1939 Audi 920. In 2009, the Audi brand established by August Horch on July 16, 1909 celebrates its centenary. The four rings of the Audi badge symbolise the brands Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, which were combined to form Auto Union in 1932. Auto Union and NSU, which merged in 1969, both made many significant contributions towards the development of the car. AUDI AG was formed from Audi NSU Auto Union AG in 1985.

Together with the two traditional companies Auto Union GmbH and NSU GmbH, Audi Tradition has nurtured the extensive, diverse history of Audi for many years and presented it to the public. The Audi museum mobile at the Audi Forum Ingolstadt is open daily from Monday to Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The August Horch Museum in Zwickau is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Topics: audi, classic car

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