Audi AG repurchases super rare Auto Union Silver Arrow racing car

Article by Anita Panait, on August 11, 2012

Audi AG now owns three of the five Auto Union racing cars that are considered original. This came after the carmaker was successful in repurchasing Auto Union twin-supercharger Type D dating from 1939, considered as one of the two legendary “Karassik cars” and a super rare Auto Union Silver Arrow racing car.

The repurchase was so eventful that it emotionally moved Thomas Frank, Head of AudiTradition. Frank said that the return of the Auto Union twin-supercharger Type D 1939 is one of the “most emotional moments” in their heritage work for Audi. For a bit of history, in 1934, Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union arrived on the international motor racing scene with German racing cars of totally new designs, with a silver finish and futuristic looks.

But while Mercedes-Benz fielded conventional front-engine racing cars, Auto Union raced with cars powered by engines located behind the driver. It should be noted that today’s Formula One cars still use the layout started by Auto Union. These two carmakers were the common top finishers on Europe’s Grand Prix circuits until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Their racing cars, commonly called Silver Arrows and powered by 16-cylinder and 12-cylinder engines, had been capturing title after title.

Their drivers, meanwhile, are considered as heroes by modern motor sport enthusiasts for their abilities, as they usually achieve speeds of more than 300 km/h in races bereft of any serious safety precautions. These drivers include Bernd Rosemeyer, Tazio Nuvolari and Hans Stuck for Auto Union, and Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hermann Lang for Mercedes-Benz. However, the supercharger era that Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz, was brought to an abrupt end by the Second World War.

While Mercedes-Benz was able to recover almost all its Silver Arrow cars after Germany’s defeat in the war, Auto Union was not able to do so since it was liquidated after its home base Zwickau was occupied by the Soviet Army. The Russian occupying forces found Auto Union’s Silver Arrows in a mine building above ground. They then transported these legendary cars to the Soviet Union as part of Germany’s reparation payments. Soon after, there was no trace of them.

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