Friday, 4 January 2019

Audi Tradition Museum, Ingolstadt

Ingolstadt in Germany is the home of Audi. The company moved its headquarters here from Dusseldorf in the late 1950s. An enormous, modern factory was built in 1960 to manufacture the DKW Junior and it still dominates the city. Within the Audi headquarters complex is the Audi Tradition museum, which houses Audi's impressive collection of historic vehicles.

The modernist Audi Tradition museum building

Two Schnellaster's parked in the forecourt

One of the standout exhibits at the museum is the car lift with its collection of historic cars, all red.

DKW's game changing F1 frontreib of 1931. This car introduced the world to front-wheel drive.

Wanderer's stunning W25K roadster in barn-find state.

1938 Horch 930S. Auto Union's top of the range car was the pinnacle of luxury, design and modernist styling. Very few were built before the war and a couple after the war for East German communist party officials from stocks of spare parts

One of the two surviving 1939 DKW F9 prototypes. This car had an eventful life, surviving the war as Auto-Union chief designer William Werner's personal vehicle, before being seized by the British and later shipped to Australia. It ended up in the possession of my friend Peter Thorogood in Melbourne before being sold back to Audi for their collection in the 1990s. Recently another prototype shell has been discovered in Estonia.

The similarity between the DKW F9 and Horch 930S is immediately apparent when the cars are placed side by side. Both were styled by the same design office.

1960 NSU Sports Prinz. NSU were an independent company at the time the Sports Prinz was designed but were shortly merged with Auto-Union.

Contemporary Audi's share the stage with a DKW Hummel and NSU Quickly moped

The museum collection starts on the top floor and works its way back to the lobby on the ground floor.

The oldest car in the collection is this 1903 Horch 10-12PS. This car was designed by August Horch after he'd moved his company from Cologne to Saxony.

1913 Audi 14/35PS Type C limousine. This was the third model to bear the Audi name after August Horch left the Horch company and was in production until 1925. The Type C became famous for its three consecutive victories in the Austrian Alpine Rally from 1912.

The Austrian Alpine Rally Trophy which was won by August Horch in an Audi Type C.

1914 Wanderer 2PS motorcycle. Wanderer started with typewriters and bicycles before moving into motorcycles. Although the engine appears to be tiny it's actually a 250cc four-stroke.

Wanderer's first car was the Type W8 'Puppchen', introduced in 1919. The Puppchen was a popular selling budget car that seated two people in a tandem seat arrangement. This car was one of a small consignment of cars imported by Wagner Brothers of Carlton, Victoria in 1924. The rolling chassis were shipped dismantled in individual crates to Australia and Wagner's intended to body and sell them. One was given a sports body and sold to local competition driver, Arthur Terdich, who planned to drive it in the 1928 Australian Grand Prix. After bodying a second car Wagner's were informed by Australian Customs officials that they would have to pay full import duties on the entire consignment immediately. The brothers refused to pay and simply warehoused the remaining cars. The cars remained sitting in their crates until the 1960s when they were discovered. Some of the crates were found to be empty so perhaps the brothers had surreptitiously removed their contents and knocked together a couple of cars on the sly. There were enough parts remaining to build four complete cars. One of the cars is still in Australia.

DKW's 1934 Schwebeklasse introduced a number of new features, the most important being the use of a 'floating' transverse mounted rear axle, which would be rolled out to Horch, Audi and Wanderer cars. The Schwebeklasse was almost an entirely wooden vehicle, from the streamlined wooden body to its self-supporting plywood chassis-less box frame. Unfortunately it was paired with DKW's unreliable 4=8 engine and had a disturbing tendency to break in half when placed under stress.

The DKW Schwebeklasse and a 1936 Wanderer W40.

In 1932 Wanderer engaged Ferdinand Porsche to design a new engine for their new range of modern cars. The result was a four and six cylinder engine range that would fulfill the company's requirements for the next ten years. The W40 model here was the fruit of the new Auto Union central design office, which brought together advanced features from other Auto Union brands, such as Horch's low slung chassis and DKW's independent suspension, combined with Porsche's reliable engine.

The Audi Front was an attempt to revive the moribund Audi brand, which had been in abeyance since 1930 due to stunningly the poor sales. The Front applied DKW's new front-wheel drive design to a large, four-stroke engine car. It was successful seller and breathed a new lease of life into the Audi name.

DKW was the mainstay of the Auto-Union group, accounting for more than half of the group's profits. This was achieved through the sales of vehicles such as the DKW SB 500 motorcycle and DKW F5 roadster of 1936.

1938 Auto-Union Type C/D 'Silver Arrow.' This is one only two hill climb Silver Arrows built. It combined some features of the Type C and Type D and had double rear tyres for additional grip. The cars were confiscated by the Russians at the end of the Second World War and were thought to have been destroyed, but two Silver Arrows appeared in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism. The car was recovered by Audi in 1995 and has been restored to original specifications.

Auto-Union Silver arrow

1937 Auto-Union Type C streamliner. This 16 cylinder 6 litre racer famously competed with Mercedes-Benz for the world speed record at the Avus track in Berlin. This is a replica.

1938 Wanderer W25K roadster. Only 259 of these stunningly beautiful machines were built. The engine was a supercharged version of the Porsche designed Wanderer engine rated for 85 horsepower.

DKW introduced a new style motorcycle, the RT100, in 1938. It was a game changing machine that led directly to the famous RT125 motorcycle a year later. The RT motorcycles were simple, low maintenance, cheap machines that bought mobility to the masses. After the war the RT125 was commandeered by Britain as the BSA Bantam, the US as the Harley-Davidson Hummer, in Russia as the Minsk 125, and dozens of other copies all around the world.

Sculptured body maquette of the Horch 930S

In 1939 Audi bought out a new car model, the Audi 910, which reverted to traditional front engine, rear wheel drive arrangement. The car sported a Horch engine in a Wanderer W23 chassis.

DKW military motorcycles

Flying motorcycles

A view of the post-war section

DKW's first post-war car was the 1949 DKW F89L. The new car used the prewar F7 ladder chassis and two-cylinder engine in a new forward control arrangement. It was a very successful design and led other companies to bring out similar vehicles, the most famous being the Volkswagen Type 2 Kombi.

In 1950 DKW introduced their new passenger sedan, the DKW F89P. The new car combined the body of the 1939 F9 prototype and the chassis and two-cylinder 700cc engine of the prewar F8. Although a little underpowered it was a stylish vehicle that had better fittings and performance than a contemporary Volkswagen.

In late 1953 DKW introduced the F91 with the 900cc three-cylinder engine. The F91 enjoyed great rally success and set Auto-Union DKW on the road to success.


DKW outsourced construction of the two and four seater cabriolet versions of the F89 and F91 to Karmann Karosserie. Karmann bodied cars did not sell particularly well as they were rather expensive and few cars have survived.

Karmann bodied F91 with the 1959 Auto-Union 1000S behind

In 1959 Auto-Union rebadged the DKW F93 and uprated its 900cc engine to 1000ccs. The car was given a new wrap around windscreen and minor styling changes and branded the Auto-Union 1000S. The DKW F93 with its smaller engine continued in production in parallel.

The 'last Horch.' In 1953 Auto-Union employees undertook a special custom project to build a Horch limousine for managing director Richard Bruhn. The car was built using a prewar Horch chassis and engine with a hand-built contemporary styled ponton body. Bruhn used the car as his personal limousine until he retired. After Bruhn's death the car was sold to a US serviceman who took it back to the US. He eventually sold the car in the 1970s to a junkyard, where it was spotted and salvaged by a collector from Texas. The new owner was little more than a car hoarder and did nothing with car, leaving it sitting exposed under the desert sun until it as recognised as something out of the ordinary by a passing motoring enthusiast. The enthusiast enquired with the owner, who knew little about the car's history, but did not want to sell it either. The enthusiast however contacted Audi Tradition who sent people to Texas to inspect the car. Recognising the car for what it was, Audi Tradition convinced the owner to part with the car. It is preserved in 'as found' condition.

DKW Hobby. DKW introduced this modern little 75cc scooter in 1954. It was popular with lady riders as it had automatic gearshift.

1953 DKW 250 RM racer

The late post-war period. DKW Junior, Auto-Union 1000SP and DKW F102.

1960 DKW Junior. The Junior was a successful little car that Mercedes-Benz introduced into the US as a budget car offering.

The Auto-Union 1000SP was a 1000S chassis and engine given a sportster body by the Stuttgart Karosserie, Baur. Gorgeous in appearance and extremely collectible today, they did not sell well in their day and only 1600 were built.

The last and the first of their line. The DKW F102 and its successor, the Audi F103.

The DKW F102 was a large, contemporary styled car powered by a troublesome 1100cc or 1300cc two-stroke engine. At larger capacity displacements the two-stroke engine had ceased to be efficient. DKW was working on a fuel injection solution but something needed to be done to stem declining sales.

In 1964 DKW obtained a four-stroke engine from Mercedes-Benz (Mercedes-Benz were majority shareholders in Auto-Union DKW at the time) as a possible powerplant for the DKW F102's planned replacement. At the time the F103 was envisaged as a stop gap until the new fuel injected two-stroke project was delivered, but in 1965 Volkswagen purchased Auto-Union from Mercedes-Benz and put a stop to two-stroke development. The DKW F103 was rebadged as Audi and the rest, as they say, is history.

NSU's radical rotary engined Ro80 was a stunningly modern car for its time. It was released in 1967 and remained in production for ten years. Unfortunately for NSU the Wankel rotary engine proved to be unreliable and the early vehicles were subject to breakdowns. These problems were eventually solved in the later cars but the damage had been done to the car's reputation.

The Audi 50 was introduced in 1974. The car was also rebadged as the Volkswagen Polo.

View of the Rolling Sculpture exhibition on the ground floor

Auto-Union 1000SP

One of the rarest DKWs - the Hebmuller two-seater 'luxus' coupe. Introduced as an option for the F89P in 1950, only around 20 of these expensive cars were ever built.

Ground floor exhibit

Hebmuller F91 and Horch 853

1937 Horch 853 sports-cabriolet on the ground floor Rolling Sculpture exhibit

Auto-Union 1000SP and Hebmuller F91

DKW Monza, a special racer version of the DKW F93 with a supercharged engine. The streamlined body was manufactured from fibreglass.

NSU Prinz Spider. The Italian styled Prinz was a major step up from the cheap budget cars produced by NSU in the 50s and 60s. A Wankel rotary engine was successfully trialed in a Sports Prinz a few years before it was introduced in the Ro80.

The Audi 100 Coupe S was the car that saved Audi's fortunes. Volkswagen struggled to decide what to do with Audi and for a time considered turning the entire factory over to the production of Volkswagens, which at that time were still selling as fast as they could be built. With Volkswagen management slashing research and development budgets and sacking Audi managers left and right, the research team initiated a secret sports car project. The prototype was unveiled to Volkswagen Managing Director Heinz Nordhoff in 1968 and he greenlighted the project shortly before he died. The car went on sale in 1970 and was a popular seller.

The modern Karmann Ghia, the Audi TT. A smart coupe and cabriolet body over standard Volkswagen running gear

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