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Auto Union Type 52 brought to life after 90 years

Words: Glen Waddington | Images: Audi

A three-seat mid-engined fastback bred from the Auto Union racing cars of the 1930s, drawn-up by Ferdinand Porsche and powered by a 200bhp version of the Auto Union Type A’s 4.4-litre V16 engine? Sounds like a dream. And in the words of Stefan Trauf, head of Audi Tradition, that dream has finally come true: ‘For me, it is an absolute dream car. In its day, unfortunately, it remained only a dream – one that we are now able to bring to life.’

Audi has today unveiled the Type 52 ‘Schnellsportwagen’ at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a GT racer that has foundations in the 1930s ‘Silver Arrows’ era but which was never built – until now. The name translates as ‘fast sports car’, and there had been plans for it to be sold to customers for road-racing in events such as the Mille Miglia or at Le Mans, but the Type 52 didn’t proceed beyond the drawing board and the project foundered in 1935. 

Documents, plans and design sketches survived, however, and now, nearly 90 years on, the car has finally been completed. It’s the result of a painstaking construction process over the last decade, in conjunction with British historic racing car specialist Crosthwaite and Gardiner – already known for its re-creations of Auto Union Silver Arrows racers for Audi’s own collection, which the Type 52 joins.

Its engine is incredibly sonorous, like the sound of an orchestra. And the design will practically blow you away – it’s genius!

Auto Union Type 52 brought to life after 90 years

Its engine is incredibly sonorous, like the sound of an orchestra. And the design will practically blow you away – it’s genius!

The sleek and stunning streamliner is built on a ladder-frame chassis with torsion-bar suspension and hydraulic dampers. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is finished in the same silver hue as the Grand Prix cars. It features a central driving position with two passengers set slightly aft, one on each side, in an interior with suitably luxurious appointments such as a wooden dash as per the luxurious Horch road cars of that era. A further development is the fitment of an engine to Type C specification, a supercharged 6.0-litre V16 that runs on methanol to produce a maximum output of 520PS at 4500rpm!

Racing driver Hans-Joachim Stuck, himself a Formula 1, Le Mans and Touring Car veteran and the son of Silver Arrows racer Hans Stuck, is demonstrating the Type 52 on the Goodwood hill. ‘The Schnellsportwagen is simply breathtaking,’ he said. ‘Its engine is incredibly sonorous, like the sound of an orchestra. And the design will practically blow you away – it’s genius!’

A full feature on the Type 52 is planned for a forthcoming issue of Octane magazine.

Auto Union Typ 52

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