Auto Union (1949-1984): History of The Four Rings, Part 2

Auto Union GmbH (1949)

Audi-Logo: Neues Corporate Design

With the Red Army quickly advancing on Zwickau immediately after the war, and faced with the prospect of trying to salvage what was left of the company, Auto Union’s executives had no option but to flee and re-establish the company on Western side of the partitioned Germany. Thus a new Auto Union company was launched in Ingolstadt, Bavaria with loans from the Bavarian state government and Marshall Plan aid.

The reformed company Auto Union GmbH was launched on 3 September 1949. The Ingolstadt facility had been run purely as a spare parts operation since 1945, but eventually the directors found the funding to restart production – initially in a converted granary building in the town. With West Germany still in the early stages of rebuilding its economy after the war, the demand for cheap transport meant that only the DKW brand would survive into the postwar era. The luxury focused Audi and Horch brands were placed into dormancy, whilst Wanderer had been the property of its original parent firm. Auto Union therefore continued DKW’s tradition of producing affordable front-wheel drive vehicles with two-stroke engines. This included production of the small but sturdy DKW RT 125 W motorcycle and a delivery van known as DKW F89L Schnellaster. Many employees of the Saxony factories in the Saxony factories in Zwickau (Audi and Horch factories), Chemnitz (Siegmar plant, former Wanderer) and Zschopau (DKW Motorcycle factory) came to Ingolstadt and restarted the production.

DKW 3=6 Sonderklasse F91

This model was first presented in 1953. The model designation 3=6 refers to the three-cylinder two-stroke engine used for the first time which was said to have the power and refinement of a six-cylinder four-stroke engine. Developed before the war, the market launch scheduled for 1940 was prevented by the outbreak of war. The DKW 3=6 was to become a great success 13 years later. Produced until 1959 – from autumn 1955 the “Large” 3=6 F93 was also very successful in rallying.

DKW 3=6 Monza

On the private initiative of the sports car drivers Heinz Meiner, Gunter Ahrens and Abrecht-Wolf Mantzel, a sports car with a plastic body on the chassis of the DKW 3=6 was developed in 1955/56. With this car, the team Meier-Ahrens-Theiler-Barbay sets a whole series of new world records in Class G (up to 1,100cc) on the Monza speedway in 1956. The capability of the DKW three-cylinder engine could be demonstrated impressively. In the years 1956 to 1960, 230 units of the DKW 3=6 Monza, which were also distributed through the dealer network of Auto Union, were built under private direction.

DKW Junior Kleinwagen

The small DKW Junior was the most successful model in Auto Union’s post-war history. The Junior presented in 1959 was a typical DKW with front-wheel drive and three-cylinder two-stroke engine. The torsion-bar front and rear suspension was a new feature. Its design satisfied the prevailing taste and used unmistakably American stylistic elements, such as the suggestion of tail fins and the “shark” radiator grille. A new plant was set up in Ingolstadt for the production of the Junior; this became Auto Union’s number one address from 1962.

Auto Union 1000 Sp

A motor journalist wrote about the 1000 Sp that it is a “Thunderbird with a speech defect” and in doing so referred to the stuttering noise of the two-stroke engine in neutral gear. With its American design, the 1000 Sp again agreed with the prevailing taste of the late 1950s. The futuristic form with its panorama windshield, the shark grille, and the tail fins earned it the name “Sputnik” in everyday speech. In March of 1965, the Ingolstadt plant produced the last one of a total 6,644 1000Sps.

Continued on next page

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