The first Audi advertising with the ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ slogan appeared 40 years ago, in 1971. Even then this technical leadership claim was well and truly justified. If we look back another 40 years we find DKW, one of the companies that later became Audi, introducing its F1 model at the 1931 International Automobile Exhibition in Berlin – the world’s first high-volume production car with front-wheel drive.
75 years ago, one of the most dramatic chapters in the whole of motor sport history began. On May 27, 1934 the German racing cars that were soon to acquire the nickname “Silver Arrow” were entered for their first race, on the Avus racetrack in Berlin. Although neither Auto Union, the company from which Audi in its present-day form developed later, nor Mercedes Benz won that event, it was not long before these two manufacturers began to dominate international Grand Prix racing, a situation that prevailed until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. It seems almost incredible today, but by 1936 the Auto Union racing cars were reaching speeds of up to 380 kilometres an hour on the long straights of the Avus circuit – truly, the birth of a legend.
The most famous DKW motorcycle racer ever stood out for having supreme driving skills and a will of steel – two powerful qualities that formed the launch pad for a unique racing career. Ewald Kluge would have celebrated his 100th birthday next week, having been born on January 19, 1909 in Lausa in the German state of Saxony.
2008 is the 70th anniversary of the death of the illustrious Auto Union racing driver Bernd Rosemeyer. He was killed when his Auto Union streamliner racing car crashed during an attempt to break the world record on the autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt. Audi Tradition will be laying a wreath at the memorial on what is now the A5 autobahn. Audi Tradition and the August Horch Museum, Zwickau, will also be organising a congress in memory of Bernd Rosemeyer on January 28, 2008.
Of the many rally victories recorded by Audi in the 1980s, the last one was particularly memorable: 20 years ago, on 11 July 1987, Walter Röhrl and his Audi Sport quattro S1 won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in the US state of Colorado.
Following Audi’s withdrawal from the World Rally Championship in the previous year, this success marked the seamless transition of “Vorsprung durch Technik” into series production. After the company retired from rallying, quattro technology continued its success story on the road – Audi has sold 2.5 million cars with permanent four-wheel drive up to the present day.
Four interlinked rings: this was the symbol of the merger of Saxony's four car companies Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer that led to the formation of Auto Union AG precisely 75 years ago, on 29 June 1932. By the late 1930s, one in four cars in Germany was built by Auto Union AG and sported the four-ring badge on its radiator grille. Auto Union AG was created as a result of this merger, becoming the second-largest car manufacturer in Germany. To this day, the four rings remain the signet of AUDI AG. Thomas Frank, Head of Audi Tradition, explains: "The four rings embody one of the leading international suppliers of exclusive cars and are a visible expression of brand identity and quality – while at the same time acting as a bridge between the past, present and future."
A legend of the automotive world is celebrating its centenary this year: DKW. The company from Zschopau in Saxony originally planned to build steam-driven vehicles, yet ultimately rose to fame courtesy of its two-stroke engine. DKW had already become the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in the late 1920s, and then in the 1930s was the first company to mass-produce vehicles with front-wheel drive. DKW produced the pre-war period’s answer to Volkswagen, the F-series small cars, in astonishing numbers. Audi Tradition is marking the anniversary of its predecessor brand by entering DKW classic cars in a whole host of events, including the Mille Miglia and the Gran Premio Nuvolari in Italy, the Concours d’Elegance in Bergerac, France, the Silvretta Classic and Ennstal Classic in Austria, and of course the “100 Years of Rasmussen” festival in the town of Zschopau on 26 August.
In these next few days it will be the 50th anniversary of Hermann Paul Müller’s World Motorcycle Championship title for NSU. Müller, who answered to the name “Renntiger” (race tiger), was the first privateer to win the World Championship in the 250 cc class. He recorded over 200 victories – not just on two wheels – and was one of the German motor racers who were prevented from enjoying a truly great career by the Second World War.
September 11th, 2004 is the 50th anniversary of the death of Rupert Hollaus. The 23-year-old Austrian had just become world champion in the 125cc class on his NSU when he was involved in a fatal accident during training for the final race in Monza. As the decision to withdraw from motor sport-related production came soon after this event, the 1954 Monza race meeting is not only associated with the tragic death of Rupert Hollaus, but was also the final appearance of the highly successful factory team run by NSU, the company that later became part of the Audi Group.
Former Auto Union racing driver Achille Varzi would have turned 100 on August 4th. The Italian was one of the world’s best drivers until the mid-1930s and was considered in his home country to rival the legendary Tazio Nuvolari on equal terms. In the course of an exceptional career, Varzi won 28 Grand Prix events in eleven years including the most difficult races, and was admired for his sober, efficient driving style. Achille Varzi was a member of the Auto Union team from 1935 to 1937. He won the Tunis Grand Prix and the Coppa Acerbo in cars bearing the four-ring badge in 1935, and the Tripoli Grand Prix in 1936.
Bernd Rosemeyer, one of the most exceptional racing drivers in German motor racing history, died 65 years ago. The then 28-year old was killed in a world record attempt on 28 January 1938 when his Auto Union Streamliner rolled over several times at some 440 km/h on the Frankfurt to Darmstadt autobahn. AUDI AG, as the traditional successor to Auto Union AG Chemnitz, will lay a wreath in memory of the famous racing driver at the site of the accident on the present-day A5 between Frankfurt and Heidelberg (in the direction of Darmstadt, commemorative stone at the first car park after the Langen-Mörfelden exit).
Three silver anniversaries this year: Audi Tradition is looking back at three important events in the history of Audi, which were not only of importance to the brand with the four rings but had far-reaching consequences in automotive history.
A new company bearing the name Auto Union GmbH came into being on September 3, 1949 in Ingolstadt, to uphold the automotive tradition of the four rings. It is this company that is the actual precursor of the present-day AUDI AG. From its base in West Germany, its purpose was now to maintain the tradition that the former Auto Union AG had established in Saxony.
Further information about the official fuel consumption figures and official, specific CO2 emissions of new passenger cars can be found in the “Guide to fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and electricity consumption of new cars,” which is available free of charge from all sales outlets and from DAT (Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH), Hellmuth-Hirth-Strasse 1, 73760 Ostfildern-Scharnhausen, Germany (http://www.dat.de).