1961 Auto Union 1000SP Coupe

The world of Auto Union is full of paradox. That the company even came into existence is itself somewhat of a fluke, but a harsh economic situation in Germany in the 1930s led four mostly failing companies to band together in the hope that united, they might survive. Out of that union was born the image of the four rings that today are worn proudly by the last remnant, and the least successful, of the original four – Audi. If that isn’t strange, the history of how we got to that point certainly is. Only one of the companies was truly successful when they banded together, and they produced primarily motorcycles, not cars. Yet only one year after being founded, the fledgling company put its technical prowess up against the might of the most storied car company in the world – indeed, the inventors of the automobile – Daimler-Benz. And by “its” technical prowess, I mean the technical prowess of one Ferdinand Porsche, himself an outcast of sorts from several car companies. His design was both unorthodox and unusual, with a single-cam supercharged 16 cylinder engine mounted in the middle of the car. Mind you, this was a full 25 years before Cooper would make the “revolutionary” change that would be the accepted practice of all modern Formula One cars. With entirely new suspension designs and strange handling behaviors – never mind enough torque to jump start an industrial production line and tires that would consequently disintegrate immediately or fuel that was really just a high explosive in liquid form – the Auto Union Grand Prix cars shared nothing in common with the road-going models marketed by the company, who at the start of the 1930s didn’t even produce what could loosely be identified as a sports car.

Yet, it worked.

Auto Union may numerically have not won as many races as Mercedes-Benz did over the same period, but they established themselves on the same level – no small feat, considering the company. They won races, championships and set records and were primed with new luxury, smart economy and even sports vehicles to capitalize on their great success at the race track and in the record books. And then, World War II broke out, and as fate would have it Auto Union’s primary headquarters were in Saxony. For those of you who aren’t particularly fond of maps, Saxony happens to be exactly where the Russians ended up advancing into in 1945. Mired in what would become East Germany, there didn’t appear to be much hope for Auto Union and it seemed they were relegated to the history books. But in 1949 the company was relaunched, now based in Ingolstadt – not far from its old rivals. The brand that had previously been the bread and butter of Auto Union’s sales – DKW – would carry the four rings and continue to make economy cars, but little else remained from the former glory of Auto Union. Indeed, even DKW itself was full of contradictions; the name derived from “Steam Powered Car” in German (Dampf-Kraft Wagen), yet the company hadn’t produced a steam car since the late teens. Their current lineup continued the strange trend with oxymoronic names like “3=6”. Math not being their strong suit, DKW alternatively called the car F900, F91, and finally “Sonderklasse”, though there was no longer a non-Sonder model. The underpinnings would make Swedes smile, with a two-stroke inline-3 powering the front wheels. And from these modest bones the only officially badged “Auto Union” was created – the 1000SP. With a bit more power and styling borrowed from an American classic, it was a special car:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1961 Auto Union 1000SP Coupe on eBay


Year: 1961
Model: 1000SP Coupe
Engine: 1.0 liter two-stroke inline-3
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Mileage: 36,308 mi
Price: No Reserve Auction

Completely restored in 2016. One of only 5000 built, only 3 owners since 1961.

VIN Number: 6812693681

Engine Number: 88616010113 – AU100S

Mileage: 36308

Engine: 55 hp, Single Solex carburetor, water cooled

Gearbox: 4-speed manual

Brakes: Drum

Weight: 960 kilogram (2120 pounds)

Top Speed: 140 km/h (87 mph)

We can assist with shipping. Shipping to New York is approximately 1,200 USD, Los Angeles is 1,500 USD and Continental Europe between 500 to 900 Euro.

History:

The Auto Union 1000 (was a compact front-wheel-drive automobile manufactured by Auto Union between 1958 and 1965. It was the first (and in many markets the last) model branded as an Auto Union by the manufacturer. As well as acting as an umbrella firm for its four constituent brands (Audi, Horch, DKW, Wanderer).

Auto Union is widely known for its racing team (Auto Union Rennabteilung, based at Horch works in Zwickau/Saxony). The Silver Arrows of these two German teams (Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union) dominated not only GP car racing from 1934 onwards, but set records that would take decades to beat, such as the fastest speed ever attained on a public road (at 432.7 km/h (268.9mph), unbroken as of 2013). After being reduced to near ruin in the aftermath of World War II, Auto Union was re-founded in Ingolstadt, Bavaria in 1949, ultimately evolving into the modern day Audi company following its takeover by Volkswagen in 1964 and later merger with NSU Motorenwerke in 1969.

Appearing in 1958 was the Auto Union 1000 Sp (Sp = Special hardtop), the most powerful and desirable Auto Union 1000 model, a low-slung two-seater sports car that was produced for Auto Union by the Stuttgart coach builders, Baur. The fixed-head version was joined in 1961 by a cabriolet. Adorned with tail fins, the stylish modern look of the car gave rise to the “baby Thunderbird” (schmalspur Thunderbird) soubriquet in the press, and belied the fact that it was, under the skin, another Auto Union 1000, albeit one with an increased compression ratio and a claimed maximum of 55 bhp (41 kW) to place on the road. The 1000 Sp was lower but not (assuming only two people were in the car) significantly lighter than the standard-bodied saloon: a claimed maximum speed of 140 km/h (87 mph) nevertheless put its performance at the top of the range.

For a one-off, the 1000SP managed to be one of the better looking 1960s products. Sure, it was a shrunken Thunderbird design and that wasn’t particularly original, but then look closely and you’ll see some design elements that were incorporated into Mercedes-Benz models like the W113 which it preceded by half a decade. It’s still pretty obscure though and doesn’t enjoy either the reputation nor the enthusiasts base that many Mercedes products do. However, on the flip side it’s also significantly more affordable than the equivalent Benz products, and while the fit and finish may not be world class, the 1000SP is certainly a beautiful car. Bidding is frankly pretty quiet, as usually the Coupes of this nature are valued in the $20,000 range with the cabriolets drawing stronger money. For a very limited production car of this nature and restoration, that seems like a deal. While the underpinnings may be pedestrian, the pedigree of the rings that adorn this classic Auto Union are priceless. It may have had nothing in common with the Grand Prix racers mentioned in the advertisement, but its curious existence is thanks to them and for that (if nothing else) we can be thankful.

On a side note, take a look at the cars that surround the 1000SP in the photos – a trip down classic car lane itself! I especially love seeing the P1800ESs but there’s a lot of obscurity to gawk at.

-Carter

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2 Comments

  1. Very nice. Was this considered the German answer to the original T-Bird?

  2. @Tim – not really an answer, I think just a flattering copy. The Thunderbird had already moved on to a more luxurious design by the time this car was launched, and had much more power and was more expensive.

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