Many enthusiasts – this author and, in general, all of the writers at GCFSB included – complain that cars have gotten too complex, too heavy, too isolating. An increasing reliance on computer controls to save poor driving skills and reign in huge horsepower certainly produces impressive numbers on the track. But, somehow the charts of ‘Ring lap times, superbike-embarassing 0-60 times and dyno numbers has taken an important aspect out of driving – the driver. However, at the same time that there has been an explosion of horsepower numbers and proliferation of computer controls, there has been a backlash of simple, enjoyable cars to drive. Models like the Elise proved you didn’t need a 10 cam, quad turbocharged V20 to go fast. Utilizing a relatively cheap and reliable inline-4 and adding lightness, the Elise takes the electronics out and relies on you paying attention to everything that is going on in the car to go fast – yet, fast it goes. Similar cars like the Ariel Atom, Opel Speedster/VX220, BAC Mono and, yes, even the Mazda Miata have followed the same recipe. But we’ve got one today I’m betting you probably have never heard of in the YES! Roadster Turbo. As the engineers from Lotus did, the team of Funke and Will from YES! took some proven parts from the Volkswagen and Audi catalogue and dropped them into the middle of an aluminum frame, added some spice and styling that channeled the Audi TT, Opel Speedster, Lotus Elise, the Spyker C8 and a little Lamborghini inspiration and produced one cool little package:
From yesterday’s end of the run B2 Audi 90, today we have another special feature on a unique Audi. While the B3 heavily revised the safety, aerodynamics, comfort and luxury for the small Audi range, weight went up and power was effectively the same, meaning that the B3 was at a distinct performance disadvantage to the natural rival BMW. Audi did increase the amount of power that the B3 quattros had at their disposal with the introduction of the 7A 20V motor in 1990, but the twin-cam inline-5 wasn’t available in front drive Audis which sold in greater number. That gulf grew wider as BMW upped the power again with the new E36 chassis, now with the best part of 190 horsepower available in the 325i. To answer the competition, Audi heavily revised both its large and small chassis in for the 1991 and 1992 model years. The C4 model was introduced late in 1990 in Europe, and while Audi did away with the 200 model the new S4 ostensibly replaced it with even more sport. But the 100 saw massive changes too, with the introduction of automatic transmissions to the quattro range widening the appeal of the model. Though the V8 quattro had offered that option previously, it was a much more expensive model and the 100 was also available in Avant form. But the big change was under the hood, where a AAH 12 valve single cam 2.8 liter V6 replaced the previous NG/NF 2.3 naturally aspirated inline-5 and MC1/2 2.2 turbocharged inline-5 power units of the 100 quattro and front-drive and 200 Turbo front wheel drive models, respectively.
In the small chassis, Audi continued to offer two different chassis levels for the newly introduced for 1992 B4. Carrying over from the C4 range was the same 172 horsepower 2.8 V6, powering either all four wheels or the front wheels only.…
Familiar to U.S. fans as the Audi 4000, in the rest of the world Audi continued a naming tradition that dated back to the 1960s regarding engine output. Most of the models didn’t make it here, but prior to the 1980s there were Audi 50s, 60s, 80s and 100s. The original B1 80 was also called the Fox here, not to be confused with the later Volkswagen Fox model. When Audi switched to the B2 chassis, the U.S. nomenclature changed to the 4000 most remember. And there were several engine configurations available initially, including a diesel, turbo diesel, inline-4 and inline-5 motor in both 2 and 4 door configuration, along with the stablemate Coupe GT model though the designations no longer aligned with engine power. By the time Audi progressed to 1984 and the introduction of the 80/4000 quattro, though, engine choices dwindled. In the Coupe GT, you could only get the 5-cylinder motor – effectively the same motor that was available in the quattro but with a slightly different exhaust manifold that netted 5 more horsepower in the sedan. Otherwise, if you bought a 4000 front drive model, you got a 1.8 inline-4 that was shared with the Volkswagen model range. This continued with the refreshed models in 1985, with the only further engine change being the later 1987.5 Coupe GTs switching to the NG 2.3 130 horsepower motor.
However, in Europe there were still many configurations you could get the B2 in. There were two model levels; 80 and 90, with the later being the more upscale version with more powerful motors. This would be seen in the U.S. later with the B3 run, but in Europe there were pretty substantial differences visually and mechanically between the 80 and 90. The 90 was, for all intents and purposes, a Coupe GT under the skin.…
Although BMW’s E28 M5 gets most of the laurels and notoriety for being the first super sedan, the reality is that for an entire two generations before the launch of BMW’s Motorsport branded sedan, Mercedes-Benz had led the way with a series of large V8 powered luxury sedans. The first was really the W100 “Grosser” 600, powered by the M100 6.3 V8. Producing 250 horsepower and 370 lb.ft of torque, it was a match for the hefty mass of the 600, though that car was certainly not a sports car. Mercedes then followed the 600 with a more sporting model, mounting the same M100 into the 300SEL 6.3. With a 0-60 time of around 6 seconds, the lighter 300SEL was capable of hanging with some of the most notable sports cars of the day. When production of the W109 chassis was ceased in 1972, Mercedes moved the massive V8 into the new W116 chassis. Launched in 1975 with a tremendous amount of revisions to the M100, the now 6.9 liter V8 produced nearly 300 horsepower in European trim and over 400 lb.ft of torque – a full decade before the M5 hit the market.
Into the 1980s, although Mercedes-Benz produced some potent V8s of its own it was the tuning firm AMG that took the reigns for performance, ultimately generating in the neighborhood of 400 horsepower from the M119 6.0 V8. After the merger of AMG into the Mercedes-Benz fold, they became the tuning wing of the company, but focus had moved on to inline-6 and V12 models. The big V8s returned in the W210 E55 with a respectable 349 horsepower, but supercharged versions later produced far more. By the mid 2000s, though, there was a horsepower war between the M5, RS6 and AMG models. In response to the 450-500 horsepower plus on tap from the competition, AMG upped the ante with a new M156 V8.…
Start of the 1939 German Grand Prix with Auto Union Type D and Mercedes-Benz W154 M163s – their last meeting in the nation of their birth
Yesterday saw an interesting comparison in racing; in F1, Mercedes-Benz once again dominated the field with seeming ease, dictating the pace and watching the strategy of its competitors from Maranello. While truth told my focus remained squarely on the Formula 1 race, there were several other popular race series running concurrently; both wildly popular Moto GP and World Endurance Championship races were contested as well. Notably, Audi won the WEC Silverstone 6-hour contest, continuing its quite remarkable run in endurance series amidst rumors that they could be heading to Formula 1. The question posed by me in my conclusion to the investigation of the Silver Arrows period is simply if the racing was necessary? There were other options in terms of racing for both companies to explore, and indeed they could also have taken the Opel strategy in no racing at all. Did the companies choose the right route?
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our readers for the positive feedback to this feature. It’s been wonderful for me to revisit this research and have the enthusiast community enjoy it. I’d also like to thank Dan and Paul at GCFSB for not only affording me the opportunity to put this research up, but indeed for encouraging me to do so. Though they’re not likely to be paying attention I’d like to thank the Saxony State Archives in Chemnitz and the staff at the Mercedes-Benz factory archives, both of which were very welcoming and accommodating during my time there. Lastly, I’d like to thank my family who has been both encouraging and patient while I’ve spent countless hours working on this site. Without further ado, please enjoy the conclusion!…
A 1936 Auto Union Type C sits below a similarly streamlined Junkers JU-86 at an exposition
As we saw in the last few installments, Daimler-Benz and Auto Union had heavily engaged in racing – a massive investment for both, pushing the boundaries of existing technology and redefining how motor racing was to be undertaken. The question in today’s installment was who this methodical approach to racing benefited the most. Was the government’s investment in racing worthwhile? Was Auto Union’s gamble on building an unconventional race car a success? Were the extremes to which Daimler-Benz was willing to stretch its racing budget realized in results over the competition? Today we look at some of the more pragmatic reasons behind the motivations of both companies and some of the ideology behind government which helps explain the involvement of both.
Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2
Link To Part 3
Link To Part 4
FIVE: FOR COMPANIES, GOVERNMENT, COUNTRY?
What can be said about the Renault 5 that hasn’t already been said? The R5 was a pioneering design, a monumental testament to the power of the French automobile industry. So confident were French engineers in the inherent superiority of their design that when it came to marketing the car in the United States, they simply called the R5 “Le Car”. Why else would any consumers buy anything else? This was, after all “THE CAR” – the only one you’d ever need. Notably, Ferrari has recently attempted to mimic the success of this marketing ploy with its new eco-friendly hybrid car, though it’s doubtful the Ferrari “The Ferrari” will ever be as memorable as the Renault “The Car”. The hot French hatch was an instant hit amongst U.S. consumers, who didn’t require such decadence as luxury, build quality, fuel economy, or performance in their cars. Sure, the GTi had more power and better handling. But looks? No, Marcello Gandini famously said “I have penned cars such as the Countach, Miura and Stratos, but I refer to the second generation refresh of the Renault 5 as my masterpiece”. And Renault made sure that this was a constantly evolving design by once again being a market leader and providing no rust proofing, ensuring that these cars would be on a steady weight-loss program. Okay, so truth told Renault did offer a performance version in the R5 Turbo. It was the worst car ever made, period. Where were you supposed to carry your baguettes, after all, since they mounted the motor in the back where your groceries and your guppies would be placed? No, smart consumers saw right through that ploy and bought what was a better and smarter long term value in the normal model.
Since it was really only a discerning few who saw through the market hype of the plethora of reliable and good performing Japanese and German automobile options in the 1980s to find the true diamond in the Renault, very few remain available today.…
A 1935 Auto Union Type B Streamliner used for both records and the annual Avus race in Berlin
This past weekend weekend we saw a bit of hubris and bad strategy lead to Mercedes-Benz losing to Ferrari in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Despite the massive investment and seemingly pedantic attention to detail, the same problems existed in the 1930s for the company. Increasingly Mercedes-Benz needed to differentiate itself from Auto Union by undertaking extreme efforts. These efforts were not always profitable; indeed, one could argue that – as we saw last week – since they were already having difficulty delivering cars thanks to raw material shortages, undertaking new forms of racing and record-breaking might have seemed ill-conceived for the company. However, still at stake was preferential treatment from the government, especially when it came to lucrative military contracts. As such, Mercedes-Benz undertook some unlikely projects to not only gain international prestige for the Daimler-Benz model range, but indeed to curry favor with the government.
Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2
Link To Part 3
FOUR : PUSHING THE LIMITS – THE GOVERNMENT GOES RACING
A Mercedes-Benz W125 leads an Auto Union Type C – the height of power for these Grand Prix cars in 1937
As we’ve seen in the last two parts, both the motivation and need was present for a concerted racing effort by the Germans. The promise of political and economic support from the government only sweetened the deal for both Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. What resulted, as we’ll see, redefined what it meant to go racing – not only for Germany, but for the world.
Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2
THREE : REDEFINING AUTOMOBILE RACING
In theory, the successful plan worked perfectly for all involved. The two car companies would gain international prestige for themselves while boosting domestic car sales through promotion of their abilities, while the government – their fairly public backer – gained support for the entire automobile industry, cash flow for the country through increases in sales and exports, and international prestige for Germany as a whole as well as promoting the modernity and advanced state of German technology. In practice, however, there was a drawback to the plan for the two companies. The problem derived from the rules and competing against one another for the same prize.
The rules presented a problem because in an attempt to quell every increasing speeds, the AIACR had established the 750kg maximum weight rule based on 1932 technology, believing that in order to go fast the car must be larger and heavier. This had certainly been the case in the past, whereby under free racing regulations constructors had merely installed two racing engines into the car and combined their efforts – with resulting staggering speed. However, under the new racing rules both Daimler-Benz and Auto-Union developed cars that met the requirements, yet provided even more powerful engines. The result was incredible speed, speed that had never been seen before at this level.…
1938 Coppa Acerbo – Mercedes-Benz W154s and Auto Union Type Ds leave the starting line
We’re going to run something a bit special over the coming few weeks; a bit of a history lesson. In light of the 2014 championship for Mercedes-Benz in Formula 1, I wanted to revisit some research I did in 2003-2004 as part of a Master’s program at the University of Cambridge. We take it for granted that large corporate sponsors and major automobile manufacturers engage in motorsports as a natural outlet and expression of their engineering prowess in order to help sell brand identity, brand loyalty and ultimately sell more cars, trucks and motorcycles. Yet, there was a period where this was not a certainty – indeed, in the early 1920s it was still presumed that racing was an endeavor only rich gentlemen partook in, much like horse racing. But the combination of two companies competing against each other, a government eager to tout the superiority of its products, and new technologies all combined in a very special period during the early 1930s. The reign of the Silver Arrows was only halted by the outbreak of war, yet during that period of roughly 6 years we saw some of the fastest, most powerful and most exotic designs be innovated by the two German marques that the world has ever witnessed. The Mercedes-Benz W125 would remain the most powerful Grand Prix car for 50 years, until the 1980s turbo era, and properly streamlined, they still hold closed-course records in Germany at 270 m.p.h. on the public Autobahn. The spectacle held not only Germans attention, but all of Europe looked on as these two Goliaths tried to outsmart and outspend each other. Ultimately, they went to extremes to prove their dominance and win the favor of the German people – but more importantly, the German government, who by the late 1930s increasingly held the purse strings to valuable commodities needed for the production of automobiles.…