For some time, the fate of Audi seemed sealed. Post World War II, Auto Union GmbH’s production was focused on the DKW automobiles that fit into the European economic situation much better than the pre-War luxury cars from Horch and Audi. But the market was changing, and Auto Union launched the very pretty 1000SP Coupe and Convertible. But, there was no denying that the 1000SP looked like a 1950s car in a 1960s world. Audi’s production would really have to wait until the launch of the C1 chassis in 1968; prior to that, some re-badged DKW models wore the Audi name but sold only in small numbers. The C1 would prove to be a pretty popular model, though, and the new 100 model would be available as both a sedan and as a 2-door “Coupe S” model. The lines of that model, as with the 1000SP, mimicked more expensive and famous cars such as the Fiat Dino and Aston Martin DBS. It was a pretty large departure from the mini-Thunderbird look of the 1000SP and much more modern. But, it appears that there may have been a missing link developed in the mid-1960s:
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:
My knowledge of Audis has a pretty large gap between Auto Union racers and the late 70s, so I claim no expertise on this find, but I know it’s cool. Who knew cars could have Four Rings AND finned fenders!? The Auto Union 1000 was made from 1957 to 1963 with 1,000cc two-stroke engines. The 1000Sp was the 2+2 variation with sporting pretensions, made as a coupe until 1962 when a convertible was made available too. This is a pretty cool car as it was the last generation of Audi/Auto Union cars before VW took ownership.
Some background from the seller:
A rare find indeed! This 1960 Auto Union 1000Sp was found in the hills of California. The body panels are straight and 95% of the car is present. There are two separate 3 cylinder, two stroke motors that go with the car, along with all of the parts for under the hood. There is a third aluminum head and a “one-off” custom intake that I was told was to use three Suzuki motorcycle carbs on it. The frame and suspension of the car appear solid and straight. The rear seat area of the floor has rust through as does the entire trunk pan area. Serious attention will be needed in these areas. There is one dent at the seam of the front fender and drivers door, easily repairable. The car currently has the trans-axle in it, however the motor and accessory parts are out of the car and boxed up. The interior parts and pieces are present but also will require much attention. The gauge cluster is present and in good condition. Speedometer is in MPH.
This is a full restoration car, but a good solid start to a rare German automobile. Don’t miss your opportunity to purchase this unique exotic sports car. It is both concourse and historic race eligible following restoration. A truly rare barn find in good condition ready to finish to your liking.
Obviously a work-intensive project, it seems to be rusty but pretty complete. Current bid is $3,500 with 5 days left, so if you have a penchant for obscure post-war German oddities, this could be your chance!
Here is a a unique opportunity to own the German equivalent of the 1955 Ford Thunderbird. Great looking little coupe at a $22,400 buy it now. The Thunderbird does have it over the DKW in terms of power, with this engine being a tricky 3 cylinder two stroke powering the front wheels. I wasn’t sure what to expect soundwise from an engine like this, two-strokes can really sound awful, but check out the videos online from inside a 1000SP on the road. The 3-2 combo sounds great, you get the sense that you are going a lot faster than you actually are.
The seller provides some good history and promotes the rarity of the vehicle. The seller says this one is # 202, so it is an early car, out of the 5000 built. This one has just over 1,000 miles on the engine, no mention of how many the rest of the car has traveled.
If you want to stand out with out being overly ostentatious at your local car show this is the car for you. Plus you Audi guys have to like the four ring logo on the trunk. It is hard to say what the investment potential here is. At this point I’d guess most all the good 1000SPs left driving are probably being well maintained so numbers shouldn’t shrink anymore. The early production # may make this an appealing collector piece if fully restored as the seller suggests.
This car appears to be in good company as that looks like a Euro Mercedes silbergrün 450SEL lurking in the background in some of the pictures.
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