Audi 1700. A Luxury Family Saloon with High-Compression Mittel-druckmotor. “The Auto-Union Powered by Mercedes-Benz”
The name Audi is unfamiliar in post-war Britain. But this new car bearing an old German name is significant as the first to be produced by the Volkswagen/Mercedes-Benz controlled Auto-Union combine, particularly as it is yet another family saloon driven through the front wheels and more especially because its 4-cylinder four-stroke engine has a unique combustion chamber, formed in the double piston crown, and swirl induction, which enables it to use the very high compression-ratio of 11.2 to 1 while consuming premium petrol.
Before describing what it is like to drive this new Audi with a c.r. higher than those of any other production car with the exception of the Iso Rivolta, which claims a c.r. of 11.25 to t (the next highest is the 11.0-to-1 c.r. of the A.C. Cobra and 289, while the Pontiac GTO has a 10.75 cr., but these engines use normal cylinder heads and call for high octane-rating fuels), let us look briefly at the history of the Auto-Union concern which is building it alongside the two-stroke D.K.W. cars at Ingolstadt in West Germany.
August Horch began building his Horch cars in 1899 and in 1909 left this organisation to make the Audi at Zwickau, this name being a Latin one suggested by one of Horch’s colleagues in order to avoid confusion with another Horch company operating at the time in Saxony. From the commencement the Audi was a sports car and it was a make which achieved success in the Austrian Alpine Trials up to the outbreak of the First World War, the 14/35-h.p. Audi being particularly successful.
After the Armistice Audi was absorbed by Auto-Union and became a front-wheel-drive car on the lines of the later two-stroke twin-cylinder Auto-Union D.K.W.s then current, but meeting middle-class requirements (as today’s Audi 1700 is claimed to do) by reason of a sophisticated 6-cylinder wet-liner engine with aluminiuin cylinder block, 4-speed overdrive transmission, servo brakes and stylish coachwork, often in the best German drophead tradition. The 1934 f.w.d. Audi, for example, had an engine capacity of 1,949 c.c. and developed 40 b.h.p.
In fact, the post-1918 Auto-Union combine was an amalgamation, in 1932, of Audi, D.K.W., Horch and Wanderer, factories in Saxony and Berlin employing 28,000 workers. Horch represented the carriage-trade business, Audi supplied the middle-class market, D.K.W. the economy two-stroke field, While the Wanderer came somewhere between D.K.W. and Audi, as evidenced by the W24 model of 1937, with its 1.8-litre 42-b.b.p. 4-stroke engine. The Horch rivalled the luxurious Mercedes-Benz models, in straight-eight I20-b.h.p. form.
Fame came to the name Auto-Union and its 4-ring symbol representing the four different makes it fostered, from the mid nineteen thirties onwards, by reason of the titanic battles in the leading Grand Prix races between the rear-engined Auto-Unions designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and the Mercedes-Benz team. During the between-wars period the Audi had emerged, first as the post-Armistice 14/50 model with light-alloy engine and ball-gate gear-change (as on the Italian Lancia Lambda and first Rolls-Royce Twenty), followed in 1923 by the 6-cylinder 18/70 Audi, a very advanced car with overhead valves actuated by a high-set -camshaft, an 8-bearing crankshaft, an oil-cooler, one-shot chassis lubrication and hydraulic brakes, while this Audi chassis was endowed with Jarary fully-streamlined body work. Next came the 8-cylinder 19/100 Audi Imperator. followed by the 8-cylinder 100-b.h.p. Audi Zwickau and the 6-cylinder Dresden. The economic crisis forced Audi to combine with J.S. Rasmussen A.G. who owned the Zschopauer engine factories (D.K.W.), and this became, as stated, the Auto-Union concern, Wanderer A.G. coming in soon afterwards.
At the end of the Second World War Auto-Union began supplying, in 1949, spare parts for the many pre-war D.K.W. cars still in use, and very soon a new factory was built at Dusseldorf for the production of the new Auto-Union D.K.W. cars with 3-cylinder two-stroke engine driving the front wheels, as cribbed by Saab in Sweden. By 1953 the 200,000 th car since the end of hostilities left the factory, and in 1958 the great engineering concern of Daimler-Benz. A.G. took over financial control of Auto Union. This gave new life to this long-established manufacturer of two-stroke cars and the Auto-Union 1000, D.K.W. Junior and the F.11. F.12 and finally the Auto-Union-D.K.W. F.102 emerged, road-tests of which will be found in back numbers of Motor Sport. When I visited the factory some years ago it was still very old-world; the executives were dedicated to making nothing but two-stroke cars, but weren’t sure why.