HISTORIC INSIGHT

Auto-Unions reborn

At the EifelKlassic meeting in early October, the ranks of significant prewar racing cars running today were expanded by a spectacular duo — not one, but two Auto-Union Grand Prix cars. Rumours of A-Us began to circulate a couple of years ago; such rediscoveries are usually kept secret before their unveiling, but that is extra-hard when there are only a few restoration shops around which could handle such a project. One of these is Crosthwaite & Gardner in E Sussex, where odd cases of unloved steel and alloy parts began to arrive in the late Eighties. They came in dribs and drabs because the project's instigators, Americans Paul and Barbara Karassik, were painstakingly tracking parts down inside the USSR, where the bulk of racing A-U hardware ended up after the war. The Auto-Union racing works at Zwickau was in what became East Germany, and it is estimated that between 10 and 18 racing cars were taken to Russia, ostensibly to import high-level technical knowledge to the Motherland. But little constructive use was made of them, and they became distributed around a variety of technical colleges throughtout the country to be used for student instruction, and gradually forgotten.

As a dealer in high-quality European cars, particularly Mercedes, Paul Karassik was used to tactful negotiations in Eastern Bloc countries — when I spoke to him he had just imported a "Grosser" Mercedes 770 to the US from Bulgaria. Further, being of Russian extraction and a Russian speaker, he was able to negotiate the export of parts as he found them, indeed ferrying much of it out himself. He even transported one of the chassis himself, having checked it would just squeeze into his Mercedes van.

The hunt began in 1980, and it soon became clear that there were parts for two cars there for the finding. According to the Karassiks, the parts retrieved included one complete and one partial chassis, and two more or less complete engines. Both were V12s (only one V16 exists, in the museum at Riga): the first, completed earlier this year by C&G, is a 1938 car with the single-stage Supercharging. VAG at Ingolstadt, the inheritors of the A-U line, have been extremely helpful, supplying some 100 or so drawings many of which only became available after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and Audi historian Dr Kirchberg is confident that the 1938 car is chassis 19, which raced at Donington that year wearing No 4, driven by Nuvolari. That car has been on loan to the VAG museum since completion.

The other is a 1939 car with two-stage supercharging, and appears to be that raced by Stuck and Hasse at the Eifelrennen in that year. Though they look similar, the bodies are different, making re-panelling twice the job for coachbuilder Rod Jolley. Paul Karassik was able to drive the '38 car late last year "somewhere in England", but the Eifelklassik demo was the first time both cars have been seen publicly. There are no plans to race the two silver cars, but they will be demonstrated at various events.G C

Footnote: while doing some research for the Karassiks, I noticed a nice bit of disinformation reported in MOTOR SPORT'S Continental Notes, during 1936. When the V16 cars were current, rumours arose of a possible V12 successor for the new 1937 formula. A prototype was practiced with its bodywork firmly kept shut; it had 16 projecting exhaust pipes — but when it was started, it was noticeable that smoke issued from only 12 of them!

No More Classic Marathon

The famous Classic Marathon will not run again. Philip Young, who conceived and created the first Marathon in 1988, and thereby kick-started classic rallying, one of the motor-sporting success stories of recent times, has decided that after running seven of the gruelling endurance events, the lack of a solid main sponsor threatens the worth of the event. Rather than see it weakened through resources being too thinly spread, he has decided to practice euthanasia on it and concentrate his team's skills on the Monte Carlo Challenge, which is more and more over-subscribed each year, and on bringing new events into being. (Young recently met with organisers of the Safari Rally to discuss a Historic element to the event).

The Marathon's foray away from the Alps and across to Morocco in 1993 was an interesting diversion which might point the way to future projects, but it was as an Alpine event it will be remembered, dramatically breaking away from the idea of gentle pottering in old cars and substituting serious car-stretching competition over some of the toughest mountain passes in Europe. Yet one of its delights was that steady driving and fault-free navigation could reward small cars as well as big with the treasured Alpine Cup. Only seven drivers managed to win Gold Cups, for gaining three successive Alpine Cups, and their achievement will not now be diluted. Meanwhile Young's conception has blossomed into scores of classic rallies around the world, but for those of us who competed on the early Pirelli Classics, before sense and regularity prevailed, they'll never be the same. G C

Mille Miglia Dates

Next year's Mille Miglia retro-run takes place from 18-21 May 1995 and expects to draw 330 cars, starting from Brescia at 8.15 on the Thursday evening. The regularities, the only competitive element, will be revised, and there will be a points coefficient according to the desirability, or MM significance, of the car. Thus stars like Mercedes 300SLR, Alfa 2.9 and certain Ferraris have their scores boosted by the top factor of 1.50, while the poor relations on scratch are A35, Fiat 600, MG ZA Magnette and BMW 502. Well, yes, it might look silly for an A35 to beat an MM competition spider, but I thought the whole point of regularity was to even up the little car's chances against the big ones? Entries close 31st December; AC Brescia's number is 010 39 30 280 036. GC