I mean, how do you value something like that? Well for Audi, securing the return of a 1939 Auto Union Silver Arrow Twin-Supercharger Type D, I guess is priceless, although it means they now own 3 of the 5 Auto Union racing cars that can be claimed to be original. No purchase price has been given for the car, but it’s got a dramatic story and we thought you might be interested in reading how the car disappeared and was found again.
Well way back in the 1930’s, both Mercedes and Auto Union were big names on the motor racing scene. Both car makers chose silver as the colour to represent Germany and between them; they dominated racing on Europe’s Grand Prix circuits, without any serious competition until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
The futuristic design of these cars with their 12 cylinder or 16 cylinder engines saw them reach speeds of more than 300km/h and on one of the long straights of the Avus circuit in Berlin, one of the cars was timed at 380 km/h, without any appreciable driver or spectator safety being in place, so these were wild times.
The Second World War brought an abrupt end to this era and even after Germanys total collapse, somehow, Mercedes Benz were able to rescue most of its Silver Arrows, whilst fate wasn’t so kind to Auto Union as the Russian army found the stored Auto Union Silver Arrows and carried them off to the Soviet Union as part of reparation payments and as you might expect, in such a large country and with little regulation, they soon disappeared.
The cold war saw an “iron curtain” descend across Europe, so not much happened until in the 70’s when rumors began to mount that one of the cars had been located in the Soviet Union. A wealthy American collector Paul Karassik who’s family came from Germany and who in fact, as a boy saw the cars race at the last Grand Prix held before WW2 in Belgrade, before he and his family emigrated to the USA and he became a wealthy man, began a series of trips to Europe to try and find the iconic missing car and he was undoubtedly helped in his search because he came from a white Russian family, had grown up in Serbia and spoke fluent Russian.
It took more than ten years and numerous visits to the USSR before he tracked down the remains of two dismantled Auto Union cars in Russia and the Ukraine and, with great negotiating skill, was able to buy them.
This was followed by several hair-raising journeys, often at the wheel of a delivery van, before he was able to bring the parts out through the Iron Curtain to Western Europe. The engines, chassis, axles and gearboxes were then flown to Florida in the USA.
In the autumn of 1990, Paul Karassik made initial contact with experts, including in May 1991 the AUDI AG Tradition department, which acted as advisors for the planned restoration. The Karassiks entrusted the rebuilding of their racing cars to the English company Crosthwaite & Gardiner, which already possessed the extensive know-how needed for the restoration of historic racing cars. After detailed examination of the racing cars’ components, it was decided to rebuild a Type D single-supercharger racing car to 1938 specification and a Type D racing car in the 1939 version with twin supercharger. In both cases a complete replica body had to be constructed, since no parts of the original bodies had survived. Rod Jolley Coach building built the new bodies in England.
In August 1993 the first of the two racing cars, the one rebuilt to 1938 specification, was completed. A year later the twin-supercharger 1939 car was also “ready for roll-out”. With support from Audi, both cars appeared on the starting line for the first time since 1939: at the Eifel Classic at the Nürburgring on October 1, 1994.
In recognition of its support during the rebuilding project, Audi was able to exhibit the 1938 car in the years that followed; it was purchased by AUDI AG in July 1998. The 1939 twin-compressor car returned to Florida. In the spring of 2000, Paul Karassik sold the second car to a private collector: in 1999 he had hoped to see this Auto Union run again in Belgrade, 60 years after the last Grand Prix held there, but the Balkan War put an end to this dream.
Purchase of the Type D twin-supercharger car means that AUDI AG now owns all three Auto Union racing cars recovered from what was formerly the USSR. Thomas Frank, Head of Audi Tradition is delighted: “20 years ago we would never have dreamed that such a thing would be possible!” As well as the two “Karassik cars”, the collection includes the famous hillclimb car driven by Hans Stuck, the Auto Union Type C/D. This was on show at the Car Museum in Riga, Latvia, until just after the demise of the Soviet Union, and is today one of the outstanding exhibits at the Audi museum mobile in Ingolstadt. This is also where Audi plans to display the Auto Union Type D on a long-term basis. But first of all, the new acquisition is to make a notable guest appearance at the Goodwood Revival in England, from September 14 to 16. After 67 years, the latest home comer from the former Soviet Union will form part of an impressive ensemble together with the Auto Union Type D racing cars first seen in 1994.