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Stillborn Supercar: 1934 Auto Union Type 52


1934 Auto Union Type 52 engineering sketch

1934 Auto Union Type 52 engineering sketch

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In love and cars, it's bittersweet to wonder what might have been. Add nearly 80 years to an element of mystery, and you'll get something like the Auto Union Type 52. 

If ever the words "ancestral supercar" belonged together, this is it.

Recent features on Jalopnik and IEDEI got us thinking about the project. We know how it came about and we know what was planned. There's just one nagging unresolved question...

With the merging of Audi, DKW, Horch, and Wanderer together as Auto Union in 1932, Ferdinand Porsche and former Mercedes team driver Adolf Rosenberger founded Hochleistungs Motor (High Power Engines) on the speculation they would be tapped to develop a Grand Prix car for the newly established automaker's race team. It did come to pass, and the mid-engine Type A through D cars were tricky to handle but dominant in the right hands.

But Porsche being Porsche, good enough wasn't enough. With design work from Erwin Komenda (who later drew the 356's lines) and engineering from Karl Rabe, Porsche envisioned a car for the road. It wasn't the Volkswagen Beetle, though that was under initial development around the same time.

Instead, the Auto Union Type 52 was to have four times the cylinders and eight times the horsepower of the original People's Car. The Type A race car's supercharged V-16 was to work civilian duty amidships, simmered down from 295 horsepower in race trim to an even 200 horsepower. Connected to a five-speed gearbox, performance would have set the supercar standard--had there been one at the time. Zero to 60 mph would have taken an estimated 8.5 seconds on the way to a top speed of 125 mph.

Under the avant-garde streamlined body, cockpit orientation featured a central driving position, slightly ahead of a passenger seat to either side. It would be three decades before the layout would be seen again in the Ferrari 365P Berlinetta Centrale concept, and more recently in the production McLaren F1. A 'limovariation' on the Type 52 featured rear seating as well, potentially making Auto Union a double threat. The closest competitor would have been the Tatra 77, though the Type 52 would have trumped the Czech car in style and speed.

So with a theoretic slam-dunk on its hands, why didn't Auto Union produce the Type 25? That's the nagging, unresolved question not even Porsche's immensely helpful archivists can answer. All we can do is wonder what might have been.
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Comments (3)
  1. Are there any 1930s Auto Union V-16 racing engines floating around in the high-dollar old-car world? Because if so, it seems just a matter of time until someone who has both pots of money and a deeply arcane sensibility actually commissions a replica. Which I might pay money to see ...
     
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  2. @ thomas, the answer to your question of why it didnt get made is pretty simple, The Great Depression. without trying to sound sarcastic, it was a pretty big thing in the 30's and can be indirectly linked as to why the third reich army was even bigger than first envisioned, because they saw joining the army as a way out of the depression and being fed and housed. Also the war machine stated categorically that the depression was the direct result of the treaty of Versailles and the restrictions and costs placed on the head of Germany. The Volkswagon (peoples car) was commissioned by AH himself which Ferdy Snr was "instructed" to build
     
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  3. This car could have made Audi so much bigger than Porsche.. just looking at it I can safely assume this is simply ahead of everything else during it's time. Was there even any form of wood or metal pressing done about this car or did it end with just these print drawings?
     
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