Auto Union was the result of the amalgamation of four companies; Wanderer, DKW, Audi and Horch; hence the four rings, one for each company, of the badge. In 1969 Auto Union became Audi NSU as it merged with NSU and finally became Audi in 1985.
The Auto Union and Mercedes Benz motor sport teams, dominated motor racing from 1934 until the outbreak of the second world war. Dubbed the Silver Arrows, these cars and in particular the Auto Unions demonstrated technical advances that were not seen again on racing cars for several decades.
The name Silver Arrows, for most people, conjures up the thought of the famous Mercedes Benz racing cars of the 1934 to 1939 period (or the modern day West McLaren Mercedes Benz Formula One cars). The Auto Union team; which could be said to have had more impact on the long-term future of what was to become Formula One racing; is often forgotten.
Rumours concerning the new Auto Union were circulating as early as 1933 and the car was unveiled to the public in March 1934 at A.V.U.S. (Automobil Verkehrs und Ubungs Strasse) near Berlin. The car was developed from Ferdinand Porsche's P-Wagen By using light weight materials the Auto Union was able to have a 4.4 litre V16 engine developing 295bhp. It was mounted at the rear of the cockpit with the fuel tank centrally positioned behind the driver. This design meant that the handling of the race car altered very little as the amount of fuel changed.
The first time both the Auto Union and Mercedes teams were to compete together was at the A.V.U.S. GP on 27th May but Mercedes withdrew and week later at the Nurburgring only one team, the Auto Union concern arrived with silver cars. The Mercedes cars were painted white, Germany's national motor sport colour, but when the cars were weighed, to check that they complied with the new formula and were under 750 Kg, the Mercedes car was found to be 1 Kg over the weight limit. Alfred Neubauer the Mercedes team manager could think of nothing that could be removed to save the kilogram until by chance one of the drivers made a remark that solved the problem. The team could remove the white paint. If you consider this would also mean quite large quantities of filler, used to smooth the hand beaten body panels, it makes sense. It worked and next morning when the cars were weighed they were under the 750 Kg limit.
During the latter part of the war an estimated eighteen Auto Union team cars were hidden in a colliery outside Zwickau, Saxony, where within the Horch factory the Auto Union race shop was based. In 1945 the Russians discovered these Silver Arrows. They were shipped back to Moscow where they were distributed to scientific institutes and motor manufacturers for research. Most of the cars were probably reduced to scrap but so far five vehicles have been recovered ranging from collections of parts to almost complete cars. Restoration work has been carried out by a British firm Crosthwaite and Gardiner giving us the Auto Unions we see today.