A new Auto Union

Germany’s Manager Magazin asserts that VW might buy Fiat-Chrysler. Ferdinand Piëch wants to re-create Auto Union and combine the VW brands Audi, SEAT and Skoda with classics like Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Porsche. Along with Fiat and Chrysler it could make over 14 million cars a year, consigning Toyota and General Motors with about 10 million into second place.

In the 1930s four rings signified the creation of the first Auto Union, the amalgamation of the motor industry in Saxony. DKW, Horch, Wanderer and Audi joined up to weather financial storms following the Great Depression and face intervention from the emerging Third Reich. The State Bank of Saxony, the Allgemeine Deutsche Credit Anstalt (ADCA) and the Commerzbank of Berlin were midwives at the birth of the Auto Union.
Wanderer was the oldest, established in 1885 at Chemnitz. In 1899 August Horch set up at Cologne-Ehrenfeld, moved in 1902 to Plauen in the Vogtland, then in 1904 as a public company eastwards to Zwickau in Saxony. Third ring DKW also had roots in Chemnitz from 1904 when Danish entrepreneur, Jörgen Skafte Rasmussen established Rasmussen & Ernst GmbH in an empty textile works at Zschopau in the Erzgebirge. In 1914, as the Zschopauer Maschinenfabrik J S Rasmussen, it did military work, experimenting with a large, and as it turned out unwieldy, steam vehicle the Dampf Kraft Wagen (DKW - Steam-Power-Vehicle).

DKW persevered with motorcycles, making a primitive car in 1928, then at the 1931 Berlin motor show made a breakthrough with the first front wheel drive production car three years ahead of Citroën. FWD was novel, it was cheap, and DKW was good at it. Innovation did not bring prosperity however, and DKW was obliged to take a shareholding in Audi, making Rasmussen chairman. But by 1932 car sales in Germany had halved and DKW suffered from Rasmussen's expansionism. To make things worse, the Hitler regime planned a state-sponsored car to go on sale to the German Volk at a seemingly impossible price to savers of political tokens.
Amalgamation was complicated and it took nine months to agree terms and acquire funds. Headquarters were at Chemnitz, the Zschopauer Motorenwerke raised its share capital from 4.5 million Reichsmarks to 14.5 million and the new Auto Union AG bought the fourth ring, Wanderer, leasing its factories.

DKW's contribution of share capital was Rm10 million, Horch brought Rm500,000, Audi Rm2,500,000, and Wanderer Rm15,730,000. The new combine had a staff of 4,500 and factories at Zschopau making motorcycles and 2-stroke engines, Zwickau (cars), Berlin-Spandau (wooden body frames) and Siegmar (cars and steel bodies). Auto Union was a major player in the German motor industry alongside Adler, BMW, Opel, Daimler-Benz, and Ford. Meanwhile the cause of all the angst, the Volkswagen, was slow making its appearance.
Ferdinand Porsche’s consultancy made a submission to the Ministry of Traffic in Berlin for a car selling for Rm1500, with a fuel consumption of 8l/100 kms (35 mpg), a top speed of 100 kph (62 mph) and a weight of 650 kg (1433 lbs). Hitler and Porsche met in April 1934, at the Kaiserhof Hotel in Berlin, together with Jakob Werlin, Mercedes-Benz dealer in Munich and an early member of the Nazi Party. Werlin carried weight, joined the Mercedes-Benz supervisory board, and went on to be inspector-general of the industry.

Hitler sanctioned the VW provided it could cruise the new autobahns at 100kph, obtain a fuel consumption of 7l/100 kms (40 mpg) and sell for Rm990. A contract was drawn up under which Rm200,000 was set aside for a prototype and a production run of 50,000. The effect on the established Saxony car makers was profound but in 1935 Volkswagen was inaugurated. State intervention had been inevitable and the Auto Union’s marques Horch, Audi, Wanderer and DKW were broadly complementary. Horch made premium big saloons and tourers, Audi was distinctly middle-class. Wanderer had a solid array of good family cars and DKW lively cheap two-stroke economy models.
An urgent task was to forge the group’s identity and it took up a German state subsidy to build a 16-cylinder car designed by Professor Porsche, inaugurating a momentous period of grand prix motor racing. Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union overwhelmed all opposition in a demonstration of German technical pre-eminence, a triumph for the Reich’s propaganda machine under Dr Joseph Goebbels.

Now Automotive News Europe reports: "The simple deal logic is straightforward," London-based analyst Arndt Ellinghorst of ISI Group wrote in a note to investors. "Chrysler - better Jeep and Dodge - could fix VW's US problems; Alfa could replace the ailing Seat brand; Fiat Europe is basically the 500 product family plus LCVs. Latin America could be sold, potentially to a Chinese buyer."
Both Piëch and Martin Winterkorn, VW chief executive, are on record as showing interest in Alfa Romeo. VW had $24 billion in cash to play with at the end of March, so a takeover would be manageable. Everybody denies any such thing but Piëch, the obsessive and brilliantly successful 77 year old grandson of Ferdinand Porsche gets his way more often than he doesn’t. If VW bought the 150-strong Agnelli-Elkann dynasty's 30 percent controlling stake in Fiat-Chrysler it could be $5 billion or $6 billion richer and even keep Ferrari to bring a regular $475 million pocket money every year.

Top: Mid-engined masterpieces, Auto Union racing cars by Dr Porsche.

Audi adopted Auto Union’s four rings.

Number 1 surmounts the bonnet of an Audi Front.

Horch made some spectacular cars

DKW Sonderklasse. Front wheel drive, 2-stroke and one of my first ever test cars, borrowed from the factory in Düsseldorf in 1956. My first drive at the Nürburgring.

Workaday Wanderer W24 with Auto Union rings

Classic Motoring Photographs

What a lot we owe Bill Brunell. A professional photographer in the glass plate era of the 1920s and 1930s, he left a unique record of crisp, beautifully detailed pictures of a motoring age long gone. The Motoring Picture Library has added 5,000 images from the National Motor Museum’s Bill Brunell Photographic Collection to its website

The model with her head through the sunroof of the Singer 8 Junior is most likely Brunell’s daughter, Kitty, who features in many of the photographs, and drove in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1928 with her father in his Singer Junior. They started from John o’Groats but retired. She competed in 1929 driving a Talbot 14/45 for which she designed the body. It became known as the Sportsman’s Coupe and Talbot was so impressed that it built another car for her for 1930, known as ‘Kitty II’. She married veteran competitor Ken Hutchinson.

Bill Brunell was co-driver to the Hon Victor Bruce in 1926 when they became the first Englishmen to win the Monte Carlo Rally and worked for the Ministry of Information and secret intelligence in the First World War.
Motoring Picture Library Manager, Jon Day said: “Brunell’s photography is an evocative reminder of the golden age of British motoring, capturing perfectly the mood and spirit of the era. From street and social scenes to events, trials and rallies throughout Great Britain and Europe, Brunell’s images are an important historical record with artistic merit in their own right.It has taken NMM staff and volunteers over three years to digitise the glass plate negatives. The originals have subsequently been re-packaged and archived.The Beaulieu Motoring Picture Library with an archive of over a million images, is one of the most comprehensive sources of motoring photographs in the world. It supplies pictures to enthusiasts and commercially to publishing, broadcasting and advertising.

The works racing Austin Seven team (above) of Bert Hadley and Charles Goodacre at Brooklands with Kay Petre in car nearest Brunell’s camera.

1928 MG 18/80 Mk II

A wider track and a 4-speed gearbox alone would not have justified the substantial price of the Mark II 18/80, on Classic MG digital at £7.56. Detailing was carefully done, aluminium components were polished, engines carefully balanced, and the three-ringed aluminium pistons ground and lapped. An automatic Tecalemit chassis lubrication system actuated by the car’s movement extended servicing intervals to 3000miles (4828kms), extremely generous for the time. The Mark II did not replace the Mark I straight away; it had never been a fast seller so the two were put on the market apparently alongside one another. Mark I Speed Models were eligible for a Brooklands 80mph (128.7kph) certificate for 12 guineas a time, cynics suggesting this was to cover a mechanic’s time spent making sure it would actually manage it. Triplex safety glass and a Dewandre vacuum brake servo were added but there was a certain amount of equivocation over the additional gear. It was described as a “silent third”, a fashionable reassurance in an era of loudly whining gears, or alternatively “twin top”, a tacit admission there was perhaps not much difference between ratios of 1: 1 and 1.306: 1. Extra equipment and a more substantial chassis carried a weight penalty of some 3cwt (152.4kg). Mark I production petered out in July 1931, Mark IIs in summer 1933, but eclipsed by the success of small MGs, some 18/80s were not sold until 1934.
BODY Saloon 4-door 4-seat; Sports 2-door 2-seats; Salonette 2-door 4-seats; Open Tourer 4-door 4-seats; chassis weight 20.5cwt (1041.4kg), Tourer 27cwt (1371.6kg), saloon 29.25cwt (1485.9kg) Speed Model with fabric body, staggered doors, left front passenger and right rear 22.75cwt (1155.7kg). ENGINE 6-cylinders; in-line; 69mm x 110mm, 2468cc; compr 5.75: 1; 60bhp (44.7kW) @ 3200rpm; 24.3bhp (18.1kW)/ l. ENGINE STRUCTURE Duplex gear and chain-driven ohc; cast iron block, detachable cylinder head, pent-roof machined combustion chambers; two horizontal double float SU carburettors; chain drive to distributor, waterpump, and dynamo, skew drive to oil pump; coil ignition; 4-bearing counterbalanced crankshaft. TRANSMISSION Rear wheel drive; five-plate cork insert clutch; 4-speed non-synchromesh gearbox with remote control; torque tube drive; spiral bevel final drive 4.27: 1. CHASSIS DETAILS Steel channel-section cross-braced upswept front and rear; upward-inclined half-elliptic leaf springs front-shackled 39in (99cm) front and 50in (127cm) rear; rear springs shackled both ends and carried outside frame; Silentbloc shackle bearings; single arm Hartford Duplex dampers; 14in (35.5cm) finned cable-operated brakes; Marles steering ; 12gal (54.5l) tank; 2gal (9.1l) reserve ; 19 x 5 Dunlop Fort tyres; Rudge-Whitworth centre lock wire wheels. DIMENSIONS Wheelbase 114in (289.6cm); track 52in (132.1cm); turning circle 37ft 6in (11.4m); ground clearance 8in (20.3cm); length 156in (396.2cm); width 64in (162.6cm ); height 64.5in (163.8cm), Tourer, 67in (170.2cm). PERFORMANCE Max speed 80mph (128.7kph); 20.5mph (33kph)/ 1000rpm; fuel consumption 18mpg (15.7l/ 100km). PRICE chassis only £ 550, 2-seater £ 625, Tourer £ 630, Salonette £ 655 (fabric body and Triplex glass), Saloon £ 670 (coachbuilt)

Classic MG

Introducing both Midget and 18/80 at the 1928 motor show was a turning point for MG. Cecil Kimber insisted on some firm orders at Olympia before committing to a big 2½litre 6-cylinder as the Edmund Road factory was made ready. A prototype 18/80 went on show with encouraging results, and the while the new car was not quite in the soon-to-be-vacated sporting territory of Bentley, it was more grown-up than most MGs. First to have the distinctive upright MG radiator shape that did so much to establish the identity of classic MGs, it was also the first 6-cylinder even though it continued using lots of Morris Motors’ components. Morris-derived engines in MGs had tended to be basic and side-valve, until the acquisition of Wolseley, along with Frank Woollard a former colleague of Kimber’s, who was made works manager. Woollard encouraged adventurous designs with an overhead camshaft, regarded by William Morris as a needless extravagance. Parsimonious Morris disapproved of the expense and the engine was never a success in Morrises. The 18/80 was treasury rated at 17.9hp but never attained anything like the 80bhp (60kW) implied in the title. About 60bhp (44.7kW) was its best ever. Advertisements claimed it had the sports performance and luxurious ease of a Two Thousand Guinea creation, “truly a competitor for the contemporary Alvis and Lagonda”. It was certainly a notable MG of the Vintage period, commendably smooth with strong torque and a surprisingly compliant ride. MG designed the chassis with 6in deep channel section side members and box-section cross-bracing, together with the axles although the torque tube transmission was pure Morris. One curiosity was the “MG” cast into the bulkhead uprights. It was neither octagonal nor could it ever be seen, except when the bodywork was entirely removed. Classic MG digital edition £7.56
BODY Saloon 4-door 4-seat; Sports 2-door 2-seats; Salonette 2-door 4-seats; Open Tourer 4-door 4-seats; chassis weight 19cwt (965.2kg), 2-seater 23cwt (1168.4kg), saloon 25.75cwt (1308.1kg) ENGINE 6-cylinders; in-line; 69mm x 110mm, 2468cc; compr 5.75: 1; 60bhp (44.7kW) @ 3200rpm; 24.3bhp (18.1kW)/ l. ENGINE STRUCTURE Duplex gear and chain-driven overhead camshaft; cast iron block, detachable cylinder head with pent-roof machined combustion chambers; two horizontal SU carburettors; chain drive to distributor, water pump, and dynamo , skew drive to oil pump and distributor; coil ignition; 4-bearing counterbalanced crankshaft. TRANSMISSION Rear wheel drive; five-plate cork insert clutch; 3-speed non -synchromesh manual gearbox; torque tube drive; spiral bevel final drive 4.25: 1. CHASSIS DETAILS Steel channel-section cross-braced upswept front and rear; upward-inclined half-elliptic leaf springs front-shackled 34in (86cm) front, 50in (127cm) rear; single arm Hartford Duplex shock absorbers; Perrot-shaft 12in (30cm ) finned drum brakes early cars, later cable brakes, some with servos; Marles steering; 10gal (45.5l) fuel tank; 2gal (9.1l) reserve; 19 x 5 Dunlop Fort tyres; Rudge-Whitworth centre lock wire wheels. DIMENSIONS Wheelbase 114in (289.6cm ); track 48in (121.9cm); turning circle 43ft (13m); ground clearance 8in (20.3cm); length 156in (396.2cm); width 60in (152.4cm); eight 62.5in (158.7cm) 2-seater, 67in (170.2cm). PERFORMANCE Max speed 80mph (128.7kph); 20.5mph (33kph)/ 1000rpm; 0-60mph 30sec; fuel consumption 18mpg (15.7l/ 100km). PRICE chassis only £ 420, 2-seater £ 480, Tourer £ 485, Salonette £ 545, Saloon £ 555 PRODUCTION 500
(Above right)The late Roger Stanbury’s Mk I speed model, black and red, chassis 6737, engine JC10532 first registered 10 June 1931 as a University Motors demonstrator. The other is my Twin-Cam 2.0 M-16 engined MGB.

Bentley Brooklands

I didn’t mean to praise Bentley quite so faintly. I liked Bentleys, but I guess in 1992 I felt compelled to emphasise Brooklands, since there really wasn’t much that was new about the car. They had taken the turbo off the Eight, as recounted in The Complete Bentley available digitally for £12.31. After tax changes the price of the Brooklands came down to £87,500, making this essentially the entry-level Bentley. The press launch had been at Brooklands the previous month and they gave me a plaque to say I had driven a Bentley on such of the historic track that remained. This was before the developments that have taken place since, including the magnificent Mercedes-Benz World centre that opened in 2006. Perhaps I gave the Bentley less space that week because I wanted to highlight Saab’s research. I was coming round, even then, to the view that technology held the key to developments in driving we hadn’t even thought of. This was four years before Google had been invented and two decades away from driverless cars. You can now buy a Bentley Brooklands for the price of a well-used Mondeo.
It is not easy for an old aristocrat to recapture youthful vigour without losing some dignity. Bentley Brooklands has a fine alliterative ring for buyers tempted to a new non-turbocharged version of the old Bentley Eight at only £91,489. Its badges will be in traditional British racing green, to emphasise the connection with the track built by H F Locke King on his Weybridge estate in 1907. Brooklands was the cradle of motor racing, and Bentleys won stirring contests here, such as the six hours endurance race of 1929.
The 'Bentley Boys' wove themselves into the rich tapestry of Brooklands, dyed into the wool as indelibly as the Spitfires and Wellingtons created there by Vickers-Armstrong. Some Bentley Boys, like Clive Dunfee whose car topppled over the lip of the Members' Banking in 1932, lost their lives.
Brooklands is now a thriving industrial park. Gallaher's offices fill a gap in the Members' Banking, and one small corner is dedicated as a museum to halcyon days, when Locke King's estates extended not only to a large part of Surrey, but a good deal of Sussex as well.
The Bentley Brooklands is a magnificent anachronism, strong, quiet, powerful, and furnished in impeccable taste. Burr walnut, and deep Wilton carpet with tailored overmats give the interior the feel and the aroma of luxury. The loudest sound is not the clock - quartz movements no longer tick - but the faint creaking of the Connolly leather on the sumptuous upholstery. The huge 6.7litre V8 engine rumbles under the long bonnet, rejuvenated with the latest electronic technology, but still devoutly middle-aged. It is an imposing car, introduced just as Rolls-Royce and Bentley sales show signs of a recovery in Scotland and the North of England.

Rufus J Flywheel

It has taken me a long time to read Rufus J Flywheel on car names 19 January 2012 if you must know. He meditates, if that is the word for someone with a monicker that smacks of casually made up, on names. How easily the Dacia Lodgy could become Dodgy. Volkswagen’s Sharan Carat was close to Sharon Carrot and Mitsubishi’s Carisma didn’t have much.
Nothing’s new. Does he not remember Singer Vague and Humber Septic? Hillman Scavenger, Ford Crappi, Cretin (Cortina), Angular and Coarser (Corsair), or should Coarser be a Vauxhall? Rolls-Royce’s first idea for the Silver Shadow was Silver Mist until somebody told them Mist in German was something like MR2 in French.
CARkeys is a treasure-house. Well-written, well presented, up-to-date it has obscure material seldom found elsewhere, like David Finlay’s feature on a BMW based on the 1940 Mille Miglia 328. Shown as a Concept at scrutineering for the 2006 Mille Miglia, it was a bit like the real thing I drove in 1992 (left). I had it on good authority that the replica was a serious project at a time when quirky “future classics” were fetching silly prices, and BMW was tempted to follow Porsche with the 959 and make a few 328s. It didn’t last; Jaguar was among those that got into a muddle with the XJ220 and lived to regret it.
The 1940 BMW I drove to John o’Groats was insured for £2million even then, but what an exemplar it was. Lightweight, precise, stiff and quick I could have won the Mille Miglia in it. In 1940 it had been up against ponderous underpowered 2500cc Alfa Romeos, gaggles of Fiats and a couple of 815s cobbled-up by Enzo Ferrari, forbidden by his end-of-contract with Alfa to call them Ferraris. In 1938 Count Giovanni Lurani (an Anglophile, he affected the nickname Johnny Lurani and drove MGs) had suggested the race should move to Libya, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania having been taken from the Ottomans by Italy in 1912.
By1940 Libya was no longer an option so the April 28 race was truncated to nine times round a 104-mile circuit Brescia-Cremona-Brescia. Italy was still officially a non-belligerant but Germany had already invaded Poland and was busy assaulting Norway yet the race went ahead. BMW recruited Lurani (he ran with the hare and hunted with whatever hounds would let him drive racing cars), who acted as go-between in the Hotel Vittoria, where both German and French teams were staying but forbidden to meet because their nations were at war.
BMW won the race at a canter and all three roadsters survived the war. In 1945 H J Aldington of AFN in Isleworth, which imported BMWs (as Frazer Nash-BMWs) in the 1930s, went over ostensibly to reclaim a 328 he had left in Munich in 1939. He came back instead with one of the Mille Miglia cars to save it from the depredations of the occupying forces.
It was converted to right hand drive, equipped with a Frazer Nash radiator and displayed as a prototype. Production never prospered, it was sold to racing driver Gilbert Tyrer, and I saw it racing at Turnberry in 1952 and took it back there for the picture (left). In the 1960s, very down-at-heel, it was bought by my colleague on the road test staff of The Motor, Michael Bowler who restored it and sold it back to the BMW museum in the 1980s.
By the time it had been reconstructed by BMW it felt thoroughly modern. It was roomy and the gear lever was a bit long and springy - not quite the short stubby lever of contemporary sports cars - but the change was slick and precise. Steering was surprisingly light and although the springing was firm it probably felt luxurious in 1940 when sports cars were generally rough and ill-mannered. The classic tall 328 engine (above right)revved to 5,000rpm, with an emphatic crackle from the exhaust at 4,500.

The main disadvantage driving it round Scotland (that’s Ackergill Tower near Wick, above) was that you looked over, rather than through the windscreen and there was no hood. All very well in the sunshine of an Italian spring, but venturesome on the Lecht road by the ski-slopes in wintry May.
Biggles knew what he was about. Goggles and a leather helmet are necessary when your head is in the slipstream. A BMW motorcycle suit made a difference. Rain trickled onto my lap but an inner layer of Gore-tex and zips and studs made it all-of-a-piece, kept me dry in six hours' downpour but it did not protect my face. Snow and then hailstones evoked sympathy for grouse dodging grapeshot in August. Rufus J Flywheel would have a word for it.

Bentley Mulsanne

Friday Fact - According to Bentley Comms the flagship #Bentley #Mulsanne is named after the famous corner at the @LeMans24hour race - pic.twitter.com/RTVkWfJRPK. I thought it more likely it was named after the better-known Mulsanne Straight. I referred Bentley Comms to page 219’s reproduction of the famous Michael Turner painting of a Mulsanne Turbo on the famous Straight and presented to the Bentley Drivers’ Club on 17 June 1984 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Bentley’s first win in the 24 Hours’ race. Went to Le Mans that year. Bentley Motors kindly presented me with a copy No 68/250 of a limited edition, signed by Michael, which hangs on my wall now. The Complete Bentley is £12.31 digitally on Amazon for Kindle.