The tradition of sportiness and elegance at Audi
“Dynamic Sculptures” is the name of the special exhibition at the museum mobile in Ingolstadt. The show, put on by Audi Tradition, is a retrospective of the coupé tradition under the four rings and showcases production models and important studies spanning six decades.
Horch 853 “Manuela”
In the 30s, flowing, sweeping forms stood for speed. So it was obvious that young grand prix driver Bernd Rosemeyer would have the Horch 853, provided for him in 1937 by his employer the Auto Union, clad with a highly individual streamline look.
Luxury coachbuilder Erdmann & Rossi (Berlin) created a body of classic proportions and breathtaking elegance. All its details – including the interior – were made precisely to the specification of its celebrity customer. It was powered by the whisper-quiet Horch five-liter eight-cylinder with 120 hp. Immediately after taking possession of the car, Rosemeyer won a popular concours d’elegance of the time with his new two-seater, which he named “Manuela”. The car shown here is a replica built on the original Horch chassis, as commissioned by an enthusiast.
DKW 3 = 6 „Sonderklasse“ F91 Coupé
A Touch of Glamour
The post-war mid-size cars from DKW, the F89 (“Meisterklasse”) and its successor the F91 (“Sonderklasse”), are based on a design from 1939, the streamline F9. The three-cylinder two-stroke, which, according to Auto Union advertising, ran as smoothly as a six-cylinder, was the reason for the nickname.
In the early 50s, Hebmüller in Wülfrath built a small run of “luxury coupés” on the F89 chassis. Its passenger cell had a lower, more arched form than the sedan and the windows were correspondingly lower. When the economically stricken coachbuilding company was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1952, its competitor Karmann in Osnabrück took over the remaining bodies and fitted them onto the chassis of its successor, the F91. The “Sonderklasse” Coupé that emerged brought a touch of glamour to the Auto Union lineup with its extensive chrome trim. Only 25 of them are known still to be in existence.
DKW 3 = 6 Monza
Taking the Initiative
The fathers of the Monza were DKW privateer Günther Ahrens and tuning guru Albrecht W. Mantzel. In 1955, they had coachbuilder Dannenhauer & Stauss (Stuttgart) fit a hand-laminated glass-fiber skin of their own design to a DKW “Sonderklasse”. On the race track in Monza, which was still an oval at the time with steeply banked curves, Ahrens promptly set several world speed records in the class. The low bodyshell helped the 44 hp three-cylinder achieve around 140 km/h.
The design of the Monza already displayed the purposeful trapezoidal line that was to replace the sweeping streamline. By 1960, operations in Heidelberg and Stuttgart had built around 230 of the light two-seaters. The wheel arches were usually cut out by hand – at the millimeter level, no two Monzas are exactly the same.
Auto Union 1000 SP Coupé
The DKW Monza was replaced by the 1000 SP, a sporty design created in-house by the Auto Union. Then chief designer Josef (“Jupp”) Dienst, a devotee of the futuristic U.S. design style, penned a two-seater of just over four meters long with a spotless three-box layout. With its voluptuous chrome grille, panorama roof, low beltline and pointed rear fins, the 1000 SP (Special) translated the American dream-car look into smaller, German dimensions.
Production began in 1958. Baur in Stuttgart built the bodies, with assembly onto the underpinnings of the DKW S taking place in Ingolstadt. An open-top version was added to the coupé in fall 1961. The Auto Union was extremely confident when it came to positioning it – the sports car with the 55 hp three-cylinder, two-stroke engine had roughly the same price tag as a Porsche 356.
The Little Prince
The NSU Sport Prinz launched in 1959 is a Bertone design sporting the purest of trapezoidal lines, as was very much the style of the Italian bodywork designers of the time. It has short overhangs and the extremely elegant drop of its rear end gives the 2+2 seater a very forward-thrusting appearance. At 3.56 meters, the Sport Prinz was one of the smallest coupés on the German market.
The sports car used the technology of the Prinz sedan, with which the NSU Motorenwerke re-entered the automotive business in 1958. With a curb weight of less than 600 kilograms, a 0.6-liter two-cylinder delivered brisk performance from its 30 hp output. The air-cooled engine provided good grip at the rear wheels, with the Sport Prinz soon establishing itself as a sports machine for slaloms and hill climbs. It was produced partly by Bertone and at the Drauz coachbuilding facilities in Heilbronn.
Audi 100 Coupé S
Greetings to Turin
The late 60s marked a period of enormous change in Ingolstadt. The Audi brand announced its comeback in 1965, with the first Audi 100 sedan, developed by chief engineer Dr. Ludwig Kraus, appearing in 1968. A year later saw the short-wheelbase Audi 100 Coupé S make its debut. Its 1.9-liter four-cylinder initially powered the front wheels with 115 hp and later with 112 hp.
Ludwig Kraus was a big fan of Italian automotive design, which was very much setting the pace at the time. Although the lines of the Audi 100 Coupé S were penned in-house – which was a first for a coupé bearing the four rings – chief designer Hartmut Warkuß leaned heavily on the ideas of Bertone and Giugiaro. The roofline is low and drops quickly, while ventilation openings accentuate the low C-pillar. The shoulder line divides the flank horizontally and the upswing of the rear side window gives it a sporty, arrowhead finish.
Audi Coupé GT 5E
The Angle Grinder
Edgy, geometric, rectangular – the Audi Coupé of 1980, based on the Audi 80, was a pure representation of the clean design language being spoken in Ingolstadt in the 80s. Horizontal, largely parallel lines are marked features of the four-seater, while its front end, with its dual headlamps, and the powerful rear end both sport sharp vertical drops. There is no decoration of any kind. The whole design has a highly integrated, authentic and consistent feel.
In contrast to its dynamic sibling, the Ur quattro, the Audi Coupé used conventional technology. In most variants, the front wheels were driven by naturally aspirated four and five-cylinder engines. However, the top-of-the-range Coupé quattro with 136 hp came with a touch of understatement.
“We wanted to symbolize a car that was fixed firmly to the ground. The emphasis had to be on its capabilities, not its elegance,” said Hartmut Warkuß, then Head of Design, in a subsequent description of the Audi quattro. The car, which debuted in 1980, draws its emotional power from its strictly minimalist design and a few sporty ingredients. Big spoilers front and rear give it a more masculine feel than the Audi Coupé, while the “blisters” (the hard edges above the flared fenders) create a brawny look.
The Audi Ur quattro, which was in the lineup for eleven whole years, has shaped the company more than any other model. The five-cylinder turbo and the permanent all-wheel drive were a statement on the road and an unstoppable force in rallying. The Ur quattro entered new spheres of driving physics, helping all-wheel drive make its breakthrough into production cars and giving the Audi brand the impetus it needed to make the step up into the premium league. It is a true milestone of automotive history.
Audi Sport quattro
The Audi Sport quattro, which appeared in 1984 as an evolution of the Ur quattro, brought Vorsprung durch Technik to the road with a new, overwhelming presence – as a pure, functional machine. Its wheelbase was shortened by 30 centimeters, the blisters over the wheels were even more flared; the doors came from the Audi 80. Large parts of the bodyshell, which was assembled by Baur in Stuttgart, were made from ultra-light woven, aramid fiber, which is why the paint range was limited to four flat colors.
The 20V five-cylinder delivered a fulsome 306 hp and made the Sport quattro the world’s fastest production car until the arrival of the Porsche 959. It started out priced at just under, then later just over, 200,000 deutschmarks. Only 224 of them were ever built. Today, the Audi Sport quattro is a hugely powerful brand icon. The same goes for the rally car of the same name and for whose homologation it was built – although great success was ultimately denied.
Audi Coupé 2.3 E
A Reserved Character
The third-generation Audi 80 Sedan, which appeared in 1986, was a design highlight – clean lines and curved surfaces framed a powerful, wedge-shaped base body, a narrow greenhouse and a rounded rear end. For the coupé, however, which came along two years later replacing the Ur quattro, the designers opted for a distinctly reserved approach. It is the same as the sedan as far as the B-pillar, with virtually no distinctive lines following thereafter.
Shaped in the wind tunnel (cd figure of just 0.32), the so-called Audi Coupé B3 looks decidedly two-dimensional. Its strengths lay primarily in its everyday usability – with an interior built for four adults and a large trunk with a long lid. In the top-of-the-range S2 version with quattro drive, the five-cylinder turbo once was again running in top form with an output of up to 230 hp.
Love of the Perfect Form
The enormous skill in automotive design developed by Audi over so many years reached a new high in 1998 with the TT. The compact sports car was a sensation – with a seamlessly cohesive look derived from a clever interplay of circles, arcs and horizontal lines. A small team of designers created it in an incredibly short time – hidden away from the outside world, bestowed with full creative freedom and infused with a heartfelt love of the perfect form.
Its timeless architecture secured the TT design-icon status from the start. At the same time, it provided powerful impetus for the development of Audi as a company by visualizing the quality and sharpness of the brand. Powerful four-cylinder turbo engines – combined with quattro drive in the top-of-the-range version – underscore the sporty character of the 2+2-seater, which was joined by a roadster variant in 1999. Towards the end of its production life, it received a V6 and a direct-shift gearbox, which turned the TT into a true sports car.
Audi A5 Coupé
Gran Turismo in the Mid-size Class
The A5, which made its debut in 2007, is a gran turismo in mid-size format with stunning proportions. It marked the first time in a production Audi coupé that the front end was graced by a Singleframe grille. A low-lying greenhouse flows over a powerful body to the rear end, with the shoulder line lifting in a gentle hip sway over the rear wheel. All the surfaces are soft and elegant and sculpted with maximum precision.
Two-door Coupé, four-door Sportback, Cabriolet, S and RS models – Audi grew the A5 family substantially over the years. The same applies to engine and transmission technology. At the top of the lineup was the RS 5, with a high-revving V8 delivering 331 kW (450 hp). The top model also delivered an excellent performance as a race car in the German Touring Car (DTM).
Two questions to Stefan Felber,
Curator of Special Exhibition at the museum mobile
Mr Felber, the coupés in this exhibition could hardly be more different in character. What do they have in common apart from the four rings?
Stefan Felber: Each of these cars has lines and a series of design features that make it sporty, dynamic and desirable. We have expanded the notion of a coupé further than before – for the first time, we are presenting the Ur quattro not just as a brand icon, but as a design icon.
What are the major lines in this development?
Felber: In the 30s, the streamline was the driving force of automotive design, particularly in the individual, big coupés. During the time of the economic miracle, the Auto Union sought to use chic coupés to polish up a model lineup that was not longer entirely up-to-date. The 1000 SP is a small road cruiser, while NSU moved over to the tight trapezoidal design with the Sport Prinz.
The Audi 100 Coupé S marks the start of the modern-day Audi success story. Its design still had an Italian influence, but then Audi found its way to its own, very functional – you could say, German – design language. With its authentic, edgy character, the Ur quattro is an absolutely unmistakable representation of Vorsprung durch Technik. And from the TT to the prologue, we are showing the Audi design in its current glory and diversity.