Audi is celebrating 75 years of the Silver Arrows at the Audi Museum with ten Silver Arrows from the supercharged-engine era in one exhibition. From December 2, 2009 until March 31, 2010, visitors to the Audi Forum Ingolstadt will be able to see ten of the magnificent Silver Arrows racing cars from the 1930s, with their supercharged engines. Seven Auto Union Silver Arrows will be joined by three original Mercedes-Benz racing cars, two of them with race victories to their credit, the third a holder of international speed records.
These legendary Silver Arrows German racing cars began their conquest of the world’s racing circuits in 1934. Until the Second World War broke out in 1939, there were very few events in which the Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz drivers, at the wheel of cars with power outputs of up to 500 horsepower, failed to triumph. These silver-painted cars with their futuristic looks were so far ahead of their rivals that a legend soon developed: the era of the Silver Arrows was born. The names of the drivers – Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch, Hermann Lang (Mercedes-Benz) or Bernd Rosemeyer, Hans Stuck and Tazio Nuvolari (Auto Union) will always have an honoured place in the annals of motor racing.
Many of the stories and legends associated with these drivers tell of their courage, daring and bravado. And of cars with top speeds equal to those reached in today’s Formula One events, but on roads and racetracks with no safety measures whatsoever. This was the era of the heroic racing driver clad in cotton overalls and with a leather helmet, who risked his life during every minute of the race and, tragically, sometimes lost it.
The Silver Arrows of the 1930s are among the most fascinating and most valuable cars the world has ever seen. Their visual appeal is also impressive. No other cars exhibit advanced technology, abundant power, purist design and elegance in quite the same form. A fascinating aspect of their history: whereas Mercedes-Benz still owns most of its original racing cars, the Silver Arrows built by Auto Union have almost all been lost. As they had been decommissioned in what was to become the Soviet zone of occupation and were discovered by the new occupying power in a mine building near Zwickau, the Auto Union racing cars found themselves in Russian hands after the Second World War. All trace of them was soon lost. A few of the cars were later recovered, but others had to be rebuilt by consulting old photographs and drawings.
Never before has the Audi museum mobile been able to display such high-calibre items in a single exhibition. They are presented in a restrained, almost purist style. Stefan Felber, who is responsible for the concept of “Family Silver – the Auto Union Silver Arrows and their Rivals”, explains: “The striking looks of these cars need no additional emphasis from us. The exhibition setting remains in the background and does not outshine the cars. It is purist and elegant just like the cars themselves. The Silver Arrows are sculptures that have to be seen on a pedestal like works of art.”
And so the cars will be placed on black platforms, all facing in the same direction as if awaiting the starter’s signal. Each car is provided with a pylon that provides technical information and displays historic film material showing the car in racing action.
Audi Tradition invited former competitors to participate in this special exhibition, and on this occasion welcomed three original Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows: the W 25 eight-cylinder racing car dating from 1934, which Manfred von Brauchitsch drove to victory in the 1934 Eifel race, the W 154 12-cylinder car that won five of its seven races in the 1939 season, and the W 25 12-cylinder car built in 1936 for record-breaking purposes. Rudolf Caracciola, himself holder of three European championship titles, set a new world speed record of 372 km/h in this car.
Seven Silver Arrows bear witness to Auto Union’s Grand Prix racing history; five of them are owned by Audi Tradition. The legendary Auto Union Type C 16-cylinder racing car in which Bernd Rosemeyer took the European championship title, the streamlined Auto Union Type C 16-cylinder car built in 1937, in which Rosemeyer broke through the 400 km/h barrier to set a new world speed record, and the Auto Union Type D 12-cylinder racing car of 1939, the engine of which has twin superchargers – these cars were lost and have been rebuilt as replicas.
The 1938 Auto Union Type D 12-cylinder racing car, on the other hand, consists to a large extent of original parts. It was a Silver Arrow of this type in which Tazio Nuvolari won the Grand Prix races in Italy (Monza) and England (Donington). On the other hand the 1939 hillclimb car driven by Hans Stuck, an Auto Union Type C/D with 16-cylinder engine, is entirely original.
Two cars that have a very special place in Auto Union’s history complete this collection from Audi Tradition. The Auto Union Type A 16-cylinder racing car dating from 1934 is from the D’Ieteren collection (Belgium) and is a replica of this, the first Auto Union Silver Arrow. The second car, with an especially noteworthy history, has been made available by a German collector: it is an original Type D with twin-supercharger engine, and was brought back to Germany from Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, though without its engine. The car had survived the war years in the showroom of the Auto Union dealer in Prague. Since then, an original engine has been found for this car. The car has its original body, which provides a clue as to the severe loads these cars had to withstand during races.
[Source: Audi AG]