Audi Rebuilds Historic Wanderer Racing Cars

Ingolstadt/Zwönitz, Germany – It’s a proud moment for Thomas Frank: “We have re-opened one of the most dramatic pages in our company’s history.” This morning in the town of Zwönitz, in Germany’s State of Saxony, Audi Tradition is to hand over the result of one of the most complex restoration projects it has tackled since the replica of the Auto Union Type C ‘Silver Arrow’ racing car. The three Wanderer ‘Streamline Specials’ entered by the Auto Union for the 4,700-kilometre long-distance race from Liège to Rome and back in 1938 and 1939 carried off the ‘Coupe des Constructeurs’ (the manufacturer’s team prize) on their second outing. The cars were later sold and disappeared from the automobile scene, but now, 65 years later, they can be seen again resplendent in all their former glory. Two of these beautiful sports roadsters are the property of Audi Tradition, the third is owned by the Belgian Audi importer D’Ieteren. They are authentic replicas of the original cars, built by Werner Zinke GmbH, one of the leading European car restorers, in Zwönitz (Saxony).

Not long after it was first held in 1931, the Liège – Rome – Liège long-distance motor race was already regarded as the most severe non-stop reliability test of its kind. During the ‘king of the rallies’, as it was also known, the only permissible stops were for refuelling. The teams of drivers, who were obliged to maintain an average speed of at least 50 kilometres an hour despite the condition of the roads at that time, often sat behind the wheel for more than 100 hours without a break as they hurtled through the Ardennes and across the Alps and the Apennines. This merciless challenge to man and machine took its toll: in 1938 only a third of the starters made it across the finishing line, in 1939 21 cars completed the course out of 51 starters. Three of them were ‘Wanderer Streamline Specials’; of these, the cars driven by Momberger/Weidauer and Müller/Menz shared fourth place with the same total number of points, and Trägner/Fritzsching were twelfth. This brought Auto Union the most important trophy for works teams – the constructor’s title. In 1938 the company had been extraordinarily unlucky: while in the lead, Krämer/Münzert had been obliged to retire with a minor camshaft problem on 30 kilometres from the finishing line.

Weighing only 900 kilograms, the aluminium-bodies roadsters had 70-horsepower engines that enabled them to reach a top speed of 160 km/h. The two-litre, six-cylinder engine with its three carburettors was derived from a new family of engines designed for Wanderer in the early 1930s by Ferdinand Porsche. For car restorer Werner Zinke, who delivered these attractively styled cars punctually after two years of reconstruction work, this was “the biggest challenge my company has ever had to face!” Zinke explains: “Apart from the wheelbase and track, I had no other reliable data at all. I had to base my work almost entirely on historic photographs.” After a series of computer calculations a wire model was first built, followed by a wooden buck; the sheet-metal panels were beaten by hand over leather sacks and passed through the ‘English rollers’ to draw out and shape them.

Werner Zinke expresses himself ‘very satisfied” with the results. “The first test runs under power went off better than we had dared to hope!”. His voice sounds rather wistful as he says: “The second world war prevented Auto Union from making sports cars based on these prototypes.”

As a medium-term project, Audi Tradition plans to enter its own two cars for selected historic race events. Later, one of them is to have a permanent place in Audi’s museum mobile in Ingolstadt. Head of Audi Tradition, Thomas Frank, has this to say: “This successful rebuild of the Wanderer Streamline Specials is a milestone in our task of illustrating Audi’s heritage. We are particularly glad that these cars, which originally saw the light of day in Saxony, where AUDI AG also has its origins, have now been reconstructed in the same region of Germany.”

To commemorate the appearance of these replicas, Audi Tradition has commissioned a limited edition 1 : 43 scale model of the ‘Wanderer Streamline Special’ bearing the start number 17. Made from a polyester resin, these models are notable for their excellent craftsmanship, fine photo-etched detail and a paint finish that matches the full-scale originals exactly. The model cars cost 125 Euro and can be ordered as Article No. M054 from Audi Tradition, on fax number +49 841/8992-567.

The four rings of the Audi badge symbolise the brands Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, which were later combined under the umbrella of Auto Union. Auto Union and NSU, which merged in 1969, made many significant contributions towards the development of the car. AUDI AG was formed from Audi NSU Auto Union AG in 1985. Together with the two traditional companies Auto Union GmbH and NSU GmbH, Audi Tradition nurtures and presents the deep and diverse history of Audi. The Audi museum mobile at the Audi Forum Ingolstadt is open from Monday to Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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