Many would think that supercars only existed during more modern times and cars, for example before the Second World War, were big, heavy and dead slow. And some believed or felt that the Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing (built in 1952) was the first ever production supercar as it was the fastest production car at that time. If only Auto Union had succeeded in its plans of building a seriously fast sports car that is available to drive on the roads.
The name Auto Union might not ring a bell to most people. Auto Union was a combination of four German auto manufacturers in the 1930s which has evolved into what we know today as Audi AG. The four companies were Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer.
In 1932, all four companies combined under one group which was named Auto Union. One of the reasons for these four companies to combine was that their businesses were struggling and basically it would be better for them to combine. Although all four companies continued to build car under their respective names, they began to share technologies; for example Audi began to use engines from Horch and Wanderer.
During the same time, Ferdinand Porsche and Adolf Rosenberger started an auto racing manufacturing company which was named Hochleistungs Motor (High Power Engines). The two began to develop a Grand Prix spec race car. Auto Union received some cash assistance from the government to develop a race car to use for Grand Prix competition (Mercedes Benz also received some money for the same purposes). And from there Auto Union bought the company Porsche started and with the plans Porsche had, they began to compete in Grand Prix races.
Auto Union won many races during the 1935-1937 Grand Prix events. But even before they started winning all these races, the plans and ideas of a super sports car that can be built for road use was already conjured up by Porsche and chief engineer Karl Rabe. Together with the help of Erwin Komenda, Porsche drew up plans for a road going super sports car known as the Type 52.
The Type 52 would get the same 4.4 litre V16 engine from Auto Union’s Type A Grand Prix race car. The driver would have a central sitting position (just like the McLaren F1 supercar) with passengers seats on each side of the driver’s seat and the engine would be positioned behind the driver. The detuned engine would deliver around 200bhp with a top speed of 125 mph (201km/h) and a 0-100km/h timing of 8.5 seconds. This might look like ordinary to most of us but we have to keep in mind that this was during the 1930s.
The reason why the car did not go into production is still a mystery to many people. The only proof of the Type 52’s plans and ideas ever existed are located in the Porsche Archive. The Type 52 could have been the first ever production supercar if it did go into production and also the first ever car to have a central driver seating arrangement.
Photo credit: iedei.wordpress.com
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