August 17, 2005 The Audi Rosemeyer design study has been developed purely as an exhibition car, and when you lay eyes on it for the first time, it seems scarcely to be of this world. Its flowing, aerodynamic lines are combined with an air of pure functional efficiency. A closer look, however, and more familiar features emerge: the monumental radiator grille, for instance, but also the gentle downward slope of the engine hood with its vertical air inlet slots, recall the historic Auto Union Silver Arrow racers. As on those cars, when the matt, shimmering brushed aluminium body reflects the light a glowing, almost magical aura is created. One can almost feel that this low-slung mid-engined coupe is powered, like the Silver Arrows, by a 16-cylinder engine, as there is ample space for one between the giant wheels in their bold, upwardly flared arches. The wheelbase is long and therefore easily accommodates the two occupants and a large engine in front of the rear axle. Named in honour of Bernd Rosemeyer, the Rosemeyer design study pays homage to the then 28-year old who was killed in a world speed record attempt on 28 January 1938 when his Auto Union Streamliner rolled over several times at some 440 km/h on the Frankfurt to Darmstadt autobahn. The Audi Rosemeyer is a sports car to which only superlatives can do justice.
Short body overhangs, each seemingly sculpted from a solid block, emphasise the long wheelbase still more and add power to the side view. This Audi design study is not a roadgoing car, nor does it herald some later production model. Nevertheless, it depicts the Audi brand’s technology potential visually, with outlines that suggest its weight-saving construction, its ultimate dynamics and its functional precision in every detail and every component.
The large drilled brake discs can be identified immediately behind the giant road wheels. They are an effective means of counteracting the immense power output of this mid-engined car. Strikingly shaped air inlets divide up the aluminium body and add particular character to the nose end of this Audi design study. The headlights, recessed into the aerodynamically shaped front end, seem to fix their gaze firmly on the road ahead. Their xenon lamps, powerful and compact, are located behind clear glass covers.
Large outside mirrors would conflict with the perfectionist aims of Audi’s aerodynamic engineers. Instead, the driver of this design study obtains a perfect view to the rear and along the sides from several cameras that transmit their images to monitor screens in the cockpit.
Inside a super sports model: clarity as a blend of elegance and functional efficiency has been sought and found here too. The interior is trimmed with fire-resistant quilted Nomex like a racing car or helicopter cockpit. Two leather-covered bucket seats accommodate the driver and passenger behind a panoramic windscreen that is wrapped well round. This is the logical continuation of the purist interior architecture found in the TT cockpit.
The prominent centre tunnel with its bright aluminium tubes and the high window line have the effect of integrating the driving position in a perfect ergonomic manner and making it the nerve-centre of this supersports car. This is a task area in the very heart of a supreme driving machine. At the rear of the cockpit, a window provides a clear view on the heart of this car, its mid-engine. To take its pulse, there is a large revolution counter with analogue dial which, like the other instruments, echoes the visual appeal of the light units.
Adjustable racing pedals, an open lever gate for the six-speed gearbox and a steering wheel with four spokes at 90-degree intervals are the ideal instruments for the driver to keep the performance potential of this car under perfect control.
Brushed aluminium, carbon fibre and top-quality leather give the interior its character, but without sacrificing clarity and purity for the ambience of a large luxury saloon. Everywhere there is evidence of precision craftsmanship, with all the materials and every detail processed with unmistakable care and perfection.
The result is an Audi such as there has never been before and will never be again.
Bernd Rosemeyer was one of the most exceptional racing drivers in German motor racing history. The then 28-year old was killed in a world record attempt on 28 January 1938 when his Auto Union Streamliner rolled over several times at some 440 km/h on the Frankfurt to Darmstadt autobahn. AUDI AG, as the traditional successor to Auto Union AG Chemnitz, will lay a wreath in memory of the famous racing driver at the site of the accident on the present-day A5 between Frankfurt and Heidelberg (in the direction of Darmstadt, commemorative stone at the first car park after the Langen-Mörfelden exit).
The news of his death shocked the public at the time. Bernd Rosemeyer was seen as the motor racing idol of his day. As a 25-year old, the former motorcycle rider joined Auto Union's racing department in 1935 and made his debut on 26 May in the AVUS race in Berlin. In the very first year, after several places on the winner's rostrum, Rosemeyer won the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix in Brünn. 1936, however, was to be Bernd Rosemeyer's year in the legendary Silver Arrow era. In the Auto Union 16-cylinder Type C he won all possible titles: European champion, German road racing champion and German hill-climbing champion. Even in 1937, when Rosemeyer was no longer able to compete on equal terms against the top Mercedes drivers such as Caracciola, Lang or von Brauchitsch, this did nothing to detract from his position as a superstar of his time. Bernd Rosemeyer was viewed as a genius in the racing car cockpit and delighted hundreds of thousands of fans throughout the world with his exceptionally courageous driving style.
In October 1937, Bernd Rosemeyer set several world records on the Frankfurt to Darmstadt autobahn. He was the first person to exceed the 400 km/h limit on a normal road. For the record attempts in January 1938, Auto Union took a modified, Streamliner record car with a 16-cylinder engine (6.5-litre, 545 hp) to the starting line. The theoretical top speed was 456 km/h. During the record attempt, Rosemeyer's car was caught by a gust of wind at a speed of almost 440 km/h. The car careered off the road and rolled over several times. Auto Union AG Chemnitz never took any further part in record attempts after this.
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.
If you’re ever on the present-day A5 between Frankfurt and Heidelberg going in the direction of Darmstadt, you’ll find a commemorative stone at the first car park after the Langen-Mörfelden exit. It is the site of the accident which claimed Rosemeyer’s life.
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning