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Author: Ronan Glon

Audi recreates 16-cylinder super-sedan designed in 1930s but never built


Auto Union — one of the companies that Audi traces its roots to — set several world records in the 1930s with a series of race cars grouped under the Silver Arrow label. These cars were designed exclusively for track use, but the brand also envisioned a street-legal version called Type 52 that used the same 16-cylinder engine. The sedan was never built, so Audi dusted off decades-old blueprints to make it a reality.

Type 52 was an internal designation; Audi notes that the model would have likely been launched as the Schnellsportwagen, which means “fast sports car” in German. It’s a fitting name: Ferdinand Porsche’s design office started the project in late 1933 and planned a sedan built around a de-tuned version of the supercharged, 4.4-liter 16-cylinder engine that powered the Type 22 race car. In spite of the lower compression, the engine was projected to develop about 200 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque, which was enough for a top speed of 124 mph. Had it gone on sale, the Schnellsportwagen would have stood proud as one of the fastest and most powerful cars of its era.

Visually, the Schnellsportwagen featured an aerodynamic, wing-shaped silhouette characterized by an unusually long wheelbase required to accommodate the massive mid-mounted engine. It had four rear-hinged doors, and the interior layout placed the driver front and center and the two passengers on either side — this layout made the McLaren F1 famous nearly 60 years later. Auto Union even fitted a small trunk.

Auto Union’s plans to build a test car were canned when the project was abandoned in 1935, so the Schnellsportwagen was consigned to the pantheon of automotive history. Recreating it using archive documents and design sketches was easier said than done, especially since none of the people that worked on the project are still alive. Audi commissioned an England-based restoration shop named Crosthwaite & Gardner to tackle the project. Every part of the car had to be built from scratch including the chassis, the engine, and the body panels.

One of the bigger issues that the shop, which worked closely with members of the Audi Tradition department, ran into is that the car never made it off the drawing board. “One insight that came out of our intensive exchange is that the developers in the 1930s would probably have had to adjust some of the technical details in the course of testing,” explained Timo Witt, the head of Audi’s historical vehicle collection.

The wheelbase was consequently extended in order to package the front suspension system, the steering components, the engine, and the transmission. The engine was updated as well: the modern-day Schnellsportwagen uses a version of the 1936 Auto Union Type C’s 6.0-liter 16-cylinder, which is supercharged to 520 horsepower. It runs on a blend of 50% methanol, 40% gasoline and 10% toluene. None of the period documents clarified the car’s color, so Audi painted the car in the same Cellulose Silver that appeared on the Silver Arrow race cars.

Over 90 years after it was designed, the Auto Union Type 52 will make its public debut at the 2024 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

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Check out the classics that the Bugatti Tourbillon traces its roots to


MOLSHEIM, France — Bugatti unveiled the new, 1,800-horsepower Tourbillon at its historic headquarters in Molsheim, France. While the Chiron’s successor was the uncontested star of the show, the brand displayed an impressive selection of classics to give attendees a glimpse into every facet of its past. The roster included grand prix-winning race cars, ultra-luxurious sedans, elegant coupes, and even a small, city-friendly electric car.

Enthusiasts tend to associate the Bugatti name with hypercars, but there’s more to the brand than four-digit horsepower figures and speed records. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the company made one of the most luxurious cars in the world: the Type 41, which is also known as the Royale. It stretched 252 inches from bumper to bumper in its longest configuration (several body styles were available) and its wheelbase measured nearly 170 inches; I’ve owned cars that were shorter than that. Power came from a 12.8-liter straight-eight engine.

Pictured in our gallery above, the example Bugatti displayed at the Tourbillon unveiling features 24-inch wheels, the famous “Dancing Elephant” hood ornament, and a closed rear cabin with windows made of reinforced glass. The front compartment is always open, and the rear passengers could talk to the driver using an intercom system called a Motor Dictograph. The behemoth of an engine made about 300 horsepower at 1,800 rpm, which was enough to unlock a top speed of about 124 mph — that was a supercar-worthy figure a century ago.

Bugatti has explored the more family-friendly side of its heritage on several occasions over the past few decades, though none of its projects have reached production. In the 1990s, when the brand was owned by Romano Artioli and based in Italy, it experimented with a Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed super-sedan called EB112 and powered by a 6.0-liter V12. In 1999, after joining the Volkswagen Group, Bugatti showed a four-door, W18-powered concept called EB218. Ten years later, the 16C Galibier made its debut as a potential follow-up to the Veyron.

Racing has been part of Bugatti’s DNA for over 100 years; it has won major events like the Targa Florio and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Four vintage race cars illustrated this part of its heritage at the unveiling, including a surprisingly futuristic model from 1923 called Type 23 and nicknamed Tank. Take a look at its bodywork and you’ll immediately understand why. In an era when open-wheel cars dominated the racing scene, the Tank featured a streamlined body that consisted mostly of flat metal panels held together with rivets. It could reach over 110 mph thanks to a 90-horsepower 1.8-liter straight-eight. It wasn’t as successful as Bugatti hoped, but it illustrated an approach to design that was innovative, daring, and unusual. Its successor, the Type 35, became the company’s most successful race car by a significant margin.

Bugatti also displayed more modern cars including the EB110, the Centodieci, the Mistral, and the one-of-a-kind Chiron Profilée that sold for over $10 million at an auction in February 2023. But while most of Bugatti’s past and present models put a big focus on performance, there’s one exception to the rule: the Type 56 that I drove in 2018. It’s electric, it has a tiller instead of a steering wheel, and it maxes out at 20 mph.



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