#0053 - Audi Front 225 Roadster, Production Prototype, 1935
This car is owned by Audi, A.G., Ingolstadt, Germany
Photographed: Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, 2009.
The Audi Name and Symbol: Although the modern incarnation of Audi began life in 1985, the marque has existed in some form for approximately 100 years. August Horch is the name to note. Horch began a company under his own name, as many barons of industry are wont to do, but was soon forced out. Upon starting a second automotive company, Horch again placed his name on his product's badge, but did so with a bit of linguistic trickery. 'Horch' is the German imperative of horchen, to listen. August Horch simply translated his name to Latin, yielding 'audi,' imperative of the verb 'audire,' which is the root of English words such as audible and auditorium. Audi, the car company (whose name is really 'Listen!' translated to Latin), was established in 1909, just a few months after Horch had been forced out of his namesake company.
As for the badge... In 1932, Audi, Horch, DKW, and Wanderer merged, forming the Auto Union conglomerate. Four rings, each slightly overlapping, became Auto Union's badge, and it is this emblem that endures today on Audi cars. Figure that—how many people realize that the four rings of Audi are about 70 years old, or that the cars that wear them have been around for more than 100 years.
The 225: While it was big news among the classic car crowd that Audi commissioned the reproduction of a Front 225 Roadster for their centenary in 2009, the breed itself was more prolific than the roadsters' chronic non-existence suggests. For decades, the world hasn't seen either of the two original roadster prototypes built by Auto Union, but many standard variations of the 225 enjoyed healthy production lives. The 225 was a mid-level option below the Horch 853. Cabriolet and sedan versions were available with either a two or four-dour body. Erdmann & Rossi even made a modest production run of roadsters similar in line and stature to this Auto Union version. All told, well over 2,000 Audi 225 cars were built. The only problem, (to use the term loosely), is that vintage Audi cars are seldom seen in the United States. Therefore, this special reconstruction of a prototype roadster may be the only exposure Americans get to the 225 model.
Failing the real thing, CMC models has done justice to the Front 225 Roadster with a brilliant 1:18 scale model, (to such an extent that merits acknowledgment). The German model company are, of course, aiming their product at Audi's centenary, but their scaled-down efforts are no less charming than those of Audi. Why go to the trouble? This Front 225 Roadster was originally prepared for the 1935 Berlin Auto Show. As publicity goes, rejuvenating a beautiful car that was built to make the company look good 75 years ago can do a good amount to make the company look good in the here and now. This dictum is doubly true for a company like Audi, whose heritage is either overshadowed by the likes of Mercedes-Benz, or completely lost by virtue of its obscurity.
Styling & Design: There are two basic veins along which to view the Front 225 Roadster. In the first vein, the Roadster is a 'baby Horch 853,' with many of the same parts, similar proportions, and, most notably, a shared grille and nose shroud. Without any mistake, the 225 is part of the Auto Union stable, a fact codified by the handling of the original design by Horch's in-house coachworks.
In the second vein, the Roadster owes much of its shape to Erdmann & Rossi—probably a great deal more aft of the fascia. As mentioned, Erdmann & Rossi bodied a few Front 225 Roadsters in their own manner and these, along with designs executed for other marques, share a few notable traits with the 225 Prototype. The dramatic sweep in the doors, lithe front and rear skirts, lack of running gear along the wheelbase, and general slant-back posture in the hind quarters are all characteristic of period Erdmann & Rossi designs. They will all resurface before the end of the decade on both the larger Horch 853, and on the sporting Mercedes-Benz 380-S.
Under the 225 is a progressive front-wheel drive platform. The frame is ladder-style with a central member that supports the 6-cylinder in-line motor up front, and tapers as it runs aft. Tucked within the metal frame is a wooden sub-frame to which the interior compartments are attached. Suspension is all independent, but this is achieved by transversely mounted compound springs in both front and rear, rather than any complicated control arm system.
Context: In spite of the formidable chassis, overall light weight, and dashing looks, the conventional Auto Union 2¼ litre six isn't able to feed more than about 50 horsepower to the pavement. As far as roadsters go, the Front 225 has less than half the horsepower in the Delahaye 135, and less than a quarter of the horsepower in the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900-A, which debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 1936 before going off to win the Mille Miglia.
Around this time, Auto Union was in the throws of Grand Prix competition at the very highest level, dueling with Mercedes-Benz, yet, not much of this spirit was distilled into their road cars. But for Auto Union, which sold largely on the domestic market, lack of outrageous performance was not much of a liability. Ultimately, Audi and Horch sold well at home, primarily for offering similar products as Mercedes-Benz, but with less complexity and less power. The quality and refinement was there, however. And so Auto Union stood prominently among German auto-makers, and by the classic era were well established. (At the time, BMW were just emerging as an independent company.)
So this is the point of commissioning the reconstruction of a 75 year-old show car—to remind today's automotive world of Audi's place in history, and to show that the marque has long produced desirable cars. Most auto-makers wish to foster this sort of sentiment among the public, and beholding a vehicle like the Front 225 Roadster makes it awfully hard to deny them the opportunity.
CMC models offers the chance to get intimate with the 225, though any CMC model is well worth it.
AutoBlog features the press release from Audi on the 225 recreation, and other classics slated to headline their centenary.
Supercars.net, reliably, has a bit to add on the 225.
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