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Four rings – Audi

One of the keys to the success of the still-young Auto Union was the allocation of a specific market segment to each of the individual brands in order to create a coordinated model range. For the Audi brand, this prompted development of the Audi ‘Front’ Type UW, a midsize car that enabled the new group to make use of synergy benefits for the first time.

The principal feature of the new Audi was its front-wheel drive. DKW’s experience in the domain of front-wheel drive was simply adopted for a midsize vehicle. Its power unit was the Wanderer 2-litre, six-cylinder engine developed by Ferdinand Porsche; the body of the saloon version came from Horch’s body shop, and the convertibles were built by the highly reputable Dresden coachbuilder Gläser.

The Audi ‘Front’ Type UW – the designation meant a Type U with Wanderer engine – finally went into production in the spring of 1933. A year later, Audi’s production operations were transferred to the nearby Horch plant in order to free capacity at the Audi plant for the rising output of DKW front-wheel-drive models. Technically revised and equipped with an uprated 2.3-litre Wanderer engine, the new Audi Front 225 was unveiled at the 1935 Berlin Motor Show and remained on the market until 1938. The successor model, the Audi 920, also exhibited strong evidence of a modular construction system having been used. Both the chassis, now with conventional rear-wheel drive again, and the modern body styling were largely the same as the Wanderer W 23 six-cylinder model. This elegant car had an inline six-cylinder OHC engine developed by Horch, while the rear suspension adopted the DKW floating-axle principle. The first examples of the new car left the production line at Auto Union’s Horch factory in December 1938. The Audi 920 rapidly became a market success and a hit with customers.

This success was brought to an abrupt halt by the outbreak of the Second World War. Production of civilian vehicles was cut back to a minimum and the group’s operations switched to the production of armaments. For this, forced labourers, concentration camp prisoners and prisoners of war were also recruited. The last Audi of this era was built in April 1940. There would not be another Audi passenger car for a quarter of a century.