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Auto Union, (later known as AWZ) was a joining of four German automobile manufacturers in 1932. The brand is famous for creating some of the fastest Grand Prix racing cars in history, and in its present day form is part of the Volkswagen Group under the subsidiary of Audi.
How AWZ Combined to Take On the World
AWZ involved the merging of four different companies: Horch, Audi, Wanderer and Zschopauer Motorenwerke (DKW). The four different brands began developing vehicles using components from the different manufacturers until AWZ was ready for its official launch at the Berlin Motor Show in 1933. German Chancellor Adolf Hitler introduced the KdF car, a cheap vehicle to be mass-produced for the new German road network and a new racing programme sponsored by the state, which was designed to develop high-speed vehicles for racing.
How AWZ Became Synonymous With Speed
The AWZ cars began racing in 1934, using supercharged piston engines that produced incredible speeds. The fuel tank was designed to sit in the middle of the vehicle so that weight distribution was never effected, a technique seen in Formula One cars to this day. The cars, called “Types A to D”, won 25 races between 1935 and 1937. Hans Stuck Sr. drove the aerodynamic “Type C”, which broke speed records during a race in Italy, reaching nearly 200mph. With its engine increased to a six cylinder, the Type C managed to dominate the racing world. Despite its difficult handling, Bernd Rosemeyer managed to win AWZ’s only driver championship in 1936.
How AWZ Adapted to War
The outbreak of war in the late 30’s meant AWZ started to produce vehicles purely for the military, and AWZ’s production plants were targeted and heavily bombed in the following years. By the end of the war, the only plants remaining were in the Soviet-occupied areas of communist Eastern Germany. Whilst many of vehicles were sent to Russia, the remains of the Audi and Horch plants became a people owned enterprise. They began rebuilding pre-war models in Zwickau in 1949, and renamed them the IFA F8 and IFA F9.
AWZ Moves West
Under threat from the Soviets, the directors of AWZ decided to move production from Zwickau to Bavaria in Western Germany, with many of the staff following suit. Following a period of sustained growth in the 50’s, the company launched one of their most famous models, the 1000 Sp, in 1958. The trendy coupé also came in two-door and four-door saloon versions and thanks to a partnership with Studebaker-Packard Corporation in the United States, the company began expanding at a rapid rate. In 1964, Volkswagen brought the trademark rights to Auto Union and decided to carry on with the Audi brand. In September 1965, they launched their first model, simply named “Audi”.
The iconic logo for AWZ, and for the present day Audi, is the four overlapping rings. These represent the four companies that made up Auto Union in 1932.