1938 Auto Union Type D.
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Only very rarely has sheer functionality radiated such pure fascination as did the Grand Prix racing cars of the 1930s, the legendary “Silver Arrows.” The Type D, raced by Auto Union in the 1938 and 1939 seasons, was the pinnacle of a spectacular design legacy.
As regards technical fundamentals, all Auto Union racing cars blazed new trails in their era: As in today’s Formula One vehicles, the driver sat up front with the engine installed longitudinally behind him. This mid-engine concept – the Type D had a three-liter V12 which delivered some 370 kW (around 500 hp) in its final configuration – resulted in a truly innovative styling.
The side view of the Type D – a purely in-house project at Auto Union – was dominated by the domelike design, at the highest point of which sat the driver. With its formal uniformity, this last Grand Prix racing car from Germany’s Saxony glimpsed very far into the future. Its long and high tail end terminated in two horizontal lips, which served to stabilize the flow of air in accordance with the state of aerodynamic science at that time.
“The Type D conveys the emotion of an unbridled racing car,” says Stefan Sielaff, Head of Design at AUDI AG. “Today we would say that it had a cab-forward design: The driver sits toward the front; power propels him from behind. You get this same feeling in today’s TT – even though its engine is situated at the front. Its roof line was drawn such that its highest point is above the driver, as well.”
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