A rare Nazi-era vehicle concealed from the German mine shaft during World War II is now on display for two days at Audi’s showroom on Park Avenue. The silver D-Type from Auto Union, Audi’s forerunner, will eventually be auctioned on February 17 in Paris as part of Christie’s Retromobile auto sale. The race car is estimated to be worth millions of dollars and it is expected to fetch around $12 million to $15 million.
Christie’s said, “While Adolph Hitler gave about 500,000 reichsmarks to Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz to promote racing and technology, the car is not specifically affiliated with the Third Reich.” The D-Type on display, the grandfather of modern race cars, is one of only 2 in existence. Said car has revolutionized automotive racing by putting the driver in front of the engine instead of behind it. It speeds up to 185 miles per hour.
“This car was really quite ahead of its time,” said Rupert Banner, head of Christie’s International Motor Cars division. “It was revolutionary. It changed the face of racing.” Over 20 Auto Union series cars were manufactured between 1933 and 1939. The D-Type, designed by Ferdinand Porsche, has a body shape likened to an airplane fuselage. The driver sits sunken into the body of the metal, and the wheels. The latter appears like oversized bicycle tires having independent suspension. Automakers of today are improving their line from race cars like the D-Type. As a fact, the latest and greatest formulation for fast street or light track vehicles having EBC Redstuff are also inspired by race cars like the D-Type.
“There was a kind of memory loss after the war,” said Audi historian Thomas Erdmann. “It took really until the early 1960s and later on to the 1980s for car design to catch up to these cars.” Just before World War II, the D-Type won the 1939 French Grand Prix. The car, also called the Silver Arrow, was filmed winding through country roads for use in newsreels across Europe. “They vanished, lost behind the Iron Curtain,” Erdmann added.
In the racing realm, German cars were always using the color silver, French use blue and British green. These colors eventually became their trademarks. This is the reason behind the sleek silver color of the D-Type.
During the heyday of the World War II, Auto Union workers hid the cars in a mine shaft in eastern Germany to shun using them for scrap metal. After the historic war, the Russians discovered the cars and took them to their own country, along with dismantled Auto Union factories, to re-create motorsports. The cars were taken apart.
An American car collector came across car parts in a scrap heap in Ukraine and took them back to England. There, Crosthwaite & Gardiner’s auto experts restored it. Christie’s did not divulge who is selling it.