Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Blast from the past 8 - the DKW F102 and the first modern Audi

Two similar, smart-looking but slightly boxy German cars from the 1960s. In fact, so alike are they that you could be forgiven for thinking that they are two examples of the same model. But they aren't - quite. For all that these two cars have in common - which is a lot - they are in one respect poles apart. One was probably just about the last car to be launched with a two-stroke engine by a mainstream western manufacturer and therefore belongs firmly in the past; the other was the foundation upon which one of today's most successful prestige car brands was built.

The first car is the DKW F102, introduced in 1963. This was a modern design but its two-stroke engine held sales back (I snapped this example at Audi's museum in Ingolstadt earlier this year).

The answer was to add a powerful new four-stroke engine with an unusually high compression ratio that matched up to the rest of the car, which received a bit of a face-lift at the same time (incidentally doing away with possibly the coolest front indicators ever fitted to a car - they were set into the leading edges of the tops of the front wings). Internally, this new model, introduced in 1965, was known as the F103 but Auto Union, DKW's parent company decided it needed to make a dramatic statement to distance it from the F102, so Audi, an old badge last used before the Second World War, was reintroduced. This car is also from Audi's own collection.

At first, it was unclear whether Audi was a brand or a model name, but that soon sorted itself out. Audi has come a long way since 1965 but it owes everything to that revamped, re-engined, renamed version of the short-lived, long-forgotten DKW F102.

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