Auto Union Type A was the first of the famous Auto Union racing cars from the 1930s. At the time German racing cars were given a silver paint finish, and therefore these cars were also called Silver Arrow.
Auto Union car manufacturing group had been created in 1932 by a merger of the Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer brands. Auto Union wanted to build a racing car to bring success and fame for the new car manufacturer. Ferdinand Porsche had designed a rear-engined racing car which was named the P-Wagen. This car became the first Auto Union racing car, later known as Type A. Ferdinand Porsche also supervised the racing car construction and testing from March 1933 onwards at Auto Union’s racing department, which was located at the Horch factory in Zwickau.
1934 was the first motor racing season in which the designers had to comply with a new formula. Car’s total dry weight was limited to 750 kilograms,. However, there were no limitations to the engine size nor the type of the fuel used. In the Auto Union racing car, the engine was placed in the centre of the chassis, just behind the driver’s seat. Car’s mid-engine layout was very unusual at the time. Radiator was in the front, while the engine and fuel tank behind the driver. The 5-speed gearbox was mounted behind the rear axle. The body of the single-seater racing car resembled a bit like an aircraft fuselage.
Due to the mid-engine design there was lot of weight over the rear axle, which resulted oversteer tendency. The driver’s position also made it more difficult to detect the impending slide until it was too late to control it. The car featured an all-independent suspension, but the handling of the powerful car was still quite a challenge to the driver.
The engine of the Auto Union racing car was quite remarkable. The compact 16-cylinder engine was a narrow-angled with two cylinder blocks inclined at an angle of 45 degrees. Engine had two valves per cylinder and a single overhead camshaft to operate all 32 valves. Engine’s displacement was 4,358cc. A single Roots-type supercharger was mounted vertically behind the block, delivering a mixture from two Solex carburettors through a manifold formed integrally with the cylinder head castings. The engine produced around 295 hp and 530 Nm of torque.
The racing cars bearing the four-ring emblem made their race debut on Berlin’s Avus circuit on May 27, 1934 driven by Hans Stuck, August Momberger and Hermann zu Leiningen. In 1934 Hans Stuck won the German, Swiss and Czech Grand Prix and finished second in the Eifelrennen and Italian races. Auto Union was also raced in hill climb competitions. Hans Stuck became the 1934 European Mountain Champion by winning three hill climb races. For the 1935 racing season Auto Union introduced the upgraded Type B. However, Achille Varzi won the 1935 Tunis GP driving a Type A.