The Ex-works, ex-Hans Stuck, Rudolf Hasse and team-mates
1939 Auto Union 3-liter 'D-Type' V12 Grand Prix Racing Single-Seater
Chassis no. '19'
Engine no. 17
Here, Bonhams is delighted to offer nothing less than one of the most charismatic Grand Prix racing cars ever to come to public auction.
The car offered represents the finest possible re-assembly of all the very best original parts recovered from the 1945-46 Soviet sequestration by American-based classic car hunters Paul and Barbara Karassik in the late-1980s/1990.
The Auto Union 'D-Type' as offered here today embodies the only individually-identifiable complete original Grand Prix race team chassis frame known to have survived from 1938-39. When the chassis frame was first delivered to Crosthwaite & Gardiner in England, after its recovery from the former Soviet Union, it was found to bear a soldered-on chassis plate which identified it as frame number '19', it has been considered to be frame '19' ever since.
The car is powered by what was originally a single-stage supercharged 3-liter V12 works team racing engine, numbered '17', sympathetically converted by Crosthwaite & Gardiner to accommodate the additional cachet of the original ex-race team two-stage supercharger also retrieved by the Karassiks. The transaxle gearbox and suspension are also substantially ex-race team originals, refurbished and restored as required with minimal compromise to their specific originality.
As presented today, the only non-period, non-original substantial features of this Auto Union are its beautifully hand-crafted aluminum bodyshell and fuel tanks made for Crosthwaite & Gardiner and contemporary owners Paul and Barbara Karassik by those leading exponents of the art, Rod Jolley Coachbuilding, in England in 1992-93.
The story of the race history that has been attributed to it, its loss and discovery is almost certainly one of the most fascinating car stories ever told and begins back in Germany in the mid 1930s....
The Silver Arrows
The 'Silver Arrows' period of Grand Prix motor racing from 1934 to 1939 saw white-hot competition between the German State-backed factory teams of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. Their Grand Prix racing cars embodied the outermost cutting-edge of contemporary technology, not merely to defeat the best that such Italian and French racing rivals as Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Bugatti, Talbot and Delahaye could offer but most critically to defeat one another.
In those heyday years of the emergent Third Reich, the two major German manufacturers were locked in combat on the race circuits of Europe, the US, Brazil and even South Africa not merely to promote their own brand names, but also to promote the technical capability and blossoming prestige of the resurgent New Germany. There was little thought at that time of the barbaric brutality at the core of that Nazi regime and today the finest of German industry's peacetime technological achievements from that period such as this Grand Prix racing car - are rightly regarded as having marked a high-tide of international engineering endeavour.
While the ultimate developments of the 750-Kilogram Formula for Grand Prix cars emerged in 1937 as the epitome of brutal power the replacement 3-liter supercharged/4½-liter unsupercharged Formula of 1938-39 then produced cars such as this V12-engined Auto Union which proved to be the pre-war pinnacle of intricate sophistication and complexity.
The 'D' Type Auto Union
The 1938-39 V12-cylinder Auto Union racing car retrospectively classified postwar as the Chemnitz company's 'D-Type' model was developed originally to meet a new set of international technical regulations or 'Formula' - governing Grand Prix racing. The Formula specified a maximum engine capacity of 3-liters and a minimum weight limit of 850-kilograms. The 'D-Type' Auto Union was based upon a highly sophisticated and advanced new chassis design, featuring de Dion rear suspension and with its fuel load centralized in pannier tanks hung along each side, within the wheelbase. The 3-cam V12-cylinder engine developed some 420bhp in 1938 single-stage supercharged form, rising to some 485bhp at 7,000rpm when two-stage supercharging was adopted on the latest-version cars for 1939.
The Auto Union team's 1938 season was riven by early tragedy when its star driver, Bernd Rosemeyer, was killed in a speed record attempt that January. Superstar Italian ace Tazio Nuvolari then took his place, taking the battle to the rival Mercedes-Benz battalions.
Two of the new Auto Unions placed third and fourth in that 1938 German GP, driven respectively by Hans Stuck and by H.P. Muller/Tazio Nuvolari. The team's next appearance was then in the Italian Coppa Acerbo race at Pescara on August 14, 1938, where none of their entries survived to the finish. However, one week later in the Swiss GP at the Bremgarten forest circuit outside Berne on August 21, Hans Stuck finished fourth.
The Italian Grand Prix followed at Monza Autodrome on September 11, 1938, and there in a race of attrition Tazio Nuvolari's Auto Union 'D-Type' survived to win after 2 hours and 41 minutes of hectic racing. With this victory, Auto Union humbled the rival Mercedes-Benz W154 cars, the best of which could only finish third, co-driven by Rudi Caracciola/Manfred von Brauchitsch.
This 1938 season was finally completed by the Donington Grand Prix at Donington Park, England, on October 22, having been postponed to that date from October 1 due to the contemporary Munich Crisis between Germany and Great Britain. There Nuvolari won yet again in the Auto Union 'D-Type', beating the factory Mercedes-Benz W154s of Hermann Lang and Dick Seaman, and with Auto Union team-mate H.P. Muller taking fourth place.
That final pre-war season whose leading cars such as this Auto Union represent the absolute high-point of 'Silver Arrows' technological sophistication - then opened on May 21 with the EifelRennen, at Germany's Nurburgring, where Nuvolari's 'D-Type' finished second and Rudi Hasse fifth driving as confirmed by available published records chassis frame no '19'.
- Please note, this lot is applicable to an import duty calculated at 2.5% of the hammer price. This duty will be invoiced to the purchaser but may be refunded if the lot is exported within certain criteria.