February 16, 2010

The $3,600 Audi

Ah yes, the old days of Porsche+Audi. In the 70s and 80s Porsches and Audis were sold through the Porsche+Audi dealer network which was a division of Volkswagen. Porsche's image of sportiness, VW's of economy, and Audi's value and technology, all worked together in one grand marketing device.

Of course, there has always been comradeship between VW and Porsche for obvious reasons, yet the Porsche 917 and the Audi 100, as shown in the above 1971 ad, are rather distant cousins.

The 100 was a car that almost never came to life. After having recently acquired Auto-Union from Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen was more interested in using Audi's production facilities to make Beetles than develop the more upmarket brand. The 100 was essentially designed in secrecy behind VW's back, and furthermore traces more of its roots to NSU and DKW (under Daimler control) than Volkswagen.

Those inboard brakes? Well, those could also be found on the NSU R080, which was designed prior to VW's purchase of NSU in 1969. Before that even, inboard brakes were used on Mercedes race cars of the 1950s. Interestingly, the Audi 100's designer was Ludwig Kraus. He worked with M-B from the 1930s through 1963 before moving to their Auto-Union division. He followed Auto-Union to VW in 1964, and finally left in 1973.

It was then that Ferdinand Piech took over at Audi. He had just left Porsche after heading the 917 race car project, which had nearly bankrupt them.

Today, Porsche Cars and the VW Group are all part of Porsche Automobil Holding SE - the majority of which is owned by the Piech and Porsche families.

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