An ultra-rare race car commissioned by Adolf Hitler and recently saved from being crushed is tipped to set a new world record at auction.
The 1939 Auto Union D-Type is estimated to fetch a jaw-dropping $A15 million when it goes under the hammer at Christie’s February 16-17 Retromobile 2007 auction in Paris.
Thought to be one of only five related cars in existence – one of which is shown in our main photo – the Ferdinand Porsche-designed D-Type was commissioned by Hitler to help prove what he believed was the superiority and might of the Third Reich.
According to Christie’s, among its many victories, the car being auctioned in Paris won the 1939 Belgrade Grand Prix, in the hands of the legendary Tazio Nuvolari and the 1939 Reims GP, with Hermann Muller at the wheel.
Christie’s also claims that the Auto Union D-Type is one of the most significant cars in motorsport history and one of the most important cars ever to appear at auction.
After securing the German chancellery in 1933, Hitler announced a 500,000-reichmark grant to any car-maker able to build a race car with futuristic technologies that would flaunt the Third Reich’s technical prowess internationally.
Although Mercedes-Benz originally took on the challenge, it was Auto Union – today known as Audi – which delivered the finished product. The engineer behind the project was an Auto Union employee by the name of Ferdinand Porsche…
The car was contextually ultra-modern and proved to be devastatingly competitive.
With its never-before-seen mid-mounted, 3.0-litre, twin-supercharged V12, the D-type sent an amazing 360kW through its rear wheels – rocketing its 850kg to an astonishing 295km/h
Safety rated low on the engineers’ list of priorities and, like most of its contemporaries, the car lacked even a roll cage. In those days, it was considered preferable to be flung from a car in a crash, rather than contained within it. Not surprisingly, casualty rates in the early days of motorsport were high.
According to Christie’s, several D-type cars were lost or destroyed in the aftermath of World War II. The car up for auction in Paris was one of two taken to post-war Soviet Russia to be stripped down and studied for its technologies. It was here that, in 1982, the dismembered racing relics were discovered, largely intact and ready for the crushers.
The discovery came after a decade-long search by Ukraine-born American classic car collector, Paul Karassik, who, according to Britain’s Telegraph, smuggled the disassembled cars back to the US under the false floor of a campervan.
Karassik approached British restoration firm Crosthwaite and Gardiner about rebuilding the two cars using the largely complete set of parts. Following the meticulous restoration which followed, one car was sold to Audi and the other – the Belgrade GP-winning car – was bought by Abba Kogan, a Brazilian collector who lives in Monaco.
It’s Kogan’s car that’s up for sale and tipped to break the current 20-year-old record of world’s highest auction price for a car, held by a 1931 Bugatti Royale that was auctioned in Britain for a lip-biting $A13.8 million.
Other race car highlights of Christie’s Retromobile auction include the 1951 Talbot Lago T26GS "Barquette" in which Pierre Levegh single-handedly drove 23 of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952, and a 1928 Amilcar MCO which broke six 1100cc class speed with works driver Morel at the wheel.