R8. The beginning of the Audi Avus – a supercar from Ingolstadt with a wooden engine

 

As it turns out, the Quattro Spyder was not the only mid-engine sports car that Audi was preparing. After almost a marketable Spyder made its debut at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show, a few days later, already at the Tokyo show, the “lords of the rings” showed the Avus Quattro sports coupe. Now this car is considered as the forerunner of Audi R8 supercar, but it was hardly it really – still the cars are separated by more than 15 years.

The concept received its name in honor of the famous Afus track near Berlin, where the lion’s share of speed records of the prewar era was set and where Bernd Rosemeyer died, in whose honor Audi will also create a concept car. Since the Avus racetrack was considered one of the fastest on the planet, it is not surprising that everything in the concept was also aimed at achieving maximum speed.


Take for example the body. Its height didn’t exceed one meter, and about half of this height was accounted for by 20-inch wheels. The body itself, drawn by Jay Mays, was based on Audi’s proprietary Space Frame architecture, which made heavy use of aluminum. Later, the A8 sedan and A2 hatchback were built according to the same scheme. Thanks to Space Frame, the Avus managed to keep its weight within the acceptable range of 1,250 kilograms.

The body was covered with polished aluminum panels and resembled the Auto Union Type C Streamliner. Each panel was tapped manually with wooden hammers before polishing – just like in the good old days. But the result of the bodybuilders’ and designers’ efforts is impressive to this day – the appearance of the car can hardly be called outdated even in 2019.


One of the very modern solutions looks like a NACA-type air intake installed on the roof. It drives cold air to the 510-horsepower six-liter W12. More precisely, to a mockup of this engine. The fact is that Audi engineers didn’t have time to finish the engine for the show, so they installed a mock-up of the motor of comparable mass on the Avus. To accurately mimic the mass, the engine stuffing was made of wood and the shell was made of plastic.

It took another few years to refine the engine, and it only made its debut on the Audi A8 W12 6.0 in the early 2000s. And it was not possible to reach the planned volume. Therefore, the claimed dynamic performance of Avus (3,5 seconds up to a “hundred”, 335 kilometers per hour maximum speed) is hardly relevant to reality.

But the system of a full drive Quattro with three locking differentials and six steps “mechanics” on the concept was completely functional. As well as integral steering with steering rear axle. Nevertheless, Audi has decided that it would be better for the Avus to remain a concept. Firstly, the W12 engine still needed tweaking and hours of testing. Secondly, the company doubted there would be many people willing to buy an Audi supercar.

After the Tokyo Motor Show, Audi got at least ten offers from customers all over the world who wanted to buy Avus. They begged Germans to make for them a small batch of supercars (10 cars) and were ready to pay a total of 12 million (still those!) dollars. But Audi bosses were adamant. Now the only example of Avus is in the company’s museum in Ingolstadt. It never got a real engine.

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