The Audi Rosemeyer was showcased in 2000 as a working concept meant to feature Audi’s race heritage, brand power, and quattro permanent all-wheel drive. It’s a concept that’s at once ostentatious, intimidating, and nostalgic.
With design drawing heavily from the Auto Unions Silver Arrows Grand Prix racers and named after the legendary Bernd Rosemeyer who raced one of those beautiful cars, the Rosemeyer concept also draws from other sources in the Volkswagen Group’s past.
Like earlier Silver Arrow concepts that had been introduced occasionally, however, the Audi Rosemeyer was never going to production despite the waves of support fans offered for the street legal race cars.
Back in the mid-1930s, a group of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union cars that the popular press dubbed The Silver Arrows were the hottest thing on the track in Europe. Traditionally at the time, teams would paint their cars a certain color to match their country of origin – green for England, blue for France, white for Germany, etc. The story goes that the German-painted Mercedes-Benz W25 was a kilogram too heavy to meet race requirements for the Grand Prix, so the team scraped the paint off to gain the extra kg. The reality is that the paint tradition was not always strictly adhered to, especially by teams with multiple entrants, so it’s more likely that the cars were just clear coated. A decade before, Mercedes had won the Targa Florio with cars painted red to mimic the Italian competition.
Regardless, the Silver Arrows, whether Mercedes-built or Auto Union tagged, were exceedingly popular vehicles in the press because of their unique look, huge round grille, and excellent performance on the track.
Along with racers like Rudolf Caracciola, Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, and others, Bernd Rosemeyer became legendary for his wins in the massively-engined, sixteen-cylinder Silver Arrow of the period.
In hopes of selling that legend, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and Dr. Erwin Komenda drew up plans for a road-going Silver Arrow in the late 1930s called the Type 52, but despite a lot of positive press about the idea, it never saw production.
The 2000 Audi Rosemeyer is the VW Group’s latest foray into Silver Arrow nostalgia, this time through their premium brand Audi.
The Audi Rosemeyer concept unveiled in 2000 at the Autostadt amidst a lot of buzz and interest due to the company’s careful control of information about the car prior to the event. Most people were aware that Audi was unwrapping a supercar concept, probably a sixteen-cylinder, that had something to do with its racing provenance.
When the sheet came off, the awestruck world was witness to a shiny metallic tribute to long-gone racing days blended beautifully with modern Teutonic design that was sitting on an extremely muscular wheelbase.
Everything about the Audi Rosemeyer evokes instinctual appeal. The steel body screams of strength while the carefully crafted squares and circles of its bodywork whisper of the taught engineering beneath. The promise of high performance comes from race-ready, small details noted when the jaw is finally lifted and closer inspection is made.
A high fuel port, on the driver’s side for fast, gravity-fed fueling; a lack of physical rear-view mirrors, which have been replaced by twin camera bulbs on the car’s rooftop; bulged, close-fitting fender wells giving fast access to the tires and wheels; and other notes give that racing promise merit.
The Silver Arrow heritage is evoked in both the metallic body and the bullet-shaped grille. Homages to earlier vehicles such as the Type C and the TT as well as the aforementioned Type 52, are clear in the Rosemeyer’s design cues.
Underneath all of that is a mid-mounted monster, ready to rip the rubber off the Audi Rosemeyer’s tires if given a chance. The 16-cylinder, 8,004cc (8-liter, 488.4 cubic inch) engine produces 630bhp (780.71 hp) and 761 Nm of torque, which is driven into a six-speed manual transmission to propel the all-wheel drive (“quattro permanente four-wheel drive” in Audi speak). Top speed is 217.5 mph.
The 178.7-inch Rosemeyer is 75.6 inches wide and stands 48.82 inches tall. The car is a tribute to German engineering, Audi’s ability to combine style with high performance, and to the race legends of Bernd Rosemeyer and the Silver Arrows.
Where Is It Now?
Audi realized from the beginning that the Rosemeyer concept would never go to production. It was to expensive to build and market and the company had just bought Lamborghini and didn’t want to compete with their new brand. Flagging sales and a need to become relevant in the competitive automotive market of the turn of the twenty-first century, though, required Audi do something to draw attention to itself. In that regard, the Audi Rosemeyer concept was a huge success.
The car still resides in the Audi collection as a museum piece that occasionally tours show circuits. While official word has not been given, it’s believed that the engine and transmission have been removed from the Rosemeyer to ease transport and licensing restrictions.