Peter Anderson | Aug 14, 2012

Audi has recovered the last of the three legendary, pre-WW2 Auto Union Type Ds, once lost to the Soviet Union as part of reparation agreements post WW2.

At the outbreak of war, Auto Union hid the cars in a mine complex in Zwickau, but they were subsequently uncovered during the Russian occupation.

In the decades since, Audi has recovered three of the five Auto Union cars that can be considered original.

“This is one of the most emotional moments in our heritage work for Audi AG – we have come full circle,” Head of Audi Tradition, Thomas Frank said.

This most recent acquisition by Audi was built in 1939, the last of the 'Silver Arrows', and is known by collectors as one of the two Karassik cars.

That tag came from American car collector Paul Karassik, who spend a decade chasing down the lost Auto Union cars in Soviet Russia.

Karassik, of Russian extraction but raised in Serbia, had seen the final Grand Prix in Belgrade before the war. Decades later, having prospered as a US immigrant, he set about searching for the lost cars after hearing in 1970 of their possible existence in Russia.

Karassik made numerous visits Russia and the Ukraine to track them down, eventually finding two of the cars in a dismantled state that he then managed to buy.

It wasn't that easy, of course. The parts had to be spirited out of the Soviet Union in what Audi describes as several "hair-raising journeys, often at the wheel of a delivery van" before Karassik got his precious freight on a plane to Florida.

In 1991 the collector made contact with Audi Tradition who acted as advisers for the restoration of the cars.

New aluminium bodies had to be made, as the originals were long gone. The first of the 3.0 litre V12 cars was built to single-supercharger 1938 specification, and the second to twin-supercharger 1939 spec.

The twin compressor V12 developed a staggering 362kW in 1939, only a little down on the V16's 388kW from 1936.

By 1994, they were both race-ready, and Audi brought them to the Eifel Classic at the Nurburgring in October of that year.

The single-charger car was then loaned to Audi by the Karassik family, before finally being purchased by Audi in 1998. Karassik sold the second to a private collector.

Audi Tradition now owns all three Auto Union cars lost to the Soviet Union, with one recovered from a museum in Latvia after the collapse of the USSR.

Along with its Mercedes-Benz counterparts, the Type D forms part of the Silver Arrows legend. Pilots of the Auto Union cars included the likes of Bernd Rosemeyer, Tazio Nuvolari and Hans Stuck.

Rosemeyer famously took his V16 Type C to 380km/h on the long straights of Berlin's Avus circuit, and later died in his bid to take a streamliner Auto Union racer to 430km/h on a German autobahn.

Similar in appearance to the Mercedes racing cars of the same era, the Auto Unions are distinguished by their rear-engine layout as opposed to the Merc's front engine.

The Karassik-restored twin-charger will be displayed at the Goodwood Revival from September 14-16 before being returned to Ingolstadt to become a permanent exhibit at the Audi museum.

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