In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Sweden’s Saabs weren’t the only front wheel-drive, two-stroke, three-cylinder cars that were killing giants in international rallying; West Germany’s DKWs were well established and highly regarded competitors. The three-cylinder engine powering the Auto Union 1000 -an upscale version of the former DKW 3=6– would do double-duty in the Ingolstadt-built 1958-1965 Auto Union 1000 Sp Sports Coupe and 1961-’65 1000 Sp Roadster.
These low-slung, deceptively small cars featured bodies built by Karrosserie Baur in Stuttgart, and those bodies were rather obviously inspired by that of the 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird. They shared a 980-cc (59.8-cu.in.) DKW inline-three that used 8.0-compression and a Solex downdraft carburetor and made 60 hp at 4,500 RPM, a notable bump over the 7.25-compression and 50 hp of standard 1000s. The only available gearbox was a column-shift four-speed manual, and performance improved from the 1000’s 75-84 MPH to a circa-90 MPH top speed. The 2+2 interior was stylishly designed, befitting this car’s price and its grand touring aspirations.
Audi Tradition has both an Sp Sport Coupe and Sp Roadster in its collection, and both cars are routinely campaigned in vintage events.
Auto Union built an estimated 6,400 of the 1000 Sp Sport Coupes and exactly 1,640 of the Roadsters, and very few made it to American shores, where they were distributed by Mercedes-Benz Sales Inc., the Studebaker-Packard subsidiary.
These Audi predecessors were marketed with attractive literature; the two-sided flier is dated 1960, while the four-page variant is undated, but includes an image of the Roadster, making it newer. Click the images below to enlarge.