Coda brings us back to car's origins
The Typ 650 or 'Sokol': it's an Awtowelo!
- Jeroen Bruintjes, assisted by Holger Merten
- July 10, 2003
- The early Auto-Unions - From P-Wagen to A-type, by Leif Snellman
- Auto Union - The history of the AU racing department, a triptych of essays on the Saxonian marque's racing exploits, by Holger Merten
- Part 1: The small workshop that created motor racing history (1931-1935)
- Part 2: The comeback years (1936-1939)
- Part 3: The scars of war (1939 and beyond)
- Auto Union Type E - The stillborn 1.5-litre car: why it (almost) did exist, by Jeroen Bruintjes
- Sokol 650 - Post-war Auto Union in disguise or a socialist F2 effort? Secrets of Tom Wheatcroft's "Type E" unveiled, by Jeroen Bruintjes/Holger Merten
Click here to go back to part 1
Click here to go back to part 2
Our article on the ‘Sokol’ Typ 650 mystery cars has taken quite an effort. Still, it came as a surprise to find almost all our findings corroborated by the best source we could find, mr. Wolfgang Beyer from Chemnitz. As an engineer, he was directly involved with the project. The finale to this intriguing story is our interview with Beyer.
In the headline of part 1, we answered the ‘Where?’ with ‘Possibly Glauchau autobahn’. But it’s not, says Beyer. “Oh no, that was a test drive not far from here. It’s the autobahn allright, but we used the stretch near Chemnitz. In those days there was hardly any traffic and closing down one lane was easy. The picture is from a series, I have more of those. If you bring a scanner next time, you can copy them.”
Wolfgang Beyer knows the car by heart. “The cars we are talking about, were ordered by Awtowelo, just like you said”, he tells us. “We used to name them like that too, the ‘Awtowelo racing car’, one of many projects that the former team had to develop for this Soviet company. There were two cars like these and three V12 engines, all completely built from scratch. All members of our team were former employees of Auto Union. Only the director was Russian. Chief engine designer Träger had done work on the 3-litre and 1.5-litre engines before the war, but this 2-litre V12 was a new development. However, with only Auto Union knowledge to start from, it was clear that any new racing car would closely resemble pre-war rear-engined designs.”
“I came to the project in January 1951”, says Beyer. “Before the war, I’d started out at Auto Union as an apprentice in 1938. I rejoined the factories in 1944. From there, they sent me out to study and become an engineer in engine development. When I took up my next job in the Chemnitz design bureau the V12 engines were already running on their testbeds. We had a complete car by the end of that year and tested it right in front of the buildings at Kauffahrtei 45. On the picture you see several people watching from the pavement. One of them is me.” In fact, this is what the street and the main building at Kauffahrtei 45 look like today. Spot the differences...
“Your findings are correct”, claimed Beyer, when we told him about our article. “The Russians organised everything, even Pirelli tyres. Team members got more food coupons than average and were allowed to trade them at the best butcher’s shop in Chemnitz. Which was a real privilege in those days. We had a large research programme going on and developed many cars, motorcycles and engines, such as a four-cylinder two-stroke. But racing was never the goal of the East-German team and there were no plans to resurrect the Auto Union Rennabteilung. Both Awtowelo racing cars played only a small part in the programme. You might be quite correct about Stalin’s son wanting these cars for a new race team but unfortunately, I can’t confirm this for you. I was put on another project before that happened.”
Beyer was thrilled when we showed him pictures from the Moscow race, the chassis on its arrival in Britain and the display in the Donington museum. “That’s not the original bodywork, is it? It must have been nothing but a bare chassis when they bought it? Mind you, the last time I saw these cars many parts were missing. It was in the early 1970s at the Dresden Technologische Hochschule (College of Technology). There, they had completely taken apart one of the chassis and had also opened up the engines to study them. The cylinder blocks were used as ashtrays… I’ve been told that the August Horch museum in Zwickau wants to rebuild the second car. But I doubt they’ll ever be able to, since it will be a very costly project.”
That’s it. We’ve reached the end of this series. We now know that it’s definitely not an Auto Union that rests in the Donington Museum, even if it was built by the same people with nothing but AU knowledge to base the design upon. There are a few pictures in Beyer’s possession which show the Typ 650 being tested on the autobahn. He’s promised to allow us to make copies if we send him a copy of our article. Which we will do of course, so keep your eye out for those here on 8W.
Are there any more sources left to search? Perhaps. Beyer stayed at the former Auto Union plants in Chemnitz until the end of his career. His last job was to take care of an archive in the basement of one of the buildings. “There were many documents to the Typ 650 there. And we had lots of pre-war stuff on the Auto Union racing cars, too. In 1990, the borders had already opened and the Barkas factory was on the verge of bankruptcy. I told my boss that we’d better send those files to the Saxonian State Archives before they got lost. He agreed and the next day I went down into the basement to pack those documents. The basement was completely empty. Somebody took it all. The documents never got to the state archives. Audi doesn’t have them, nor do the well-known Auto Union historians. There was valuable stuff in there, but I really don’t know where those files went. If you ever locate them, you’ll have a ball.”
Click here to continue to part 4
- The Atlas F1 Nostalgia Forum
- Doug Nye, Classic & Sportscar, December 1985
- Motor Klassik magazine, April 1987
- Stefan Knittel: Auto Union Grand Prix Wagen, Schrader & Partner, München 1980
- Peter Kirchberg: Grand-Prix-Report Auto Union 1934-1939, VEB Verlag für Verkehrswesen, Berlin 1982
- Peter Vann: Neusilber, Motorbuch Verlag Stuttgart, 2001
- Bestand der Auto Union AG, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv Chemnitz
- The Yesterday forum