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Back in 1991 Audi was getting ready to re-set the technological bar for aluminum structures. A prototype looking a lot like an Audi 200 was the picture of stealth in Ingolstadt, going unnoticed by the press as it was driven by engineers who were in on the secret. The public however, would come to learn Audi’s intentions at the Tokyo Motor Show though when Audi pulled the wraps off of the super exotic Avus concept.
Back then, the Avus and it high-polished body designed by Jay Mays very directly drew from the company’s pre-war streamliner record cars, however the car was nothing if not modern and surprisingly futuristic given Mays’ better known and later works like the Volkswagen Concept 1 (Beetle redux) and subsequent Retro Futurism as exemplified most widely at Ford. While cars like the most modern Thunderbird haven’t aged well and lack a little something, the Avus remains timeless and beautiful… most unlike couture sweatsuits as worn by the models in these early 90s era PR photos.
In many ways the Avus set the bar for Audi. It led the design era that held until Walter de Silva ushered in the modern shield grille. A line can be drawn from the car’s first public ASF (Audi Space Frame) directly to today’s ultra lightweight design principals, and this was the first public showing of the W12 engine concept – an engine still used today in the A8, but considerably redesigned when it finally went into production.
At the time, Audi claimed 509 hp, a projected top speed of 211 mph and a projected 0-60 mph at just 2.9 seconds. Alas, the car was never destined for production and that’s a real shame.
Considering the latest rumors of a Le Mans inspired supercar above the Audi R8, you can’t help but look back to the Avus as a bit of an inspiration as well. It makes you wonder if the Audi Design Team may not look back at this car as well as its more current Le Mans prototypes as it readies Audi’s first full-on exotic supercar.