These posts are just so you can see the kinds of things I look at in an average day. It’s not actually for you, but you do get the benefit or at minimal the understanding of my journey of knowledge and discovery. Even this sentence isn’t for you, but a reminder for myself to explore, even well tread ground. I don’t have to break new discoveries, but just learn new things for me.
Today’s adventure starts with a bit of a information roulette. I closed my eyes and asks myself, what is the first car that comes to mind. I found it quite strange and sort of spooky that my brain, in record time, replied with “AUDI 1000!”. Seriously though, it felt planted, like I didn’t actually think of that myself…Weird.
What’s really interesting about Audi is something I’ve noticed about all German manufacturers. There’s this strange culture in German auto makers that they have to pick one drivetrain layout, and stick to it forever. EG, Porsche with their Beetle based; rear engine, rear wheel drive, BMW with their front engine, rear wheel drive. However, let’s focus on the beetle again for a second. It seemed like a revolutionary car, it changed the world as a whole. It’s one of the most culturally relevant cars ever produced. However, most people don’t know it was just a direct copy of a Tatra 97.
Tatra is one of the Oldest car manufacturers in history. We’re talking 1850 here, with a slow transition from building horse drawn carriages to fullsize Dakar trucks over the past 167 years. When there was to be a German peoples car, the german government copied what all their dignitaries would ride in at the time, Tatra 97’s.
So what does this have to do with the Audi above? We haven’t gotten off topic. The Tatra’s were rear engined, air cooled. Not mid-rear engine placement, but behind the rear wheels. The motor draped off the back of the car. The beetle copied the Tatra 97 very closely including this engine arrangement. However, what VW did do is make the drive train of the Beetle very versatile. Essentially the output gear of the transmission could be flipped when assembling the transmission, this would result in 1 gear of forwards drive, and 5 gears of reverse. Thus the birth of DKW/Audi’s dedicated German platform. Although DKW existed before this engine layout became their signature, it was this receipe they decided to stick to, even until now.
This backwards beetle transmission basically did the exact opposite of what the beetle engine did, now draping the motor not just in the front of the car, but will in front of the front wheels. Note the strut tower location comparatively to the engine location in the above photo.
We had mentioned that German manufacturers pick a drivetrain design and stick with it. This was Audi’s steed, and they continue to do this even to this day. Radiators pushed aside the engine resides at the very front of the car. What’s funny about this layout, is it’s origins come from a copied car. The Germans took what was a good idea and made it even more efficient and more well engineered than Tatra ever could. I wonder if anyone else could do that to the Germans?
That’s Japanese writing in that photo. I’ve long described Japanese manufacturering as the pinnacle of precision and accuracy, but it is also the least original. Japan is well known for taking someone else’s idea and perfecting it. If the germans like to stick to one idea and master it as their cultural corporate process, than the Japanese climate of corporate culture is to make their product so much higher quality than yours that people forget it was even ever your idea. lol It’s true, their masters. The Japanese manufacturing timeline of the 1960’s is identical to China and Korea’s auto makers of now. Making great near-copies until they have the skills and market share to adventure on their own.
The Subaru 1000 posted above, is a heavily DKW/Audi influenced car. Subaru’s Second car they ever made. Their first was a Peugeot influenced, FR sedan the 1500. This idea of FR was dropped immediately to follow the DKW/Audi receipe, with their own slight twist. It’s funny as the Subaru 1500 (P-1) was quite french in it’s appearance and design. It was an inline 4 cylinder, front engine, rear drive, small sedan. Then their next model is completely different, a boxer 4 cylinder, FWD.
Subaru was so enthralled by the German Audi and VW’s that they continued to build hommage vehicles to these aircooled boxer peoples cars. They even made a copy of the VW Beetle, called the Subaru 360. Japan, lacking creativity would constantly name their vehicles after their engine sizes. There was a Subaru 360, Mazda 360, Honda 360, etc. lol
Subaru continued to copy audi through the 70’s. The only difference being that Subaru stuck with the Beetle style boxer motor in the front of their cars, unlike Audi who early on, adopted inline 4 motors. This contiuned with subaru’s line of everyday family cars. Audi and by proxy, Subaru continued to rally behind the safety, and manufacturing ease of FWD cars…..
Now we arrive at the Group-B era of the late 70’s early 80’s. An interesting time for 4WD vehicles. Considering the success of the Audi Quattro 4WD rally cars, and later the 4WD Subaru Impreza’s, my question is: With Subaru experimenting with 4WD production cars in the early 1970’s, who influenced who?