The McLaren P1, Ferrari La Ferrari and Porsche 918, aka the Holy Trinity, set a proper new milestone in motoring history. They introduced the era of the hypercar. Sure we've had the Bugatti Veyron, McLaren F1 and a few others before them but the "Big 3" made the term mainstream. Since then we've been bombarded with hypercars as far as the eye can see. 400 km/h has become the norm and if you show up with 700 horsepower or less you get bumped back to the supercar club.
But where did this insane quest for high performance street legal cars start? What was the first hypercar? It has to be a car that outclasses just about anything else of its era in terms of speed, power and exclusivity. Did it happen in the 90's with the Mclaren F1 or the 60's with the Lamborghini Miura? Well, neither. It's in the 30's with Auto Union.
In 1933 it was announced that 2 manufacturers, Mercedes and Auto Union, would be officially "sponsored" by the German government and its chancellor, THAT guy, for an all out assault on the Grand Prix racing scene. What followed was a dominant streak of performances by the Germans with highly developed racing monsters.
The first Auto Union Grand Prix car was the Type A. It was powered by a 4.4L Supercharged V16 making 295 horsepower that sat right behind the driver making it one of the first mid-engine race cars. 295 horsepower might seem quite tame today but remember, this was the 30's. More specifically 1934. The VW Beetle was just announced and people though its 25 horsepower 4 cylinder engine was already quite powerful.
The Type A was the brain child of Ferdinand Porsche himself. While the Type A was being built he and his chief engineer, Karl Rabe, were already planning on converting the soon to be Grand Prix racer into a road car.
The pure racing engine would be detuned to 200 horsepower for better reliability and to make the car easier to drive. Despite the loss of 95 horsepower, the type 52 would have been able to go 125 mph or 201 km/h and go from 0-60 mph in just over 8 seconds. Monumental numbers compared to other performance cars of that era.
The seating position would mimic that of the Grand Prix racer as well. The driver would sit in the middle with 2 passengers beside him positioned slightly more to the rear. This exact same seating position would be seen again in the McLaren F1 some 58 years later.
For unknown reasons though. The Type 52 never made it past the early stages of production. Legitimate reasons could have been the cost or the effort needed to make the car run under normal, non racing circumstances. The abundance of vents all over the back off the car clearly shows cooling would have been an issue.
It was an interesting period in history as well. The German Grand Prix effort was very clearly a massive propaganda machine for the Nazi Government. One can imagine their need for the mechanics and engineers to spend their time on the race cars, or worse kinds of machinery, was far more valuable then making such an outlandish and borderline insane car.
A shame because if it did make it into production, it would have had a car to compete with just a couple of years later.
By 1939 some sense had come into the organizers and supercharged engines were now limited to 3.0L. This stopped the rain of terror of the Mercedes W125 and its 5.6L supercharged straight 8 engine capable of 640 horsepower and a torque figure of 857 Newtonmeter. Now both Mercedes and Auto Union ran smaller and less powerful supercharged V12's
Alfa Romeo already ran a 3.0L supercharged V16 in their Tipo 316 so in theory, they could have used the same engine in the new season. Keen to profit on the power loss of the Germans however, Alfa Romeo commissioned a monster of an engine from British engine building specialist Harry Ricardo.
The end result would be put in the new, and gorgeous, Tipo 162. The number of cylinders on the engine had been retained but were now angled in an unusual 135° V shape instead of the previous 60°. Not one but two double stage Roots superchargers were added. This behemoth of an engine produced 490 horsepower at an ear shattering 7900 rpm.
So what do you do with an engine like that despite race it? You draw a road car chassis and body around it off course. This is what Chief Engineer of special projects Wilfredo Ricart did. The car looked like an even more streamlined Auto Union Type 52 and featured an interesting glass roof.
The engine of the Tipo 162 would be placed right behind the driver. Because it would be robbed of its 2 superchargers it now produced only 190 horsepower, 10 less than the Auto Union. The car was more aerodynamic though and weighed only 880 Kilogram. In theory it should have matched, or even surpassed, the speed of its German rival.
Sadly, it suffered the same fate as the Auto Union. The late 30's together with almost all of the 40's weren't exactly glorious years in the history of the world and because of World War 2, neither the Tipo 162 or 163 made it onto the racetrack or open road. All that's left are a few drawings and scale models.
Political turmoil ended the careers of both of these hypercars before either of them got finished. What could have been the start of a whole new era of motoring madness turned into a very different kind of madness. Remember people: make hypercars, not war.