Paris – the highlight of Christie’s International Motor Cars next sale on 17 February 2007 will be an extremely rare 1939 Auto Union D-Type. Thought to be one of only two in existence, the carwill lead the sale at Rétromobile 2007, one of Europe’s most prestigious exhibitions for automotive collectors.
One of the most important cars in motor-racing history, it won the 1939 Belgrade Grand Prix at the hands of Nuvolari, and today enjoys a near-mythical status due to its rarity. It is expected to break current records and become the most expensive car ever to be sold at auction.
With an eye on his country’s international standing, German chancellor Adolf Hitler, upon arriving in power in 1933, promised 500,000 Reichmarks to the constructor who could build a Grand Prix car ready for the 1934 season. However, following a meeting with engineer Ferdinand Porsche and the driver Hans Stuck, Hitler was persuaded to share this sum between Mercedes and the newly-formed Auto Union company.
The car designed by Porsche was revolutionary; the driver was placed in front of the engine and the fuel tanks, and all four wheels benefited from independent suspension. Never ceasing to win Grands Prix across Europe, the model evolved throughout the years into this, the D-Type. The arrival of war interrupted this famous era of racing, and the cars were lost or destroyed during the hostilities that followed. It is therefore even more extraordinary that this car should survive.
Taken to Russia for its technology to be studied, it was here its disassembled parts were discovered, completely apart from the body and waiting to be crushed. Sent from Russia to England, the body was recreated by Rod Jolley Coachbuilding to the exact dimensions of the original, upon these original underpinnings. The car was fully restored by Crosthwaite and Gardiner, and was tested for the first time by Dick Crosthwaite at the Nürburgring in October
1994. It has been meticulously preserved in the same state ever since. Estimates are available upon request.
This may be considered to be among the most important cars ever to pass under the gavel; Christie’s is extremely proud to have been entrusted with its sale.