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Classic Velocity Blog

Audi F103

Classic Velocity

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The German automotive landscape of the 1960s was an interesting place to be. It seems as if everyone was almost part of, or owner of everyone else. There were many last minute deals which resulted in major changes to the course of global automotive history. Case in point was Daimler-Benz who purchased Auto Union in 1958 via an 87% stake. The following year in 1959 they increased that stake to 100%, and began their famous attempt to take over BMW as well (see the Halo and the Hail Mary). Imagine how things might be different today if Mercedes had owned both Audi and BMW! Of course that did not happen and in fact, Mercedes went on to sell Auto Union to Volkswagen in 1965, who have had it ever since.

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A few years after assuming ownership, Volkswagen quickly decided that it would revive the Audi brand from amount the many brands within Auto Union. That sounds like a stroke of brilliance today, but at the time it was pretty controversial as other brands such as DKW (see DKW 1000) and recently acquired NSU (see NSU TT) were deemed to be stronger. None the less, they launched the resurrected brand with a new platform dubbed them the Audi F103 series. It went on to include the Audi 60, 72, 75, 80, and super 90 in a run from 1966 to 1972.

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Ironically, the new Audis were based on the chassis from the DKW F102, with a new four stroke engine developed with Mercedes during their ownership tenure ! What was certainly new was the styling. The Audi brand had last been seen in the pre-war era, and the new car had its own form of distinctive styling. The F103 series was designed to be a compact executive sedan which by then was chasing the established BMW and Mercedes options in that segment. It was relatively low, relatively sleek, relatively luxurious, and relatively powerful when compared to other offerings from Auto Union. A premium brand had emerged.

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The first model was simply called the Audi, but was later renamed the Audi 72. The variants in the F103 series had a variety of engines and body styles. They included a sedan, a coupe, a fastback, and an estate (station wagon). The models were named however for their horsepower ratings. A later generation of the Audi 80 was called the Fox in the USA and Australia. Engines were all inline 4 cylinders with displacements from 1.5 liters on the Audi 60, to 1.8 liters on the 90. the cars had front wheel drive, and weighed 2100 to 2350 lbs, making them fairly good performers and handlers.

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The F103 was a strong seller with over 416,000 sold during the 7 years of production. It certainly launched the modern era of the Audi brand, and effectively transitioned Auto Union from two stroke to four. It is also credited in part with propping up an ailing Volkswagen as the Beetle began to taper off, and the Exchange rate made German products less favorable abroad. The highly successful Audi 100 followed, and VW began a long tradition of sharing platforms between the two Marques.