The first generation Audi TT is probably the only Audi which I like. It’s the only one which dares to stand out and be truly different, and it’s the only one which I foresee a future as a real classic. But it seems that its design didn’t just appear out of the blue, as the inspiration for the TT stems way back to 1956.
Multiple places on the internet, you will find articles which have discovered the link between Audi TT and the diminutive DKW Monza from the mid-fifties. However, they all fail to focus on the first TT, but rather on the latest softer and fatter third-generation. I’m guessing Audi’s PR department needed to spruce up their latest TT with a bit of history and heritage, and hurried to send out a press release to every car magazine of the world. One prime example can be seen here on Automobilemag.com.
I must confess that I actually knew nothing about the DKW Monza, which is perhaps unsurprising considering that I really don’t know much about DKW in general. Yet I understand that among DKW loyalist, the Monza is probably considered their very finest hour despite the small German manufacturer only producing approximately 230 – 240 examples over four years, which even saw the car assembled by three different companies.
The story of the DKW Monza starts with the company’s success on both track and rallies in 1954 and ’55. Two drivers, G. Ahrens and Albrecht W. Mantzel, decided to construct a lightweight and aerodynamic body for the DKW chassis. The first body was built by Dannen-Hauer & Strauss in Stuttgart. Rather than using steel as on other DKWs, they made use of fibreglass which led to a weight saving of 115kg. compared to a stock DKW. Simultaneously, the body was lower, narrower and much more rounded both front and rear which resulted in a significantly reduced drag coefficient than a standard DKW.
The sculptured bodywork has several amusing little details which reveal the cars origin. The headlights came from Opel, the front indicators from the Karmann Ghia and the rear lights from Porsche 356. The steering box could also be found on the period VW buses. The fibreglass body was simple and cheap to produce, and it simply didn’t make any financial sense to design and fabricate various trim parts for it. Instead, they did what was common practice at the time when producing low-volume sports cars, and went hunting for suitable parts from the shelves of other and bigger manufacturers.
However, genetically there really isn’t much which brings the modern TT and the old Monza together. Sure, I too can see that they share some form of aerodynamic vision, and if they’re both painted silver and you squint your eyes hard there is perhaps a vague heritage to be found in the design. Maybe the TT-designers had a couple of old black and white pictures of the Monza stuck to the wall of their studio? But the two cars certainly do not share the same fundamental idea or reason for being, and it seems somewhat farfetched to attempt to create some sort of ancestry between the two. More than anything else, it’s probably just fairytales and fantasy from Audi’s cold and efficient marketing division.
But what do our ViaRETRO readers say? Am I missing something? Is there in fact a Monza hidden below the smooth and shiny surface of the Audi TT?