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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.

The Audi TT – clearly a much too modern car for ViaRETRO, but we will make an exception this once and bring a picture.

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?

 

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7 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt
    Hmmmm… I can’t claim to agree with you on the TT. Well, you’re probably right that it will one day be considered a classic, but to my eyes it’s ugly as sin! Really don’t like it at all…
    The Monza is a totally different matter though – so petite and exquisite! Looks lovely and a fabulous backstory full of ingenuity and motorsport aspirations. What’s not to like?
    Reply
  2. Tony Wawryk
    Have to say I disagree with ANders re the TT, which is one of the few modern cars I like. However, I do agree that to claim a direct lineage between it and the rather dinky DKW Monza (interesting story, incidentally!) is a stretch, but then it’s a bit like the link Saab always made between their cars and jet aircraft…crafty marketing, though in the TT/Monza case, pretty obscure, since I doubt many people other than serious Audi/DKW fans even know of the DKW Monza? I admit I hadn’t heard of it before.
    Reply
  3. Claus Ebberfeld
    Years ago I saw the DKW Monza at the Mille Miglia – as I recall it the driver was even a rather contemporary Le Mans winner. I think it was Tom Kristensen, in fact? He wore a nice watch, I recall.

    I also recall that the Monza is one of those cars that work better in real life than in photos, where it can to my eye seem slightly awkward, There in the Brescia sun it seem just about perfect.

    I also understand the story Audi wants to tell with the TT – although it is a pure marketing excercise the similarity is quite clear to my eye.

    Which also means that I in fact like the TT (first generation) rather well. Where I do disagree is that TT should be the only Audi that “dares to stand out and be truly different”. Well, no: I drove an A2 of a similar vintage – another Audi that stands out. They were rather heroic in those years! In fact I have more than once thought that it would be a rather nice pair, the A2 and the original TT. Both are pure Bauhaus design on wheels and rather good at it both of them – and both candidates for the “classic” title in a few years time.

    Don’t laugh!

    Reply
  4. Niels Jonassen
    It is interesting how Audi in their marketing lean heavily on DKW. I remember that some years ago they even used a DKW from the early 1930’s masquerading as an Audi. Audi did exist at that time but only as a subdivision of Auto Union the major make of which was DKW.
    Reply
  5. Anders Bilidt
    , it’s adjusting your history to fit the PR picture you wish to portray now. Sadly it’s often done, as sales count for more than does respect for historical correctness…
    Reply
  6. Claus Ebberfeld
    And we haven’t even mentioned the name “TT” as such, : Which was borrowed from another succesful car elsewhere in the company history – NSU.

    As I recall it later TT’s even came in an orange colour that leaned heavily on an orange from the NSU TT from the Sixties/Seventies.

    Reply

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