Posts Tagged ‘Bernd Rosemeyer’


A parade of Auto Unions through the streets of Zwickau on November 7 1936, Auto Union’s home town to celebrate Bernd Rosemeyer’s 1936 European Championship victory…

The cars were built in the Horch factory located in the town. Bernd Rosemeyer drives the lead car with Hans Stuck, Ernest Von Delius and Rudolf Hasse in the cars behind.

After two years of Mercedes supremacy it was the turn of the mid-engined, 6 litre, 520bhp Type C V16 engined cars. Rosemeyer was the dominant driver winning 3 of the 4 championship rounds- the German, Swiss and Italian GP’s. Rudy Carracciola’s Mercedes W125, powered by a 600bhp 5.6 litre V12 in 1936 took the Monaco race. Rosemeyer also won the Eifelrennen and Coppa Acerbo non-championship events.

Mercedes would be back with a vengeance of course, but for now victory is sweet and to be celebrated…


Rosemeyer’s German GP win 26 July 1936, Auto Union Type C (Getty)




When I first saw this shot I had a chuckle at the Auto Union logo on the ‘brolly, merchandising and brand placement goes back so far, there is nothing new under the sun?!…

And then I wondered which car and where of course, and as is so often the case with the Getty Archive there are no useful details. It makes the detective work a challenge, there are obviously not a lot of hints in this shot!


But I think it may be Bernd Rosemeyer’s victorious 1936 ADAC Eifelrennen winning Type C, 3 litre V16 engined car. The number fits, the photo was taken by a German agency and the exhaust pattern, two into one ‘drainpipe’ seems to fit with the limited number of shots I can see of Bernd that day. But all correspondence will of course be entered into.

Rosemeyer won the 13 June event from teammate Hans Stuck, the two 6 litre V16’s ahead of Antonio Brivio’s Alfa Romeo 12C 4.1 litre V12. Checkout the website, my favourite for this period, and their detailed race report, just scroll down to the race;


Rosemeyer, AU Type C, 1936 Eifelrennen (ullstein)



Ullstein Bild






Achille Varzi’s Auto Union Type B pitstop during the 26 May Avus-Rennen, Berlin, 1935…

Note the onboard air-jacks, pretty schmick for 1935, I didn’t realise the technology went back that far, I wonder when they were first used in racing? It’s a nice shot also of the swing axle rear suspension, sprung by torsion bars in 1935 rather than the transverse leaf spring of the 1934 Type A.

Varzi was 3rd in his 4.9 litre V16 beastie, the race won by Luigi Fagioli’s Mercedes Benz W25. The race was a Formula Libre event so the German teams turned up with some streamliners including a Mercedes W25 for Hanns Geier, the cockpit cover of which could only be opened from the outside. No doubt Alfred Neubauer was happy to oblige at each pitstop.

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Avus 1935 heat 1 start; #1 Stuck AU Type B 1st from #4 Rosemeyer AU Type A Streamliner DNF, the Mercedes is Fagioli’s W25 2nd, #9 is Nuvolari’s Alfa Bimotore 6th, #20 Farina’s Maserati 4C 5th, #16 Siena’s Maserati 8C DNF (unattributed)

Continuing the themes of commonsense and bravery!, the meeting was also notable for the first ever car race of German ‘bike ace Bernd Rosemeyer. He ‘blagged his way’ into the Auto Union team for whom he raced from then until his untimely death in early 1938 during a brave land speed record Auto Union run. Read anything about this fella and the word brave will be peppered throughout the article.

The car racer novice plonked the notoriously twitchy 375bhp mid-engined Type B on the front row for his heat on the fastest circuit in the world, the AU’s were seeing 326kmh along Avus’ long straights. He punctured a tyre during his 7 lap heat so didn’t make the final which comprised the first 4 placegetters in each of the heats, but he had well and truly ‘arrived’…

Check out Kolumbus F1’s ’35 Avus race report, this being my favourite Pre-War race results site, have a good poke around if you haven’t visited it before;


Kolumbus F1, Ullstein Bild, Zoltan Glass


Auto Union Type A engine and rear suspension (Zoltan Glass)

Tailpiece: Varzi’s Auto Union Type B 4.9 V16 and Rosemeyer’s AU Type A 4.3 V16 in the 1935 Avus paddock…

rose pits





 Gardner’s streamlined 1100cc Zoller-supercharged MG K3 Magnette. ‘Goldie’ storms along the Frankfurt Autobahn at nearly 150mph, 25 October 1937…

Lt-Col Alfred Thomas Goldie Gardner, born 31 May 1890, was one of the most versatile racers of the 1930s and 1940s as well as a pretty handy engineer.

After completion of his education he went to Colombo, Ceylon to take up a 3 year business contact, at its completion he travelled to Burma for business but returned to the UK for 6 months after contracting malaria in 1914. Upon the War’s outbreak he joined the army, he was commissioned as a second-Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He had a distinguished military career, becoming  the youngest Major in the British Forces. In 1917 his reconnaisance plane was shot down by German fire, he copped leg and hip injuries which hospitalised him for 2 years, he was invalided out of the army as a result.

A Brooklands competitor, he started racing a Gordon England modified special Austin Seven in 1924 progressing through a Salmson and Amilcar to a C-type MG Montlhery Midget in 1931, a marque with which he is synonomous.

Cecil Kimber noticed him, he raced various MG’s with a lot of success from 1930. He was the first to lap Brooklands outer circuit at over 100 mph in a 750cc car in this period.

goldie brooklands

Gardner, MG K3, Brooklands date unknown (unattributed)

After a bad 1932 Tourist Trophy crash at Ards, Ireland when he rolled his MG J4 three times he ceased road racing, his leg and hip was not strong enough to cope with its rigours.


Gardner looks ok despite the wild ride which destroyed his MG J4, he crashed on lap 3 of the 1932 Tourist Trophy at Ards-Belfast. By the looks of the amazed spectators it was a ‘big one’, Gardner thrown out on one of three rollovers (Heritage Images)

He  made the occasional Brooklands appearance, by 1934 he was ‘track racing fit’. He finished 3rd outright and first in the 1100cc class in the Brooklands 500 miles with co-driver ‘Bentley Boy’ Dr.J.D.Benjafield in an MG K3 Magnette.

Gardner travelled with Sir Malcolm Campbell’s World Land Speed expedition to Daytona Beach, Florida in 1935 and was inspired by it, concentrating on speed record attempts from then on setting over 100 National and International records between 1936 and 1952.

He bought the ex-Horton offset K3 single-seater for that purpose and was soon lapping Brooklands at over 120 mph. An improved streamlined body raised this to 124.4 mph, an 1100cc class record which remained unbroken until the tracks 1939 closure.

goldie and bernd

Gardner, Bernd Rosemeyer and Auto Union record-breaker Frankfurt 12 January 1938, this is 2 weeks before Bernd’s fatal accident on 28 January. 1938 AU ‘Stromlinienwagen’ 6.5 litre variant of the 6 litre V16, 560bhp@4800-4900rpm  engine (RacingOne)

In record runs at Montlhery and Frankfurt in October 1937 Gardner clocked almost 150 mph, 148.8 to take a Class G record for the flying kilometre. Auto Union’s Eberan von Eberhorst took him aside during ‘SpeedWeek’ suggesting he would go much faster with a streamlined car. At the time Mercedes and Auto Union were not only waging battle in Grands’ Prix but also in Land Speed Record attempts and were learning much about aerodynamics.

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Press shoot, not sure where, Gardner in MG EX135, photo dated 15 August 1949 (Harold Clements)

When he returned to the UK he sought to convince MG to build him a car. Lord Nuffield gave his support and rather than ‘re-invent the wheel’ it was decided to try and get hold of George Eyston’s K3 based EX135 record-breaker built 4 years before.

Donald Letts had the car which critically had the offset transmission specification which would be required and happily agreed to sell. EX135 originally had race and record breaking bodies was further modified by fitment at Abingdon of  Reid Railton designed completely enclosed bodywork. John Thornley in his book describes the aerodynamic ‘K -factor’ of EX135 as 0.000400, the later EX279 was 0.000315. Suitably refurbished and rebuilt by ‘Jacko’ Jackson, Syd Enever and Robin Jackson, the beautiful car was used by Gardner in various forms, with a variety of engines for the rest of his career.

ex color

This ‘Modern Wonder’ contemporary article describes the 6 cylinder, 1086cc circa 195 bhp Vane type supercharged, twin-SU carbed engine as having magneto ignition, sodium filled exhaust valves and a bronze cylinder head, four speed ‘box. Dimensions are given as; 16’5″ long, width 5’3″, height 2’2″ and wheelbase 8’3″. The ‘beautifully streamlined body (was) built under Jaray (German) patents…’ ‘Design and construction of the car was headed by MG’s Cecil Kimber, while Reid Railton developed the streamlined bodywork’ (

In the November 1938 German Speedweek outside Frankfurt the ‘new’ EX135 produced two way averages of 187.62 and 186.567mph for the flying mile and kilometre respectively. Showing its aerodynamic properties the car reputedly took 3 miles to stop, Gardner allowing it to coast to a halt!

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Gardner and EX135, Frankfurt 1938 (unattributed)

The Nazi Government was improving the countries road network and created in the process a ‘record route’, the ‘Dessauer Rennstrecke’ (Dessau Racetrack) between AS Bitterfeld and Dessau South which opened in January 1939. No speed records could be set on existing closed circuits which were simply too short for the powerful high speed cars of the day.

The straight stretch of road was 10km long, 25 metres wide, had no median strip and pillarless bridges. It was also intended as a wartime auxiliary airfield and was designed around target speeds of 600kmh. In the short time before Poland was invaded on 1 September 1939, Rudy Carracciola did 399.6kmh over the measured mile with a flying start in a Mercedes W154 3 litre record car, amongst other records he set, in February 1939.


(Die Welt)

At Dessau on 31 May 1939 with a higher top gear Gardner took the 750 to 1100cc records over 2 kilometres, 1 mile and 5 kilometres, at averages of 203.5 mph, 203.3 mph and 197.5 mph. His performances left those present in a state of disbelief, it was the first time an 1100cc car had gone anywhere close to the magic 200mph.

After an overnight engine rebore in situ! to1105.5cc, on 2 June 1939 at the same venue he bagged the 1100 to 1500cc class records over the same distances at averages of 204.3 mph, 203.9 mph and 200.6 mph. The achievements were rather lost given the imminence of WW2.

Dessau 1939 (J Dugdale)


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EX135 before the off, Dessau 31 May 1939 before the successful 200mph attempt. Array of Smiths instruments, steering wheel shape pre-dates F1 practice by 70 years! (John Dugdale)

One of those remarkable souls who served in both wars, Goldie Gardner took EX135 with 750cc engine fitted to Belgium’s new Jabbeke motorway in 1946 achieving 159.15 mph.

In 1947 he returned to Jabbeke with the car converted to a 500cc four-cylinder by removal of two conrods and pistons and blanking off two pots! He set new records, reaching 118 mph.

ex jag

Jaguar’s and later Coventry Climax’ designer Wally Hassan fettling his 2 litre, DOHC, cast iron block alloy head, twin SU fed engine, the performance of which clearly pleases Goldie! Jabbeke, Belgium September 1948. In the event Jaguar did not proceed to a production variant of this prototype engine, the 6 cylinder XK its primary engine on track and road for decades to come (unattributed)

In September 1948, he was back at Jabbeke, the streamlined MG powered by a prototype Jaguar XK100 DOHC 2litre 4 cylinder engine. In that ‘MG Jag’ hybrid he reached 176.6 mph for which he was awarded the second of three BRDC Gold Stars. He was also awarded the OBE.

Soon he was ‘back to his tricks’ playing about with MG engines and setting more records; a 1 litre six became a 500cc three-cylinder engine achieving over 154 mph. A 1 litre four-cylinder engine was transformed into a 500cc twin, this did 121 mph at Jabbeke, again in EX135. Gardner now had records in six out of ten international capacity classes, all taken with his famous MG.

ex bonne 1

Superb lines of the 1933 EX135 at Bonneville in 1952, the car had longevity amongst its many other attributes! (unattributed)

With a supercharged MG-TD 1.5 litre engine, the car did 137 mph at Bonneville in 1951,a year later 148.7 mph with a 2 litre Wolseley engine and 189.5 mph with a new MG TD engine despite wheelspin which reduced his speed somewhat.

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Ex135 at Bonneville, 1952 (unattributed)

Gardner, at 63 and truly a ‘Boys Own’ character, retired from the sport he loved to his motor-trade businesses. He died in 1958, one of a breed which no longer exists


ex cutaway

MG EX135 period cutaway drawing by Max Miller, K3 underpinnings inclusive of girder chassis, engine and gearbox all clear in this shot

ex 1

ex 2

goldie prang

Another view of Gardner and his J4 after its big shunt, Ards TT 1932 (Heritage)

k3 mont

Gardner and K3 at Montlhery in June 1937, records taken as per hand written annotation (unattributed)

ex nuff

Press shot after EX135 rebuild into its Reid Railton’s bodied form; Cecil Kimber, Lord Nuffield, Gardner, big, tall (6’2″) bugger isn’t he! and Reid Railton (unattributed)


The National Motor Museum Trust


Imagno, Heritage Images,, Schirner,, Max Miller, Racing One, Ullstein Bild, John Dugdale

Tailpiece: Team MG, Bonneville 1952…

bonne 2



avus 2 cars

The 1937 Avus-Rennen is one of ‘those races meetings’ I suspect most of us would have rather liked to attend, these photos are of Hermann Lang’s Mercedes W25 during testing the week before on May 22, 1937.

His car is a 1936 speed record chassis rebuilt with a long wheelbase and the ‘standard’ 5.7-litre straight-eight fitted to the W125 GP cars that season.

The final race of the meeting was the fastest race ever until the Monza 500 in 1958, Rosemeyer’s Auto Union fastest practice lap was 176.7mph and the fastest race lap, in two of the heats, was 171.74mph by Rosemeyer and Lang!

avus tower

Hermann Lang testing his Mercedes W25 modified 1936 speed record car the week before the 1937 race (ullstein bild)

The Germans didn’t race at Avus during 1936. They were rebuilding Berlin’s fastest circuit in the world into something even quicker with the addition of the ‘Nordschleife’ and massive ‘wall of death’ banking at 44 degrees. Avus was built in 1921 and used for racing until 1998 when it was fully absorbed into Germany’s road network as autobahn #115.

avu banking

avu unload

avu crowd

Rosemeyer and friends AU Type C (Max Ehlert)

The 1937 race was a Formula Libre event, 300,000-400,000 spectators attended- what a spectacle it must have been. Such was the level of national prestige involved the German teams went all out to win, building special cars and testing them in three sessions before the meeting itself.

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Rosemeyer on the Avus banking, Auto Union Type C Streamliner, Hasse or von Delius in AU C Type then Seaman W125 (Ullstein Bild)


avu kids

avu audi unload

AU’s were all Type C V16’s, 2 streamliners (Rosemeyer and Fagioli) and 2 open wheelers (von Delius and Hasse)


avu alfa

Non German cars also rans! Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Tipo 12C-36 of Nuvolari, Brivio and Farina withdrawn before the race

Because of concerns about tyre-life, such was the weight, speed of the cars and tyre-technology of the day, the 30 May event was split into two heats of 7 laps apiece and a final of 8 laps comprising the first four place-getters from each heat.

The heats were won by Rudy Caracciola and Manfred von Brauchitsch in ‘Benz W125 and W25K-DAB(5.6V12) respectively, the final by Hermann Lang’s Mercedes W25K-M125- all these cars were ‘Stromlinien’ (Streamliners), single-seaters with all-enveloping bodywork.

avus race

Caracciola this side in Mercedes W125 and Rosemeyer Auto Union Type C (Ullstein Bild)


avu tree

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Rosemeyer #31 and von Delius AU Type C’s

Kolumbus.f1 has a well researched, detailed account of this meeting, click here to read it, just scroll down the page, there are a couple of other events before you get to Avus;

During practice for the meeting Lang’s car, with wheel covers fitted was doing 390kmh when trapped air under the car ‘lifted the front wheels from the ground- luckily the driver kept calm and finally managed to bring the wheels back down’…the wheel covers were removed for the race!

avus wheel

Tyre technician checks out the Continental ‘slick’, big challenge keeping tyres up to these big, heavy, powerful cars. Lang’s car as per text (Ullstein Bild)



avu 32

von Delius 6 litre V16 being gently warmed up, what awesome cars


benz 37

Hermann Lang’s winning Benz W25K

Down the decades the role of ‘aerodynamic guinea pig’ has not always been conducive to drivers attainment of retirement age. Bernd Rosemeyer’s fatal Auto Union speed record attempt on 28 January 28, 1938 an in-period case in point.

avus butt

Caracciola’s W125 Benz, Avus 1937 (Ullstein Bild)

Checkout this Avus ’37 Footage…


avo cara

Caratch during testing, Northcurve Benz W125 (ullstein bild)


avu sign

Fagioli’s AU Streamliner Type C


avu butt

Love this shot for the contrast between Langs leading Streamliner W25 ahead o Dick Seaman’s open-wheeler W125 ‘normal’ GP car


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Avus, Fagioli Auto Union during practice 27 May 1937 (Imagno)


avu 2

Von Brauchisch’ big Benz 1936 W25 with 700bhp DAB V12 and Lang 1936 LWB speed record W25 5.7-litre Straight-8 ahead of one of von Delius or Hasse AU Type C open-wheeler 6-litre V16 (Heritage Images)


avu 3

Caratch and arch-rival Bernd, Avus ’37 (ullstein bild)


All images not attributed by Ullstein Bild, Heinrich Hoffman, Imagno, Max Ehlert, Heritage Images, Kolumbus F1

Tailpiece: Stromlinien on display, place undisclosed 1937, am interested to know if any of you can pick the venue…

avus display

(Heinrich Hoffman)




Luigi Fagioli’s Mercedes W25B attacks Bernd Rosemeyer’s Auto Union Type B whilst being pelted by rocks on the course covered with them…

The race was help on 22 September 1935 in the Gipuzkoa, Basque region of Northern Spain, Mercedes finished first to third; Caracciola from Fagioli and von Brauchitsch. All drove the 4.3 litre straight-8 engined car. Rosemeyer was 5th in the V16 5.6 litre mid-engined Auto Union.

Caracciola won the European Championship that year with 3 wins of 5 Championship rounds, his other triumphs at Spa and Bremgarten, Switzerland.