History of the 1965 - 1969 Audi 72
DKW was one of four companies which formed Auto Union in 1932, the others being Horch, Wanderer and Audi. In a strange historical twist August Horch was forced out of his namesake company and founded Audi in 1910. The word means “listen” in Latin – the same meaning as Horch in German.
Before WWII, DKW developed front-wheel drive 2-stroke cars, and the models continued in the 1950s. The final ones were badged as Auto Unions with a 3-cylinder 2-stroke engine. In 1963 Mercedes-Benz owned DKW, which had just introduced a stylish, angular FWD saloon, the F102. Despite the 2-stroke powertrain it was quite successful, with 52,753 sold between 1963 and 1966.
Mercedes-Benz sold DKW to Volkswagen in 1964, including a water-cooled, 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder, 4-stroke Mercedes military engine as part of the deal. VW re-launched the Audi name in 1965 in a version of the F102 called the F103. The Mercedes 4-cylinder engine was such a tight fit longitudinally that the radiator was mounted alongside it, but the car featured front wheel drive and inboard front disc brakes, and had a 4-speed synchromesh gearbox. The body was a stiff monocoque, and suspension was by torsion bars front and rear. The Audi F103 can be recognized from the DKW F102 by the rectangular headlights, which were coming into vogue.
The Mercedes engine gave the little F103 good performance, with spiral intakes and Heron combustion chambers, so that an 11.2:1 compression ratio was used on early models, though longevity was an issue. Compression ratios were reduced as the F103 engine was gradually increased in size from 1.5-litres to 1.7 and 1.8 litres, with models named the Audi 60, 72, 75, 80 and finally the Audi Super 90. The numbers were roughly related to the horsepower produced by the different models.
Two and 4-door saloons were offered, along with a 3-door station wagon, called the Variant. Dual circuit brakes were introduced in 1967, and servo assist was offered as an option. The most powerful Super 90 model could do 0-60mph in 12 seconds and topped out at 101mph. From 1968-72 Audi models ranged from the bare-bones 60, mid-range 75 and Super 90, and a total of 416,853 were sold.
Audi introduced a new 100 saloon in 1968, which would lead the company in to the 1970s accompanied by a handsome sports coupe from 1970. Despite the relatively large number of F103 Audis sold, survivors are not common. Rust is a perpetual enemy and aggressive scrap drives over the years have made well-preserved survivors quite a rare sight. Any detailed pre-purchase inspection should definitely include time spent on a hoist.