Could Have Been: Audi 50 Sports Coupe

In the early 1970s when the Auto Union-NSU brand portfolio landed at Volkswagen, there was a scramble to define just what the business would become. Following the war, Auto Union had existed on DKW, NSU and Auto Union small cars, but a new mix of front-wheel drive architecture showed incredible potential, enough to see the Audi brand see a post-war rebirth, and enough to draw the attention of Volkswagen who was seeking to grow its business beyond the Beetle.

In Ingolstadt, this meant consideration of any and all projects, whether they were new Audi models or even developing projects such as the VW Iltis army vehicle for its parent. At the same time, new Audi models were also considered for sale as Volkswagens as well. Whereas the sedan and coupe versions of the B1 were sold as Audi 80s, a 5-door hatchback and wagon were sold as the Volkswagen Passat. In the case of the Audi 50, virtually the exact same car was sold with an Audi and a VW grille, and the VW was known as Polo.

This small architecture that housed the Audi 50 and VW Polo was known as A0, and the smallest derivative of the front-wheel drive hardware being readied. How it too could expand into other models was very seriously considered, including the project you see here proposed by Claus Luthe. Over the course of two years, a team of Audi designers comprised of Pavel Hušek, Jupp Dienst and modeller Ralf Lange focused on this project that came to be known as “A0 Coupe.”

As you can see, though it never went into production, various versions were considered from “breadvan” shooting brake style to a more sporitng form that definitely took inspiration from the Giugiaro/ItalDesign Asso d’ Picche.

A full scale model was created and can be seen in some of these photos from the period. With the photo at the top, we’ve used AI to remove the individual from the photo to show an unobstructed view of the model.

By 1975 the project was abandoned. By then we’d guess that Ferdinand Piëch had already decided that Audi would be moving to a more premium position in the market and that the Audi 50 would end production when it came time for facelift, leaving just the Polo to soldier on in the A0 segment. No doubt a sports coupe Audi on the A0 platform would also compete with the slightly larger A-platform Volkswagen Scirocco, so it too likely had no future as Audi moved up market. In 1976, Audi would begin to develop its B2-based coupe (Code EA 459) that would spawn the Coupe GT and the ur quattro, slotting in well above anything from Volkswagen.

If you want to see more photos or read more of the story, make sure to check out Car Design Archives on Facebook. They broke this story and have further details on the inner workings of the Audi design team at the time. Read more on their page HERE.