The Dynamic Sculpture exhibition celebrates elegance and verve.
At the award-winning Audi Forum in Ingolstadt, Germany, Audi museum mobile recently featured an exhibition of twelve magnificent examples of coupe evolution from Audi history encompassing the 1930s to today. A celebration of what many consider the paragon of automotive design, the exhibit coincides with the release of two much-anticipated Audi Coupe designs: first with last year’s redesigned TT and the all-new A5 and S5 coupe out in 2016. While these new hardtops boast more horsepower than previous incarnations, the origins of the coupe were driven by a different kind of horse power.

The coupe, defined as any two-door vehicle with a fixed hardtop and room for two persons, started its journey on the uneven roads of continental Europe. French for “cut,” the earliest 19th century carroserie coupes were developed when luxury horse-drawn carriages had their rear-facing seats eliminated. The first automobiles reflected their design, featuring a small two-passenger cabin behind an exposed driving position.

The sloping coupe roofline we recognize today had become near criterion for the design by the 1930s. Stefan Felber, the Curator of Special Exhibition at Audi museum mobile, explained: “In the ’30s, the streamline was the driving force of automotive design, particularly in the individual, big coupes.”
The 1950s saw the re-emergence of Audi ancestor Auto Union through the distinctive 1000 SP and pointed rear fins that reflected the fashion of the era. The classic coupe was a beautiful anachronism on the museum floor: a nostalgic aesthetic of a bygone era.

One of the most singular and revolutionary designs on the floor, the Audi 100 Coupe S was launched in 1969 as a sporty, attainable fastback whose sloping roofline and broad shoulders continue to reverberate in the designs of vehicles like the Audi A7 and the all-new 2018 Audi A5. “The Audi 100 Coupe S marks the start of the modern-day Audi success story,” according to Felber. “Its design still had an Italian influence, but then Audi found its way to its own, very functional—you could say, German—design language.”
French for “cut,” the earliest 19th century 'carroserie coupes' were developed when luxury horse-drawn carriages had their rear-facing seats eliminated.
That German design language really found its grip when, in 1977, Jörg Bensinger and Audi began developing quattro® all-wheel drive, which manifested first in the B-segment compact Audi 80 and its design scion the Audi Ur-Quattro and a few years later in its successor, the Audi Sport Quattro. Not only did these coupes succeed with their geometric, capable-looking Giorgetto Giugiaro designs but in their incredible performance in rallying, and their look came to embody racing dominance. This exhibition has “expanded the notion of a coupe further than before,” Felber said. “For the first time, we are presenting the Ur-Quattro not just as a brand icon but as a design icon.”

With their hard tops and two doors, Felber said, “each of these cars has lines and a series of design features that make it sporty, dynamic and desirable.” Spanning 80 years of automotive history, the twelve coupes in the exhibition defined the automotive achievements of Audi and help chart the future for coupe design.
1. Horch 853 “Manuela”
This replica of Grand Prix driver Bernd Rosemeyer’s Horch 853, which he named “Manuela,” is built on the original Horch chassis and showcases the streamlined body created by luxury coachbuilder Erdmann & Rossi in Berlin. Auto Union provided the Horch 853 to Rosemeyer, its very successful and popular employee, in 1937.
2. DKW 3 = 6 “Sonderklasse” F91 Coupe
Only 25 of these cars are known to still exist today, and their nickname stems from Auto Union’s claim that the three-cylinder, two-stroke engine ran as smoothly as a six-cylinder. After Hebmüller in Wülfrath declared bankruptcy in 1952, its competitor Karmann in Osnabrück fitted pre-existing bodies onto the F91 chassis and created a car with glamorous chrome trim.
3. DKW 3 = 6 Monza
On the race track in Monza, Italy, this 44 hp, three-cylinder engine set world speed records in its class in the mid-50s. To create those results, DKW privateer Günther Ahrens and tuning guru Albrecht W. Mantzel asked coachbuilder Dannenhauer & Stauss in Stuttgart to fit their customized glass-fiber skin to a DKW “Sonderclasse.”
4. Auto Union 1000 SP Coupe
Before production began in 1958, Auto Union chief designer Josef Dienst adapted the American dream-car look into smaller, German dimensions and gave the 1000 SP (Special) its chrome grille, panoramic roof, low beltline and pointed rear fins. The carmaker positioned the 55 hp, three-cylinder, two-stroke sports car as the equal of a Porsche 356.
5. NSU Sport Prinz
At 3.56 meters, the NSU Sport Prinz was one of the smallest coupes on the German market when it launched in 1959. Produced partly by Gruppo Bertone in Italy and at the Drauz coachbuilding facilities in Heilbronn, the sports car’s 0.6-liter, two-cylinder, air-cooled engine delivered brisk performance from its 30 hp output.
6. Audi 100 Coupe S
Developed by chief engineer Dr. Ludwig Kraus, the short-wheelbase Audi 100 Coupe S debuted in 1969 with a 1.9-liter, four-cylinder engine that initially powered the front wheels with 115 hp, later dropping to 112 hp. The first coupe designed in-house, it looks Italian—given chief designer Hartmut Warkuß’s appreciation for Bertone and Italdesign Giugario S.p.A in Italy.
7. Audi Coupe GT 5E
The Audi Coupe of 1980 featured a highly integrated design with horizontal, parallel lines along the body and sharp vertical drops at both ends. The edgy, geometric, undecorated four-seater epitomized the clean design language in use in Ingolstadt at the time, and the car typically came with naturally aspirated, four- and five-cylinder engines.
8. Audi Quattro
The minimalist design with sporty front and rear spoilers and “blisters” above the flared fenders set the Audi Quattro apart from the Audi Coupe, and the Ur-Quattro marked the breakthrough of permanent all-wheel drive into production cars, creating a milestone in automotive history. Head of design Hartmut Warkuß said the team focused on the car’s capabilities, shown most clearly in rally championships.
9. Audi Sport Quattro
This evolution of the Ur-Quattro debuted in 1984, and its 20V five-cylinder delivered 306 hp, making it the world’s fastest production car until the arrival of the Porsche 959. Audi built only 224 of them, with the ultra-light bodyshell assembled by Baur in Stuttgart and available in only four colors. The model became a powerful brand icon, as did its predecessor.
10. Audi Coupe 2.3 E
Debuting in 1986 and meant to replace the Ur-Quattro, this Audi Coupe was shaped in the wind tunnel, with a drag coefficient of 0.32. The indistinct design belies its strength in everyday usability with room for four adults and a large trunk. The top-of-the-range version with quattro® all-wheel drive also featured a five-cylinder turbo engine with 230 hp.
11. Audi TT
The seamlessly cohesive design of this compact sports car features circles, arcs and horizontal lines—created by a sequestered team that worked quickly and freely, resulting in a design icon in 1998. The 2+2 seaters—also in a roadster trim—come with four-cylinder turbo engines, with available quattro® all-wheel drive, and its timeless architecture, designed by Freeman Thomas, continues to enthrall enthusiasts.
12. Audi A5 Coupe
The debut of the Audi A5 in 2007 also marked the first time that the front end of a production Audi Coupe sported a Singleframe® grille. Authored by Audi design legend Walter de Silva, the low-lying greenhouse flows over a powerful body, with the Shoulder line lifting slightly over the rear wheel. Considered by de Silva to be “the most beautiful design” of his career, the dynamic yet balanced A5 coupe spawned a family that now includes a four-door sportback, cabriolet, S and RS models.