Concept cars. As an impressionable kid the unveiling of new concept cars was always the highlight of my motor show trips. On any manufacturers stand these lurid flights of fancy would stand out from the massed ranks of more spacious superminis and cleaner-burning diesels, which, naturally, bored the shit out of me.
No, give me something in chrome, with crazy doors and a mountain of power, and all those earnest, practical conveyances are suddenly put in context. They represented where we were, the concepts would show us where we were going. But fast-forward a few decades and yesterday’s concepts become even more fascinating.
Like the original Metropolis; as channelled by Matt Groenings Futurama; yesterday’s vision of tomorrow is often way more exciting than what inevitably surfaces when its time comes. The Audi Avus concept was unveiled in an era before the TT and the R8; neither of which really owe all that much to the Avus, apart perhaps from its spirit. It was Audi’s tangible sci-fi vision of a future supercar, before later concepts came to define the design language that would soon ensure that every Ingolstadt product seems uncomfortably familiar. The Avus presents such a fascinating parallel to the present that I just had to add it to my diecast collection.
Click on the images to see the big picture
Proportionally, the Audi Avus would never make it off the drawing board today, even for consideration as a concept car. For one thing, it’s far too petite. There’s nowhere near the volume inside that curvaceous body to house the bulky technology required to serve either minimum safety requirements nor the lavish standards of luxury that today’s supercar customers demand.
Secondly, it’s too bland. I mean, the shape itself is a delight, but it’s not one that the uninitiated would today recognise as being an Audi – it lacks anything other than the linked rings on the grille to identify it as such. The curvaceous overall look may have been inspired by Auto Union racing cars, but I suspect that few of today’s Audi customers would make that link, or show much interest in inter-war auto racing.
Thirdly; the stance. It has come to pass that, in this day in age the only car where it’s acceptable for daylight to be seen between underbelly and blacktop is an SUV. Although its wheels are right out in the corners, and the cab-forward style gives the look of something about to pounce, the Avus still looks too light on its feet to be a proper supercar of the new school. It’s too clean lined, too lacking in aggressive intakes and aero protuberances to appeal to the inner child largely responsible for making Lamborghini purchase decisions.
It also has tyre sidewalls that are so deep they look disturbingly as if they might be able to absorb bumps and contribute towards a decent ride quality.
No way would that be allowed to happen today.
So, what of the model? Well, it’s 1:18 scale and made by Revell, released in the ’90s when the US/German brand was passing through a phase of releasing chrome-plated diecasts – the Italdesign Nazca M12 is the other example. The chrome finish can’t really be faulted; if I wanted I could probably polish it to a true mirror sheen, but since it’s already a magnet for fingerprints I’m not really minded to.
I suspect that the shape of the model might be a little off if you compare it directly to the prototype, but since the subject matter is pretty damn esoteric it’s not like the inaccuracies will leap out at you. The brake discs are a bit naff, looking rather like chromed versions of the perforated discs that old music boxes might play. But, overall, it all looks rather like the Audi Avus concept car. Good news.
The interior isn’t rich with detail, but Googling would suggest that everything seems in pretty much the right place. And, though the dashboard is largely represented by stickers, the instrumentation is all present and correct, while the gear shifter seems to be in a fairly sensible scale.
There are even a few details picked out that you really wouldn’t expect to see – the grille for demisting the windscreen, for example, is reproduced keenly, and the bulbously bossed steering wheel is well caught.
The seats, though, are superb, and the backrest hinges forwards to allow occupant access to, er, the vestigial space behind the seats.
There’s little of the car’s quattro engineering on show; the W12 engine can be glimpsed in part beneath the rear windscreen where the embellished manifold covers are displayed like jewellery a-la Bugatti Veyron (no coincidence, I’m sure), and the chassis is surprisingly detailed, too.
An amusing easter-egg is that, if you prize out the red plastic luggage compartment you’ll find that Revell has actually made some effort to give the model a little more detail under the skin – there’s something approximating the W12’s block, complete with the moulded-in path of an auxiliary belt. There are also bits of double-wishbone rear suspension modelled; though I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any of it.
This is yet another of those models whose accuracy and detail are a distant second in importance, miles behind the model’s existence in the first place. Revell is the only maker of an Audi Avus in 1:18 scale, so it’s this or nothing.
I’d certainly rather have this than nothing, and with eBay examples not fetching much money at all, there’s little reason for anybody who retrospectively follows the development of the modern supercar not to have an Avus of their own.
(All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016. Follow me on Twitter if you like; @RoadworkUK)