In 1933, after becoming chancellor of Germany, Hitler offered 500,000 reichmarks for a company to design a race car to show off the nation's technological prowess. Originally, Mercedes-Benz got the nod. But Ferdinand Porsche, then an engineer working with Auto Union, which today is known as Audi, was able to secure some of that financing to build a revolutionary car he had designed.
Ferdinand Porsche also designed another car for Hitler but for a very different purpose. That car, inspired by the success of the inexpensive Ford Model T in the United States, ultimately became known as the Volkswagen Beetle
That car was modified over the next few years to become the 1939 Auto Union D-Type.
The D-type had a number of features that were extremely advanced for its day, including an engine mounted behind the driver and four-wheel independent suspension. Its twin-supercharged 3-liter V12 engine can produce 485 horsepower, giving the car a top speed of 185 miles per hour.
In many ways, the D-type offered a glimpse into what would become the future of racing. It's fundamentally very similar to Formula 1 and Indy race cars of today