An internal battle between brands ultimately resulted in the Audi TT winning out, but it nearly didn’t.
The Audi TT is set to sail into the sunset after many successful years on the market as a futuristically-styled, satisfying luxury sports coupe. The first-gen model is also arguably one of the most iconic designs in automotive history, a car that looked like a concept for the street, which is something we rarely see happen. However, it seems as if the Audi TT very nearly became a Porsche model during the initial development phase, as its original designer – Freeman Thomas, explained to CarBuzz at the TT’s recent going away party.
“I was asked to do a Porsche version and an Audi version, and [the Porsche designers] in Weissach were also asked to do a Porsche version and an Audi version,” Thomas said. “And because I came from Porsche, I knew their design language and said to J Mays (who was Audi’s design director at the time), ‘this is what they are going to do, and this is what we are going to do.’ We kept to this Bauhaus absolute design and theirs was very styled.”
The team later had a somewhat secretive meeting to go over these designs and lull over the two different scale models they had created and determine the future of each. Porsche designers reportedly weren’t thrilled at the concept of Audi having a more powerful, all-wheel-drive model, which obviously didn’t settle too well with the Audi team. “We told them everything was off, but we are going to [the Frankfurt Auto Show] and beginning the full-size [model],” Thomas said. “Porsche had no idea we were doing this. We developed the coupe first. That was at Frankfurt 1995; it surprised everybody.”
The rest, as they say, is history – Thomas and his team created the Audi TTS Concept alongside the production version, took it to the 1995 Frankfurt Auto Show without Porsche’s knowledge, and it became an instant hit. Consumers loved the fact that the production Audi TT looked just like the concept, which has been heralded as one of the most beautiful automotive designs in history – even by the loftiest of standards.
“We went to Italdesign and I got to know Giugiaro [one of the legendary automotive designers of all time] very well,” Thomas said. “I remember presenting the [TT] to him and asking him ‘What do you think?’ He said ‘I wouldn’t change a line.’”
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