When Audi’s e-tron Urban Concept was spotted testing in Berlin, both The Truth About Cars and Jalopnik noted its similarity to the 1950s German microcars, the Messerchmitt Kabinenrollers. Jalopnik specifically mentioned the KR-175 and the KR-200. The resemblance is based on the fact that the Messerchmitt three wheelers had tandem seating for two and a slide back, aircraft type canopy, two features that also distinguish the Audi Urban Concept. The thing is, though, that while the AeUC is similar to a Fritz Fend design, it’s to a car that wasn’t made by Messerschmitt. The Kabinerollers came about because Fend’s employer, Willy Messerschmitt, legendary aircraft maker, was prohibited from making aircraft in the wake of the Third Reich’s defeat. Fend had found some success on the side selling what we would now call mobility vehicles for the disabled. In an era that saw microcars proliferate, Messerschmitt had noticed that many of Fend’s customers were not disabled, and were using those mobility vehicles as regular transportation. Needing a product to keep his factory going, Messerschmitt and Fend came to a deal and the KR-175 was developed. In 1956, when Messerschmitt GmbH was again allowed to manufacture aircraft again, Willy no longer needed the microcars and sold Fend the Regenburg factory. Fend with automotive supplier Valentin Knott, then formed Fahrzeug und Maschinenbau GmbH, Regensburg (FMR) to manufacture the KRs and other vehicles.
FMR was licensed to use the Messerschmitt name and logo on the KR-200 which stayed in production while Fend designed his ultimate microcar, the Tiger 500. It had an engine with double the cylinders and more than double the displacement of the KR-200 at almost 500cc, a monocoque design with a tube rear subframe with adjustable independent suspension and coil springs, larger wheels, and bigger (and hydraulic) brakes. Plus, both firsts for a Fend design, it had four, count them, four wheels, and a true reverse gear. The KRs were reversed by stopping the car, shutting off the engine and turning the ignition key counterclockwise instead of clockwise. That changed the the polarity to the starter, which started the two stroke engine backwards. Two strokes, unlike Otto cycle engines, will run backwards, so the KRs had four forward and four reverse speeds. The Tiger retained the KRs’ aircraft canopy and tandem seating. Apparently though underpowered, the Tiger 500 cornered and handled well, though with 1:1 steering, it could be twitchy. Though Fend originally marketed the car under the Tiger brand, Krupp, apparently no longer concerned about associations with the Nazis, complained because they owned the Tiger name, from the Tiger tanks they made during the war. So the Tiger 500 beccame the TG-500 for Tourenfahrzeug-Gelandesport, or “cross-country sports touring vehicle “. In any case, it was never sold as a Messerschmitt but rather the 320 that were built carried the F.M.R. brand from 1958 to 1961. So if the Audi e-tron Urban Concept is derivative of an earlier German microcar, it was a F.M.R., not a Messerscmitt.