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European-American Topics - Cars - August Horch

August Horch, the life of a carmaker revisited
Compiled by Fritz Burmeister
Posted March 18, 2007


One of the famous pioneers of the German automobile industry was August Horch. He is credited
with various technical innovations in the manufacture of “Horseless Carriages” and was one of the first carmakers who introduced the use of the cardan shaft, a drive shaft with universal joint coupling.
Among his contemporaries Horch stood out by continually trying new concepts in his automotive design. 

August Horch was born on October12, 1868 in Winningen on the Moselle. His father, a blacksmith,
was unable to persuade August to follow in his footsteps. Instead, young August enrolled in a technical college from which he graduated with a degree in factory engineering. He developed a particular interest in the design and construction of internal combustion engines, which in those days, were only in the early stages of perfection. With a sufficient amount of experience under his belt, earned at the various design offices in Germany, he began producing motor vehicles for Karl Benz  & Co. However, the relationship between the two deteriorated quickly, due to Horch’s unrelenting drive of trying to improve existing, workable designs. Two pioneers, therefore, parted company whereupon Horch, together
with a partner, set up his own business in 1899, the Horch & Co. in Cologne. 

The first Horch car, produced in 1901, was a low powered vehicle that featured an advanced design,
at that time considered superior to Mercedes and Benz cars. It had an alloy crank case, a
friction clutch and a drive shaft not markedly different from those installed in a modern automobile
today. Not yet comparable with the powerful luxury  cars of later years, its 4.5 hp twin cylinder engine would propel the vehicle to a top speed of 32 km/hr. It was a typical, open body design; the light
source was candles installed in a couple of lanterns. 

Financial difficulties forced Horch to shut down, look for a new location, financial backing and new partners. He moved his company to Zwickau, Saxony, in 1904. But his company was now transformed into an “Aktiengesellschaft,”(AG) a share issuing enterprise. The Horch car production now
included 40 hp, four cylinder vehicles and in 1907 the first six cylinder, 65 hp automobile hit the market. However, in his capacity as technical director of Horch, AG, irreparable disagreements with the
Board of Directors ensued with the result that August Horch quit the company he once established. 

Under a new technical director, Georg Paulmann, the factory continued to produce Horch automobiles. Following WWI the trend pointed to bigger and more powerful vehicles. The Horch AG stepped up
to the plate. Within the span of a few years an impressive 80 hp car rolled out of the factory. All Horch
models, which by now had reached luxury status, were proudly exhibited at the Berlin automobile show
in 1921.

The trend continued. A straight-eight motor with either 100 hp or 120 hp was made available
installed in a luxurious body manufactured by Germany’s leading coachbuilders. In 1933 cars with
a V8 engine were marketed for the first time. 

After leaving the Horch AG, August Horch set up a new automobile factory in Zwickau, which he registered under the name of “Audi,” the Latin translation of Horch, meaning “hark or listen.” The new
Audi vehicle soon moved up to be the favorite among race car drivers. Starting in 1912, Audis won the “International Austrian Alpine Run” three years in succession, which was considered to be one of the
most difficult long distance runs at the time. 

But more and more August Horch devoted his time to an organizational role. During WW I he moved
to Berlin where he sat on several committees of the automobile industry providing his expertise to the decision-making process. In 1932 four automobile companies, Audi, Horch, Wanderer and DKW
fused to form a single entity, the Auto “Union, AG,” with its emblem the four interconnecting rings.
Only Audi survived the horrors of WW II having relocated to Ingolstadt, Bavaria. Present day Audis
still display the emblem of the Auto Union, the four rings, attached to the hood. 

After August Horch moved to Müncheberg, Franconia, he still showed an active interest in the manufacture of post-war Audi cars, although his productive days had come to an end. He died on February 3, 1951 and was buried in Winningen, the place of his birth. In his legacy he is credited with the founding of two automobile companies, Horch and Audi, the later survived the turmoil and the aftermath of WW II and is competing on the world automobile market today. The production of Horch cars ceased at the outbreak of WW II. However, the name and reputation lives on, as exemplified in a report found in the “Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia,” a1937 Horch model 853 A Sport Cabriolet, in its original but mint condition sold at an auction in Cortland, N.Y. in June 2006 for $299,000 !!



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