Historic Car Brands



August Horch and his first business partner Salli Herz established their car manufacturing business in November, 1899 in Cologne. August was an engineer and had previously worked as a production manager for Karl Benz. 



The company initially produced 5hp and 10hp twin-cylinder-engined automobiles.

Three years later, in 1902, Horch needed financial assistance and moved the company to Reichenbach in Vogtland, producing a 20hp, shaft-drive model that year. 

On May 10, 1904 he founded the Horch & Cie Motorwagenwerke AG, a joint-stock company in Zwickau in the Kingdom of Saxony and the first model to emerge was the 14/17.

In 1906, a Horch 18/22 automobile driven by Dr Rudolf Stöss from Zwickau won the Herkomer Competition  that was equivalent to a ‘brand-name’ world championship at the time.


1906 Horch 18/20 Herkomer Competition winner


In 1907, the first Horch six-cylinder model was released. This 7.8-litre 65hp car wasn’t successful and caused some problems at board level. 

In the meantime, the streamlined Halle bodies on the Horch 2.8-litre cars entered in the 1908 Prinz Heinrichfahrt event caused a sensation.


1908 Horch 12/28


The boardroom troubles escalated and August Horch was forced out of his eponymous company. He founded a second business on 16 July 1909: the August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH in Zwickau. Its cars were branded ‘Audi’, because ‘Horch’ was already a registered brand and he did not hold the rights to the name. 

Without August Horch at the helm, the Horch brand continued and before Word War I there was a series of four-cylinder models of varying sizes, with engine capacities ranging from 1.3 litres up to 6.4 litres and outputs from 14hp up to 60hp.

After Word War I, Horch continued with its pre-War lineup and in 1921, at the Berlin Show, displayed the 8/24, 10/35, 14/40, 18/50, 25/60 and 33/80 models – the latter being an 8.4-litre four!

Paul Daimler joined Horch in 1923 as chief engineer and the 2.6-litre, four-cylinder, overhead-camshaft 10/50 model was a result.


1929 Horch 375


In 1928, Horch was acquired by Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen, owner of DKW. Rasmussen also bought the remains of the US automobile manufacturer Rickenbacker in the same year. 

The Rickenbacker purchase included their manufacturing equipment for eight-cylinder engines.Then followed a string of double-overhead-camshaft straight-eight Horch models, with capacities that grew from 3.1 litres (60hp) to four litres (80hp) by 1930.


1930 Horch Police wagon


Paul Daimler left Horch in 1930 and was succeeded by Fritz Fiedler, who introduced a new single-overhead-camshaft engine series, with displacements of 4.5 litres and 4.9 litres and outputs of 100hp and 120hp, respectively.

1936 Horch 830BL – ex Charles de Gaulle -Stephen Dickson 


Also, a top-shelf, side-valve V12, displacing six litres and producing 120hp, was introduced in 1931.

By 1932 the Great Depression and the ongoing effects of World War I reparations were hitting Germany hard.  Eventually, on 29 June 1932, Horch, Audi, DKW and Wanderer merged to form the Auto Union AG, Chemnitz affiliated group. (The current Audi four-ring logo is the Auto Union logo that represents the merger of these four brands.)


1937 Horch 930V Phaeton – Ramgeis


From 1933, Horch introduced an alternative new line of smaller and cheaper, but still high-quality, V8 automobiles, with engine outputs from 70 hp up to 90hp. 

The Auto Union Grand Prix racing cars types A to D, were developed and built by a specialist racing department of Horch works in Zwickau between 1933 and 1939. 

Auto Union Type C


Of the four Auto Union racing cars, the Types A, B and C, used from 1934 to 1937 had supercharged V16 engines. The original Porsche-designed V16 displaced 4.4 litres and developed 295bhp. They had two cylinder blocks, inclined at an angle of 45 degrees, with a single overhead camshaft to operate all 32 valves.

The final car, the Type D used in 1938 and 1939, had four cylinders chopped off, making it a supercharged three-litre V12, to comply with changed racing regulations. Despite its reduced capacity the V12 developed almost 550 horsepower. 

All of the designs were difficult to handle, due to extreme power to weight ratios that meant wheelspin could be induced at over 100mph and they suffered from marked oversteer, due to uneven weight distribution. 


Auto Union Type D – note the dual rear hillclimb tyres.


The Type D was easier to drive because of its smaller, lower-mass engine that was better positioned toward the vehicle’s centre of mass.

Between 1935 and 1937 Auto Union cars won 25 races, driven by Ernst von Delius, Tazio Nuvolari, Bernd Rosemeyer, Hans Stuck and Achille Varzi.


1937 Horch 853 – Steve Ginn


Late-1930s Horch models had fully-independent suspension, using wishbones and twin leaf springs up front and de Dion rear axles. The double-jointed rear axle shafts were pioneered in the Auto Union racing cars.


1939 Horch 853A Cabriolet – Alexander Migl


Civilian production was suspended after March 1940, when Auto Union became a major supplier of vehicles to the German Wehrmacht, producing the Heavy standard passenger car (Horch 108), Medium standard passenger car (Horch 901 and Wanderer 901) and Half-track Sd Kfz 11.


1941 Horch 108


After the War the Auto Union AG at Chemnitz was dissolved and in Ingolstadt, West Germany, the new Auto Union GmbH was founded, where civilian car production continued. Due to widespread deprivaiton in postwar Germany, only small DKW vehicles with two-stroke engines were produced.

Meanwhile, in East Germany, between 1955 and 1958, the old Horch factories produced the Horch P240 six-cylinder car. The former Horch and Audi operations from Zwickau were unified in 1958. 


Hirch-Sachsenring P240 Cabriolet – Softeis


Audi, in West Germany, owned the rights to the ‘Horch’ brand, so the P240 car was renamed as the Sachsenring P240, but the East German economic administration decided to stop production of the vehicle. 

The Zwickau site was acquired in 1991 by Volkswagen, effectively restoring its connection with Audi.

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