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Horch AG
Industry Automotive
Fate1932 merged with DKW, Wanderer and Audi to form Auto Union
SuccessorAuto Union (1932–1969)
Audi NSU Auto Union (1969–1985)
Audi AG (1985–present)
Headquarters Zwickau, Saxony, Germany
Key people
August Horch, founder
Products Luxury cars
Charles de Gaulle's 1936 Horch 830 BL convertible, Bundeswehr Military History Museum, Dresden Charles de Gaulle's 1936 Horch 830 BL convertible, Bundeswehr Military History Museum, Dresden.jpg
Charles de Gaulle's 1936 Horch 830 BL convertible, Bundeswehr Military History Museum, Dresden

Horch [hɔʁç] was a car brand manufacturer, founded in Germany by August Horch & Cie at the beginning of the 20th century.


It is one of the predecessors of the present day Audi company, which itself resulted from the merger of Auto Union Aktiengesellschaft (AG) and NSU Motorenwerke in 1969. Auto Union AG in turn was formed in 1932, following the merger of Horch DKW, Wanderer and the original Audi Automobilwerke GmbH Zwickau, established by August Horch in 1910.

According to insiders, a resurrection is planned. [1]

History at a glance

August Horch in his car (1908) Bundesarchiv Bild 183-T1129-501, August Horch in Horch-PKW.jpg
August Horch in his car (1908)
Horch hood ornament (1924) Horch Kuhlerfigur.jpg
Horch hood ornament (1924)
Horch 670, 12-cylinder luxury cabriolet (1932) Horch 670 v.jpg
Horch 670, 12-cylinder luxury cabriolet (1932)
Horch 930 V Phaeton (1939) Horch 930V Phaeton 1939.jpg
Horch 930 V Phaeton (1939)

August Horch and his first business partner Salli Herz established the company on November 14, 1899 in the district of Ehrenfeld, Cologne in Cologne. [2] August Horch had previously worked as a production manager for Karl Benz. Three years later, in 1902, he moved the company to Reichenbach im Vogtland. On May 10, 1904 he founded the Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke AG, a joint-stock company in Zwickau (Kingdom of Saxony). The city of Zwickau was the capital of the South Western Saxon County and one of Saxony's industrial centres at that time.

After troubles with the Horch chief financial officer, August Horch founded a second company on 16 July 1909, the August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH in Zwickau. He had to rename the company because Horch was already a registered brand and he did not hold the rights to the name. On 25 April 1910 the name Audi Automobilwerke was entered in the company's register at the Zwickau registration court. Audi is the Latin translation of horch, from the German verb "horchen", which means "listen!" (compare English "hark"). The Audi name was proposed by a son of one of Horch's business partners from Zwickau. [3]

In 1932 both companies from Zwickau (Horch and Audi) merged with Zschopauer Motorenwerke J. S. Rasmussen (the DKW brand) and the Wanderer car-production facilities to become the Auto Union corporation of Saxony. The Silver Arrow racing cars of the Auto Union racing team in Zwickau—developed by Ferdinand Porsche and Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, and driven by Bernd Rosemeyer, Hans Stuck, Tazio Nuvolari and Ernst von Delius—became known the world over in the 1930s.

Initial cars

The company initially began producing 5  hp (3.7 kW; 5.1 PS) and 10 hp (7.5 kW; 10 PS) twin-cylinder engine automobiles near Cologne in 1901.

The first Horch had a 4.5 hp (3.4 kW; 4.6 PS) engine, with an alloy crankcase, a unique achievement in those days. It had an open-body design, with lighting provided by lanterns with candles in them. In contrast with the powerful cars of later years, the first Horch could barely reach a top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph). It was significant at that time because it used a friction clutch, and also had a drive shaft to power the wheels.

The firm soon ran into financial troubles, not surprising considering the pioneering nature of the automobile business at that time. Horch had to seek new partners.

In March 1902, August Horch produced a 20 hp (15 kW; 20 PS) four-cylinder car with a shaft drive in Reichenbach in Vogtland. Horch cars were considered[ by whom? ] more advanced and superior to those being then built by Mercedes or Benz (who were then separate manufacturers).

By 1903, Horch had built a car with a four-cylinder engine. In March of the following year, he introduced his new car at the Frankfurt Fair.

In 1904, August Horch developed the first six-cylinder engine, which appeared in 1907. In 1906 a Horch automobile driven by Dr. Rudolf Stöss from Zwickau won the Herkomer Competition (equivalent to a 'brand-name' world championship at the time). In the 1920s, Moritz Stauss, a cosmopolitan Berliner, was the principal stockholder of the Horch company. He succeeded in making the Horch brand highly desirable by introducing art into the advertising of their products. He recognized that only a brand emphasising Horch's unique characteristics would be successful.

In 1923, Paul Daimler (a Stauss associate) worked for Horch as the chief engineer for 8-cylinder engines. Horch vehicles were subsequently the first to introduce 8-cylinder engines in series production.[ citation needed ]

Audi connection

In 1909, the supervisory board (the German equivalent of the Board of Directors) of the corporation forced out Horch. Horch went on to found Audi as Audiwerke GmbH, which became effective on 25 April 1910. The name was a solution to the legal dispute with his old company over use of the Horch brand and a clever play of words ("audi" is the literal Latin translation of the Old German "horch", meaning the imperative "Listen!").

In 1928, the company was acquired by Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen, owner of DKW (from the German Dampfkraftwagen, or steam engine vehicle) who had bought the remains of the US automobile manufacturer Rickenbacker in the same year. The Rickenbacker purchase included their manufacturing equipment for eight-cylinder engines.

Auto Union

Auto Union Typ C (1936) MHV Auto-Union Typ C 1936 01.jpg
Auto Union Typ C (1936)

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. In the 1930s, Horch introduced a new line of smaller and cheaper, but still presentable, V8 automobiles. In 1936, Horch presented the 25,000th 8-cylinder luxury car in Zwickau.

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

Heavy standard passenger car Type Horch 108 (1942) Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-158-0094-35, Balkan, PKW der Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler.jpg
Heavy standard passenger car Type Horch 108 (1942)

Auto Union became a major supplier of vehicles to the German Wehrmacht, such as Heavy standard passenger car (Horch 108), Medium standard passenger car (Horch 901 and Wanderer 901) and Half-track Sd.Kfz. 11. Civilian production was suspended after March 1940. 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 poverty in postwar Germany, only small DKW vehicles with two stroke engines were produced. After Auto Union was purchased in 1964 by the Volkswagenwerk AG, the old brand Audi was introduced again, together with the new four stroke vehicle Audi F103. Daimler-Benz retained the trademark rights to the Horch brand until the mid 1980s. Daimler-Benz then transferred the rights to the Horch brand name to Audi which in turn signed a waiver to use the name „Silberpfeil“ (silver-arrow) for any modern Audi racing car. However, the brand has remained dormant.

The Romanian Army purchased 300 Horch 901 4x4 field cars to mechanize some of its anti-tank companies. [4]

Trabant connection

During the Second World War, the factories suffered heavy bomb damage. Later, the advancing Soviet forces captured the area, and it became part of the Soviet sector of divided Germany in 1945, and later became part of East Germany.

Horch P240 (Sachsenring) Cabriolet (1956) Sachsenring-P-240-Cabriolet.jpg
Horch P240 (Sachsenring) Cabriolet (1956)

From 1955 to 1958, old Horch factories produced the Horch P240, a six-cylinder car that was respected at the time. The former Horch and Audi operations from Zwickau were unified in 1958. A new brand, Sachsenring, within the East German corporation IFA was born. After unification in 1958, the P240 car was renamed as the Sachsenring P240. As the Soviet Administration inexplicably banned the foreign exportation of the P240, the East German economic administration decided to stop production of the vehicle. IFA also produced the initial Trabant "P-50" model from 1957. [5]

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

Rare collectibles

On June 24, 2006, a rare 1937 Horch 853A Sport Cabriolet in original unrestored, unprepared condition sold at auction in Cortland, NY for US$299,000. [6]

In the late 1930s, Horch supplied a limited number of promotional scarves bearing the Horch logo. Sent only to the wealthiest drivers, it is a major collectible amongst diehard enthusiasts of the pre-war car era. However, there is also a degree of controversy associated with these scarves as they were commonly sought by senior SS members.

1939 Horch 853 A Cabriolet Horch 853 A Cabriolet (1939) 1X7A8049.jpg
1939 Horch 853 A Cabriolet
1937 Horch 853 Voll & Ruhrbeck Sport Cabriolet 1937 Horch 853 (26176121674).jpg
1937 Horch 853 Voll & Ruhrbeck Sport Cabriolet

Horch models

TypeConstructionCylindersDisplacementPowerTop speed
4-15 PS1900–1903 straight-2 2.9-3.7 kW60 km/h
(37 mph)
10-16 PS 1902–1904straight-27.4-8.8 kW62 km/h
(39 mph)
22-30 PS1903 straight-4 2,725 cc16.2-18.4 kW
14-20 PS1905–1910 straight-4 2,270 cc10.3-12.5 kW
18/25 PS1904–1909 straight-4 2,725 cc16.2 kW
23/50 PS1905–1910 straight-4 5,800 cc29 kW100 km/h
(62 mph)
26/65 PS1907–1910 straight-6 7,800 cc44 kW120 km/h
(75 mph)
25/60 PS1909–1914 straight-4 6.395 cc40 kW110 km/h
(68 mph)
10/30 PS1910–1911 straight-4 2,660 cc18.4 kW
K (12/30 PS)1910–1911 straight-4 3,177 cc20.6 kW75 km/h
(47 mph)
15/30 PS1910–1914 straight-4 2,608 cc22 kW80 km/h
(50 mph)
H (17/45 PS)1910–1919 straight-4 4,240 cc33 kW
6/18 PS1911–1920 straight-4 1,588 cc13.2 kW
8/24 PS1911–1922 straight-4 2,080 cc17.6 kW70 km/h
(43 mph)
O (14/40 PS)1912–1922 straight-4 3,560 cc29 kW90 km/h
(56 mph)
Pony (5/14 PS)1914 straight-4 1,300 cc11 kW
25/60 PS1914–1920 straight-4 6,395 cc44 kW110 km/h
(68 mph)
18/50 PS1914–1922 straight-4 4,710 cc40 kW
(55 PS)
100 km/h
(62 mph)
S (33/80 PS)1914–1922 straight-4 8,494 cc59 kW
10 M 20 (10/35 PS) 1922–1924 straight-4 2,612 cc25.7 kW80 km/h
(50 mph)
10 M 25 (10/50 PS) 1924–1926 straight-4 2,612 cc37 kW95 km/h
(59 mph)
8 Typ 303/304 (12/60 PS) 1926–1927 straight-8 3,132 cc44 kW100 km/h
(62 mph)
8 Typ 305/306 (13/65 PS) 1927–1928 straight-8 3,378 cc48 kW100 km/h
(62 mph)
8 Typ 350/375/400/405 (16/80 PS) 1928–1931 straight-8 3,950 cc59 kW100 km/h
(62 mph)
8 3 L Typ 430 1931–1932 straight-8 3,009-3,137 cc48 kW
(65 PS)
100 km/h
(62 mph)
8 4 L Typ 410/440/710 1931–1933 straight-8 4,014 cc59 kW
(80 PS)
100–110 km/h
(62–68 mph)
8 4.5 L Typ 420/450/470/720/750/750B 1931–1935 straight-8 4,517 cc66 kW
(90 PS)
115 km/h
(71 mph)
8 5 L Typ 480/500/500A/500B/780/780B 1931–1935 straight-8 4,944 cc74 kW (100 PS)120–125 km/h
(75–78 mph)
12 6 L Typ 600/670 1931–1934 V12 6,021 cc88 kW (120 PS)130–140 km/h
(81–87 mph)
830 1933–1934 V8 3,004 cc51 kW (70 PS)110–115 km/h
(68–71 mph)
830B 1935V83,250 cc51 kW (70 PS)115 km/h
(71 mph)
830Bk/830BL 1935–1936V83,517 cc55 kW (75 PS)115–120 km/h
(71–75 mph)
850/850 Sport 1935–1937 straight-8 4,944 cc74 kW (100 PS)125–130 km/h
(78–81 mph)
830BL/930V 1937–1938V83,517 cc60 kW (82 PS)120–125 km/h
(75–78 mph)
830BL/930V 1938–1940V83,823 cc67.6 kW (92 PS)125–130 km/h
(78–81 mph)
851/853/853A/855/951/951A 1937–1940 straight-8 4,944 cc74 kW (100 PS)125–140 km/h
(78–87 mph)

See also

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  1. "Audi plans to revive Horch name on version of the A8". Automotive News Europe. Sep 21, 2018. Retrieved Apr 14, 2019.
  2. August Horch: "Ich baute Autos - Vom Schmiedelehrling zum Autoindustriellen", Schützen-Verlag Berlin 1937
  3. Audi AG motion picture 1994: 'The Silver Arrows from Zwickau, running time approx. 49 mins.
  4. Tarnstrom, Ronald L. (1998). Balkan Battles. Trogen Books. Retrieved Apr 14, 2019 via Google Books.
  5. "Trabant History". Trabant.shocauto.com. Archived from the original on 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  6. "Rm Auctions". Rm Auctions. Archived from the original on 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2010-10-02.

Further reading