Germany has a great tradition in building
luxury cars. In the decade before the second World War there were two makes
which competed each other as Germany's most popular luxury car manufacturer:
Mercedes-Benz and Horch. Mercedes offered a more elaborate model range than
Horch, but Horch countered that with appealing styling. Ultimately Mercedes
seems to be the winner of this competition, still being in business as a
very successful car manufacturer to this day, while the Horch name is almost
forgotten, but that's not quite true.
The Horch marque was part of the Auto Union concern, a company established
in 1932 by combining the Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer factories. Each make
catered more or less to a specific part of the car market; with DKW covering
the lower segments, Audi and Wanderer the middle class and Horch directly
positioned to make its mark in the top segment of the market. This concept
worked quite well and the Auto-Union concern thrived. The success and
ambitions of the concern were conveyed by the opulent Horch cars, which were
big sturdy cars with often dramatic looking bodywork showing the finest
Eight-cylinder cars were the mainstay of Horch, but also extremely expensive
twelve-cylinder cars were offered from 1931 till 1934, just when the world
was in an economic crisis. In 1935 this engine was replaced by a less
elaborate 5-liter 8-cylinder in-line unit which at first produced 100 hp and
later on 120 hp, about the same as the 6-liter V12 had offered. On this
(85x) chassis some of the most beautiful bodies of the era were fitted,
featuring long flowing lines and lots of chrome just oozing wealth and
luxury. Especially the roadster and the sport-cabriolet bodies (as depicted
here) found much acclaim.
In contrast to their looks these Horchs weren't very dynamic to drive.
Though the chassis was fitted with independent front suspension and
semi-independent rear suspension (De Dion axle) the road holding was tricky
at higher speeds and also getting to these higher speeds took some time as a
result of the massive weight of the cars (2400 to 2810 kg depending on the
type of bodywork). Also the manoeuvrability of these cars proved quite a
challenge to the driver, at a length of almost 6 metres and a width of 1.8
metres it needed a turning circle of 14 to 16 metres. For the daring however
a top speed of some 135 kph was available, thanks to an elaborate
transmission fitted with an overdrive gear system particularly suited for
the German Autobahn.
In general the Horch 5-litre models were most appreciated at leisurely
cruising speeds, preferably on boulevards and alike, so that their owners
could enjoy the attention and admiration their cars evoked. Therefore it was
a popular choice for public figures like movie stars and entertainers and
also, in its Pullman-limousine form, for company directors and army
officers. Illustrating this popularity is the fact that in 1938 55% of the
cars sold in Germany with a displacement of over 4 litres were made by Horch.
Soon after the end of the second World War the production of Horch cars
ceased. For the most part this was a result of the Horch factory now being
located in the Russian controlled part of Germany. But also the tarnished
image of the marque caused by the frequent use of its characteristic cars by
the despised army of Hitler-Germany played a role.