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          A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

August Horch (2)

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We've learnt a lot about the difficulties of operating an automobile at that time. Only very short trips seemed to be possible without having a breakdown. The retensioning of drive-belts was considered normal, indeed, one could also loose a wheel and even constructors like de Dietrich got stuck with their vehicles far from home and had to be helped by their competition, Benz.

Thereby, the pneumatic tyre, which really headed the breakdown list, had not yet even been invented. Around the end of the century, the rims were not yet removable and the pneumatic tyres had to be forced, bit by bit, over the rims and then fastened with wing-nuts. If there was tension between the fastining points, one could only travel a few hundred meters before the next breakdown occured.

Motoring was something for enthusiasts with technical abilities and for those who had the time. Those who wanted to tour through Europe, should have with them in their crew, not only their personal physician, but also a mechanic. The theoretical racing top-speed of 50 km/h, was cut to half that amount through breakdowns. As far as private use was concerned the ratio between driving and restoration was even worse.

In this period, before the turn of the century, the Benz company was probably the most successful. This was largely due to a talented salesman, while Papa Benz, as Horch called him, rather discouraged interested customers from buying his products. He would liked to have developed his car to technical perfection, this however, would have driven his company to ruin.

This was the sum and substance of the later disputes between himself and the following company management, who in the end, caused him to withdraw himself from his own company. Horch had also, around 1899, learned his trade, he then founded his own company in Cologne, so that he could finally build cars based on his own ideas. However, at first he had to limit himself and his small team to modifying motor vehicles for Bosch-magneto-ignition with an additional Horch patent.

When the company was more or less able to run itself, Horch begun to turn his dream of a very special car into reality. Unfortunately, there were, at that time, not enough suppliers to meet his demands, thus he had to, e.g., cast thin-walled parts in cast-iron and aluminium himself. So he built up a small foundry and was able, after several set-backs, to produce the components for his engine.

It was to run 'smoothly' and this is just what it did. He also altered the gearbox from the sliding gear-, to the claw technology. What is actually sensational, is that all this was done around the turn of the century. By the way, the gearwheels which were in constant mesh were marked with a helical gear, just like that which was later taken over by Citroen as their badge.

After that the story of the inventor and company founder took on the usual aspects. First of all, the endless teething problems had to be meticulously eliminated, then the far too expensive construction had to be simplified for serial production, this meant further excursions. Once the construction was finalised, there were no funds left over for a mess production, or generally speaking, his budget was at an end.

Indeed, Horch and his partner had managed, from 1899 to 1901 with thirty thousand Marks, now however, new investors were urgently needed. During this nationwide crisis, former customers were available, their means however, were not sufficient for the founding of an automobile company. The owners of a machine factory in Gera stepped in and in the end, it came to the transferring of the entire factory to Reichenbach in Saxony.

The new investors kept their eyes on the bookkeeping and Horch did the construction. After the first sales-successes, a four-cylinder was created. A company who would build the coachwork was also found. There's very little that we know about the respective construction variations. Horch was more concerned about the people around him: the senior boss of the coachwork company, unsuccessful English salesmen and later, also his quite close friend, the parish priest and motor car enthusiast mentioned earlier.

Whether August Horch invented the spray-jet carburettor before Wilhelm Maybach, or perhaps both did, independent of each other? Whatever the case may be, Horch guided the fresh gases in such a way that they were warmed by the exhaust valve. His inlet-valves were now also regulated and no longer opened through vacuum. The inertia-weight on the clutch was reduced, making the gear-changing easier (without synchronisation). The engine block, fitted with, at that time very modern ball-bearings, was simplified and together with a big steel producer substantially more durable gearwheels were developed from chrome-nickel-steel (stainless steel).

That's about all that Horch reported about his activities as a constructor. Instead, one learns a lot about everyday traffic occurences. E.g., encounters with coachmen, who either drive on the wrong side of the road or have fallen asleep or even both. Thereby, the horses became even more skittish when a car came anywhere near them. Quite often accidents happened and the damage limitation or settlement thereof was also introduced. At least possible injuries were kept to a minimum.

Almost incidentally, it must be mentioned that the company, Horch & Cie became a public corporation, which is important for the later course of history. It all had to do with the company's car-sales successes. A part of it was their expansion, not in Reichenbach, due to a shortage of space, but in Zwickau. Our author had long since turned to his favourite passtime, driving- and racing motor cars. No, not Grand-Prix-racing, rather reliability- and special trials running over several days.

First introduced by Horch in the vehicle sector:
- Aluminium-engine-block,
- Four-/six-cylinder,
- Friction clutch,
- Cardan shaft,
- Jointed drive-shafts,
- Left-hand drive.               Top of page               Index
2001-2014 Copyright programs, texts, animations, pictures: H. Huppertz - Email
Translator: Don Leslie - Email:

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