By Matt Wolfe
We recently received a letter from the great-granddaughter of inductee August Horch. We have been working hard over the past year to reconnect with many of our inductees’ families. Since Tanja was nice enough to reach out to us, we thought it would be appropriate to share one our favorite stories about her great-grandfather; his victory at the 1914 Austrian Alpine Rally in a car he designed after being fired by his own company.
August Horch was a genius of mechanical engineering and one of the earliest contributors to the development of the automobile. His first job in the industry came courtesy of Karl Benz, who hired him to manage his factory in Mannheim. After three years of learning under Benz, Horch decided the time was right to strike out on his own and founded Horch & Cie Motorwagenwerke in 1899.
Business was good at first, and Horch took the company public in 1904. But later that decade sales began to slump and the relationship between Horch and his supervisory board became toxic. Horch was left no choice but to leave his own company in 1909. Undaunted, Horch wanted another shot at the car business and founded a second automotive firm less than a month later. Initially called Horch Automobile Works, he was forced to change the name due to a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by his old company. Horch struggled to find a name for his new company until the son of a business partner suggested that he use the Latin translation of his name; “Audi”
The first Audi’s appeared in 1910 and became popular thanks to their elegant design and clever engineering. However, Audi’s reputation grew exponentially thanks to an extraordinary string of victories at the Austrian Alpine Rally. Held from 1910 to 1914, these rallies were regarded as some of the most difficult long distance races in the world. The 1911 race was won by Ferdinand Porsche and the Austro-Daimler team, but it was Horch that would make its name in the rally by winning three races in a row from 1912-1914, the last one with Horch himself at the wheel.
The winning car, an Audi Type C 14/35 hp, became known as the “Alpine Victor” thanks to its successive victories in the Austrian Alps. The car still exists today and was donated to the Deutsches Museum in Munich by Horch. For his contributions to automotive industry and motorsports history, August Horch was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2000.