The Horch Werke in Zwickau had never departed from the principle laid down by company founder August Horch, namely only to build good, powerful cars. Horch’s vehicles were among the leading products of the German automobile industry from the very start.
In the 1920s, extensive rationalisation measures were introduced in order to make assembly-line production more cost-effective. The launch of Germany’s first eight-cylinder car in the autumn of 1926 led to Horch products being numbered among the leading products of the German automobile industry. Whereas the Horch company had previously built only cars with four-cylinder engines, its engineers now concentrated entirely on large, distinguished eight-cylinder models.
The Horch 8 became synonymous with elegance, luxury and leading-edge technology in German automobile construction. The Horch company also began to set the standard internationally. In 1932, Horch’s market share in the engine-size class above 4.2 litres in Germany was more than 44 percent.
When Auto Union AG was formed it was self-evident that the Horch brand should occupy the luxury market segment within the new group of companies. In addition, the Horch Body Design Office acted as the central design studio for all the group’s brands and laid down stylistic principles for the various models. The modern production technologies in use at the Horch factory became a benchmark for the group’s other factories.
From 1933 onwards, the Horch model programme was divided into large cars with straight-eight engines and smaller ones with V8 engines. When the sheer volume of luxury equipment available for a Horch made it clear that more powerful engines would be needed, the 5-litre straight-eight was given a camshaft with steeper lobes and its compression ratio increased in order to boost its power output to 120 hp. Similar measures applied to the smaller V8 engine, the power output of which went up from the original 62 hp to 82 hp for the 1937 model, culminating in a figure of 92 hp in 1939.
Extensive model development plans were mooted for Horch cars, ranging from new engines to streamlined bodies. Unfortunately the war years intervened and only a few exhibition cars and prototypes for testing were ever built.
From 1927 until peace-time production ended in 1940, about 42,000 Horch eight-cylinder cars were built. If vehicles supplied to the military authorities until the final cessation of production in 1942 are included, more than 70,000 eight-cylinder vehicles left the Zwickau factory during that period – a figure well above anything achieved by Horch’s German competitors.