After working with Karl Benz for a couple of years, August Horch started producing cars under his own name in 1899. In those early years, August engineered many groundbreaking designs, including a friction clutch and shaft-driven rear wheels in lieu of chains. He left the company to form Audi (the latin translation of his surname) in 1909 due in part to a dispute with his shareholders. In 1926 the Horch company introduced a new model powered by a straight eight engine. This powerplant would form the base of the Horch company’s most famous designs to come.
In the following years the Horch eight-cylinder engine grew in size and displaced just under 5 liters by 1935. This 100bhp engine made its debut in the ‘850’ series. The shorter wheelbase ‘853’ model was especially popular among Germany’s rich and famous. It offered ‘Mercedes-Benz luxury’ at a very competitive price. August, in the meantime led Audi to some brief racing and rallying successes until World War I forced him to supply the military with armored vehicles.
In 1932, financial problems forced August to sell Audi, which joined the Horch company, DKW (Das Kleine Wunder), and Wanderer as Auto Union. All four manufacturers continued production of road cars independently but jointly backed the Auto Union racers. Some of the racing car technology made its way onto the recently introduced ‘853’ chassis. Most evident was the rear suspension, which consisted of an exotic DeDion axle.
To keep up with the competition, Horch introduced the ‘853 A’ model in 1937, fitted with a more powerful 120 bhp version of the straight eight engine. Production lasted until the outbreak of World War II. Today the ‘853’ and ‘853 A’ are considered some of the finest cars constructed in the 1930s and can be regularly seen in Concours d’Elegance all over the world.