1937 Horch 853 Cabriolet
Lot 835 | Passion for the Drive: The Cars of Jim Taylor | Estimate: $400,000 - $500,000
Chassis No. 853392
Engine No. 850982
German automaker Horch's 853 was one of the grandest European automobiles of its era, a robustly engineered eight-cylinder luxury tourer with an overhead-cam, ten-main-bearing engine, four-speed transmission, and servo-assisted hydraulic brakes that competed with the supercharged Mercedes-Benzes. It was an imposing, smooth autobahn automobile, favored by worldwide society.
During the early postwar years, this magnificent 853 Cabriolet, one of fewer than fifty extant, was acquired by a French soldier who dealt it to dealer Fritz Ihle of Oos. In August 1952 the car was sold by Ihle to U.S. Army Captain Harold D. Young, as noted by a Headquarters European Command Motor Vehicle Bill of Sale, which is included in the file alongside a 1954 U.S. Army Europe Registration Certificate in Captain Young's name. Invoices from the Auto Union facilities in Frankfurt indicates that the engine was rebuilt, a new cylinder head installed, and other mechanical sorting completed for the serviceman in 1953-54. In June 1954, Captain Young then returned home to Groton, New York, bringing the Horch along with him; again, documentation for the shipment remains in the file.
Later in the 1950s, Captain Young traded his Horch to James C. Stevens, Jr., of Cortland, New York, owner of the local Oldsmobile and Studebaker dealership. Mr. Stevens was a founding member of the local car club and in the 1950s and 1960s quietly assembled a collection of eighty vintage automobiles, as well as a hoard of parts, on his property. Following his passing these cars were dispersed in 2006, and the Horch, still solid, intact, and well-preserved, was sold to Jim Taylor, who was attracted to it as the centerpiece of a longtime local collection.
The car, as acquired, retained all its original numbers-matching components and tags, and still does today. It subsequently underwent considerable mechanical sorting, in which all components were carefully rebuilt as-necessary, while carefully maintaining their patinaed finishes; the same treatment was even given to smaller components such as the gauges, switch gear, and wiring. A gear-reduction starter was fitted, to enable easier starting. Externally the Horch remains the same, with some of its factory black paint and chrome trim still intact under layers of age, the running board mats in place, and the interior still in very usable condition – and surprisingly comfortable, to boot! Only the top has been replaced, and that decades-old homemade replacement, with rows of tacks is visible, in fully in keeping with the car's character and charm.
The knobs on the dashboard, the ashtrays in the top of the doors, the felted window seals, and even the piping and grab handles on the inner door panels are intact. All instrumentation is intact except for the clock, sourced from a Lincoln Continental, while a factory Bosch heater is fitted. Amazingly, even the original etched glass is still in the windshield. The original headlights and taillights, gas cap, and luggage rack are not only present, but a 1953 U.S. Forces license plate, fitted for Captain Young, has never been removed. At the time of cataloging, the odometer recorded 36,098 km. Such is the car's originality that it was judged a class award-winner at Pebble Beach in 2008, after which it was photographed with Arturo Keller's own Horch cabriolet, and has been used as a template for other examples undergoing restoration.
Accompanied by the aforementioned original paperwork, correspondence from Mr. Stevens, and considerable photos and invoices from its 'reawakening,' this is considered one of the purest, most original, and utterly finest surviving examples of the eight-cylinder Horch – a true treasure.