The story of the Horch heavy passenger would not be complete without starting from its very inception, which dated back to the birth of the Third Reich. In 1935, the Army Procurement Office approved guidelines for a new heavy vehicle in the 1.25-1.5 ton weight class.
This design would eventually be used as the basis for a series of revolutionary armored cars. The chassis (Type I) would provide a platform for the 221, 222, 223,261, and later, the 247 series of lightly armored vehicles. These designs featured rear mounted engines, 4-wheel drive, cable brakes, and four-wheel steering to handle rough terrain. Between 1935 and 1938, over 2,000 of this new vehicle were produced by renowned German auto maker Horch. The Army Procurement Office realized it needed a heavy passenger car to fulfill the increasing demands of field commanders for an all-purpose vehicle.
The Horch soon became the workhorse of the Germany Army, towing anti-tank guns, radio equipment, and carrying troops to the front lines. Horch was given a contract to start production in 1937, featuring a heavier chassis (Type II) to cover these extensive needs. The firm developed into a front-engine design with 4-wheel drive and steering, cable brakes (later hydraulic), and support axles with a 1.25 ton load capacity. It was obvious by the middle of 1938 that Horch could not keep up with the increased demand, so the army selected Ford to supplement production. At the same time, the army realized it had too many contrasting designs and not enough uniformity between each vehicle itself.
It sought to bring some semblance of rationality out of the runaway of designs by establishing what would become The Schell Program, which amounted to a complete reorganization of automobile production in Germany. New changes limited weight and load classes to 1-1.5 ton, 1.5-3 ton, 4 ton and over. While this new standardization was intended to streamline production of parts, it was only partially successful. While it did limit load classes and design parameters, The Procurement Office did not oversee the uniformity of parts, simply because the German automobile industry was too diverse and suffered from a severe lack of production capabilities. When Ford took over the contract in 1939 (Type EGa S. PKW), it was caught off guard by the maelstrom of changing needs and conflicting instructions from the German Army. Adding further confusion, Ford used a different drive train and motor which were not compatible with older models.
These vehicles were extremely expensive and so labor-intensive that Ford was only completing 1.3 vehicles each day. This simply was not sufficient for the Army leadership. Numerous different sub-types were made by Ford alone and may have accounted for the lackluster production figures. By late 1940, the Army came to the conclusion that it needed a cheaper vehicle and decided to halt production of the vehicle in 1942. Ford had built only 1,910 vehicles over 3 years, making it one of the rarest vehicles in Hitler’s arsenal. By comparison, the United States military produced over 850,000 2.5 ton trucks, alongside 450,000 Jeeps during four years of war alone. Add to that hundreds of thousands of tanks, aircraft, and support vehicles, the industrial infrastructure of the German armed forced could never compete with that of the Allies.
The various models of the Horch saw service on every front until the end of the war and were well liked for their roominess and powerful motors. Despite the tendency for their springs to break easily, the Horch was a highly prized piece of equipment. For the day, they were state-of-the-art technology and reflective of the Hitler’s declaration that “no expense is too great for the Army”. It perfectly epitomized the German tendency for over-engineering, but at the cost of streamlined and speedy production. The Horch Type EGa heavy passenger car holds a unique place in automobile history. Two different philosophies (that of Horch’s desire for quality and Ford’s drive for quantity) converged for a short period of time to produce a specialized vehicle unlike anything else in the 1940’s. It played a small, but vital role in the German military of World War Two.
Wherever the German jackboot left an imprint, the Horch heavy passenger vehicle was not far behind, towing the means of destruction and conquest behind its hulking frame. Today, there are less than 20 Horch towing vehicles left in the world. While the majority of these are held in private collections and museums in Europe, the Vanquished production team has a unique connection to this rare piece of history. 5th Kompanie Productions, LLC Vice President Joseph Tutkowski owns the only operation Horch (Type EGA-1) in North America. After spending countless hours of restoration and research, he brought the vehicle back to its former glory.
We are extremely pleased to feature it in The Vanquished. Be sure to look for this rare gem in the backdrop of the series in the near future!
Junior Partner, 5th Kompanie Productions, LLC
Assistant Producer, The Vanquished